Raiders hope Martavis Bryant can blossom into star

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Martavis Bryant
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Martavis Bryant /

Jon Gruden believes Martavis Bryant has star power written all over him, and he better be right if the Oakland Raiders want to get to the playoffs.

The last time Jon Gruden was in town, the Raiders brought in the greatest wide receiver in NFL history to help the team get over the top. Unfortunately for them, they ran into the New England Patriots, the snow, and a stupid rule. Now, Gruden is going a little less big, bringing in Martavis Bryant with hopes of making their wide receiver group one of the best in the NFL.

Gruden told NBC Bay Area that he loves competition, and it will be a good one for the new wide receivers.

"“We’ve got a competitive situation here at wide receiver,” Gruden said. “So I like that.”"

Bryant was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2014 NFL Draft, putting him on the final year of his rookie deal. In 2016, the then-rising star was suspended for one season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He came back in 2017 with something to prove, but things went awry. After losing the starting job to JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bryant started in eight games and caught 50 passes with three touchdowns.

During the draft, the Raiders sent a third-round choice to Pittsburgh for Bryant, showcasing a belief he will fit in well. Oakland is a perfect landing spot for Bryant, considering their history of taking troubled players and working with them to get better.

In terms of the wide receiver room, everyone has something to prove. Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper are both coming off down seasons, and Bryant also needs to prove he’s still on the rise. All three had fewer than 1,000 yards in 2017. Nelson and Cooper had catch rates below their career norms, and Bryant still needs to stay on the straight and narrow.

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The Raiders finally have the weapons they need for Derek Carr to take the next step in his progression — if they can hold up their end of the bargain. They have a guy in Nelson who can handle the dirty work. Bryant can stretch the field, and Cooper can be the jack-of-all-trades No. 1 receiver. The addition of Bryant will open things up for everyone.