Derek Carr, QB
The Raiders let money express how much the 26-year-old quarterback means to their franchise in the offseason. Carr signed what was the richest deal in NFL history in June—since surpassed by the extension the Detroit Lions gave to Matthew Stafford—by agreeing to a five-year, $125 million contract. It was an easy decision for the team given how Carr has improved in each of his first three seasons, culminating with a third-place finish in MVP voting last year. Carr missed the Raiders’ final two games (including a playoff loss to the Texans) with a torn ACL, but he’s fully recovered heading into the 2017 season.
Amari Cooper, WR
Every superhero needs a sidekick, and Carr has one of the best in this third-year receiver out of Alabama. The 23-year-old Cooper is only the third player in NFL history to post at least 70 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons, and he has also made the Pro Bowl in both seasons. With his prime still a few years away, Cooper could be on his way to being considered the best receiver in the league.
Khalil Mack, LB/DE
Carr is often mentioned as a future MVP, but in a way, the Raiders already have an MVP on their roster. Mack, a dominant edge rusher, won the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award last year after a season spent terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. Mack racked up 11 sacks, 13 quarterback hits, 26 hurries and five forced fumbles. The 26-year-old kept an otherwise mediocre defense respectable in his third season, and should only continue to improve.