The Raiders have more than a handful of receivers trying to get noticed and fight their way onto the team’s 53-man roster.
Seth Roberts knows the feeling. He was in their shoes last year.
Roberts, a practice squad player in 2014, completed the journey from undrafted to the NFL when he cracked the opening day roster last season.
He turned that roster spot into a role as the No. 3 wide receiver, catching 32 passes for 480 yards and five touchdowns.
Roberts says he’s a smarter receiver after gaining a season’s worth of experience, which included five starts.
“No doubt smarter,” Roberts said. “I know what to do in certain situations, how to take care of my body better.”
The roster spots of Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Andre Holmes and Roberts seem rather secure, so that leaves seven other receivers — all undrafted players, with only one (Nathan Palmer) owning any NFL experience — angling to get noticed.
Cincinnati product Johnny Holton seems to have risen from the pack. He brings extensive experience as a kick returner over his two seasons with the Bearcats and adds a speed element to the receiving corps.
Quarterback Derek Carr said Holton reminds him of Roberts, who like Holton went to a junior college before transferring to a four-year school.
“Johnny’s a really fast, athletic guy and hasn’t played much football when you think about it,” Carr said of Holton, who was friends with Cooper growing up in Florida but didn’t play organized football until junior college.
Carr’s often talked about how rough it was the first time he and Roberts threw together in the offseason in 2014 and how much that relationship has grown.
He said it was the same with Holton originally, but by training camp Carr was calling Holton “the most improved player this whole offseason.”
Roberts hears questions from that young group of receivers, looking for advice on how he handled being in their situation.
“They ask a lot of questions,” Roberts said. “I feel like that’s cool, but what I did, I just say back and watched. I’m the type of guy that I don’t say much, but just check my surroundings and watch the veterans.”
Roberts is still doing that. Even though he had a solid 2015 season, the Raiders still want to see more from him.
“He’s been OK,” coach Jack Del Rio said of Roberts, a rare lukewarm assessment of a player. “I think he’s starting to feel pushed a little bit, which is what we’d like to have. He’s been a good player for us.”
Roberts, who leads the team through two preseason games with five catches and 59 yards, clearly understands this is not a time to coast.
“I have to get on myself, because if you’re too relaxed you have the younger bucks that will come in a take your role,” Roberts said. “Obviously you don’t want that.”