NFL Oakland Raiders

5 Oakland Raiders With the Most to Prove in 2014

5 Raiders Facing Huge Expectations in 2014

Khalil Mack
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into a 2014 campaign shrouded in uncertainty, the Oakland Raiders have several players in desperate need of big seasons. Whether they're recent high draft picks still hoping to live up to the hype or veterans looking to take advantage of their last chance with the team, these players will be under the microscope throughout the upcoming season.

With that in mind, here’s a look at five Raiders with the most to prove in 2014.

5. WR Juron Criner

Juron Criner
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

5. WR Juron Criner

Juron Criner
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This will be Criner’s final opportunity to prove that he’s worth keeping around in Oakland. The Raiders have given him two years to earn a role in the offense, and both times he’s followed up outstanding OTAs performances with disappointing training camps and preseasons. It’s time for Criner to either deliver for the Raiders or get ready to receive his walking papers.

4. OT Austin Howard

Austin_Howard
Twitter

4. OT Austin Howard

Austin_Howard
Twitter

Arguably the Raiders’ biggest offseason addition, Howard will immediately be expected to give the Oakland offensive line a powerful presence at right tackle or right guard. No matter where he lines up, his play will be highly criticized, especially since many critics didn’t believe he deserved the big contract the Raiders coughed up to get him. Can Howard be an upgrade for the Raiders or will he make them regret their decision to sign him?

3. CB D.J. Hayden

D.J. Hayden
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

3. CB D.J. Hayden

D.J. Hayden
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders’ 2013 first-round pick, Hayden hasn’t done much to warrant such a high draft spot at this point. His rookie season was filled with injuries and uncomfortable play, eventually ending with him landing on IR. He looked good during early OTAs, but again fell to injury and might not even be ready for training camp. Can Hayden bounce back and be the Raiders’ top cornerback or will he take another step towards “bust” status?

2. RB Darren McFadden

Darren McFadden
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2. RB Darren McFadden

Darren McFadden
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

McFadden tested the free agent market this offseason, only to return to the Raiders on a one-year, “prove it” deal. While the former first-round pick is certainly talented, he can’t stay healthy and appeared out of sorts last year. He’ll be given one more opportunity to prove his worth as part of the Raiders’ one-two punch with him and Maurice Jones-Drew, but must deliver or face another dead market next offseason.

1. OLB Khalil Mack

Khalil Mack
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

1. OLB Khalil Mack

Khalil Mack
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After becoming the Raiders’ first-round pick this past May, Mack is facing ridiculous expectations. Considered by many (including myself) to be an elite talent, the Buffalo product doesn’t have any time to suffer growing pains in Oakland. Mack will be expected to make an immediate impact and become a nightmare for opponents in a big hurry. Can the rookie linebacker handle the pressure?

Gil Alcaraz IV is the Director of Content for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.