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The Oakland Raiders (3-13)


 

Written by: Josh Johnson (@Josh_DFWPulse) and Bill Cervi (@wcervi)

Coaching Changes:

Head Coach: Jack Del Rio (New)

It is not very often that a head coach with 142 games of experience walks into a reclamation project, but Del Rio and his 69-73 record is now ready to take the helm of a pirate ship hovering over the black hole. Del Rio understands the mantra “Rome was not built in a day” and he developed his own mantra when he was the HC of Jacksonville in 2003. “Keep chopping wood” was established as a reminder to understand the obstacles NFL teams must overcome (they can be whittled down) on a daily basis. The “potential” of this roster is oozing like shredded cheese on an extra cheese pizza. Del Rio can cutoff a slice of the pie by preaching his mantra and melting his patience all over the Raiders on and off the field. Del Rio and new DC Ken Norton will mesh together and based on their successful pasts, the Raiders defense could humble many opponents.

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Musgrave as an Oregon Duck

Offensive Coordinator: Bill Musgrave (New)

Musgrave has had a fascinating and successful life as a player and coach in the NFL. As a backup QB from 1991-96 Musgrave shadowed legends like Joe Montana, Steve Young and John Elway. As a coach he developed a reputation of getting the most out his players. Some of his coaching accomplishments include; leading the Mark Brunell lead Redskins to the playoffs, in his first season as head coach he game planned well enough to enable Jeff George to lead the AFC in TD passes, and he even made Steve Beuerlein a Pro Bowl QB.  

Mark Davis

Raider owner Mark “Moe” Davis

 

Ironically this former Oregon Duck actually left Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles to take this job. Now his project is Derek Carr who has shown some potential. If he is able to improve upon Carr’s promising 2014 season, there is the very real possibility that the Raiders will surprise a lot of people this year and make a run for the playoffs in the next 1-2 years. All of this is of course is predicated on owner Mark “Moe” Davis updating his coaching staff less often than his hairstyle.

 

 

Defensive Coordinator: Ken Norton Jr. (New)

We all know what a great LB Ken Norton was and his three Super Bowl rings are a testament to that fact. While coaching under Pete Carroll at USC, he molded Lofa Tatupu, Keith Rivers, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews into NFL starters. Norton also mentored Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright during his four seasons as the Seahawks LB coach. Norton now joins an Oakland team that is stacked with LB talent. LBs Kahlil Mack and Sio Moore will be joined by recent FA additions LB Malcolm Smith and LB Curtis Lofton (145 tackles for New Orleans in 2014). Norton has some of the tools he will need to improve the Silver and Black’s D, but he will need to figure out an answer to the pass rush to take this team’s D to the next level.

 

Key Free Agent Departures

RB Darren McFadden #McFragile

2014 Stats: 530 Snaps, 155 carries, 534 YDS, 3.4 YPC, 2 TDs, 56 Targets, 36 REC, 212 YDS

Age/Contract status:  27 years old / Signed a 1 year deal with Dallas

Why aren’t RBs drafted in the first round anymore? Darren McFadden that’s why (also see Trent Richardson)! Considering the beast McFadden was in college (4,590 rushing yards in 38 games) nobody really faulted Oakland for choosing him in the first round (4th overall) of the 2008 draft. He never fit the ideal RB mold at 6′ 2″ and his body has been ravaged by his upright running style. He now heads to Dallas where he may have an opportunity to play behind one of the best O-lines in the game. That is of course if the Cowboys do not use a high draft pick on a RB and McFadden can stay healthy… good luck!

Key Free Agent Gains

RB Roy Helu 

2014 Stats: 40 carries, 216 YDS, 5.4 YPC, 1 TD, 47 Targets, 42 REC, 477 YDS, 2 TDS

Age/Contract status: 26 years old / Signed 2 year 4.1 million dollar contract, through the 2017 season

PPR owners love a RB that they can stick in their line up (in an emergency) and have a real shot at 10-15 points on any given week and Roy Helu was that type of back for the Redskins. Helu is an outstanding receiver out of the backfield and he should be an excellent security blanket for young QB David Carr. With that being said, could Helu be more than a break in case of emergency fantasy player? The answer is yes we believe he can be. The Raiders will likely be in many high scoring games featuring plenty of second half passing. Helu  has 129 career receptions on 155 targets (in 48 games) and the Raiders will need every bit of those receiving skills if they are to climb out of the gutter in the AFC West. Helu should primarily be a third down back for Oakland, but he is an underrated player and very handy to have on your PPR league roster.

RB Trent Richardson 

2014 Stats: 159 carries, 519 YDS, 3.3 YPC, 3 TDS, 34 Targets, 27 REC, 229 YDS, 0 TD

Age/Contract status: 26 years old / Signed 2 year 3.85 million dollar contract, through the 2017 season

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Besides the hat, there was nothing funny about Richardson’s tenure in Indy.

Just when you thought Oakland was making all the smart moves, Trent Richardson comes strolling into town. This deal was most likely done for depth reasons only. Latavius Murray should be the starter and barring injury, T-Rich will be lucky to see five touches a game. Remember both Del Rio and Musgrave endured numerous Fred Taylor injuries so having a backup with NFL experience can only help solidify the roster. Richardson will come to camp as the third RB on the depth chart and who knows, that might be the wake up call he needs to learn how to hustle.

Key Free agents

WR Andre Holmes

2014 Stats: 735 Snaps, 99 Targets, 47 RECs, 47.5% catch rate, 693 YDS, 14.7 YPC, 4 TDs

Age/Contract status:  26 years old, RFA

Raise your hand if Holmes was your sleeper for 2014. Now put your hand down if you dropped or did not draft him. So as the crickets sing their beautiful rhythmic melody, we ask you why wouldn’t the Raiders invest in him considering he is 6′ 5″ and has proven to be a capable WR at times? Oakland slapped the lowest tender possible on Holmes meaning they want him back and they will have the chance to match any offer, but they will not receive any compensation should he sign with another team. Need we say more? If he stays in Oakland, he will most likely need an injury to a primary WR to have relevant fantasy value. #StayTuned

WR Rod Streater

2014 Stats: 90 Snaps, 13 Targets, 9 RECs, 69.2% catch rate, 84 YDS, 9.3 YPC, 1 TD

Age/Contract status:  27 years old, RFA

The 6-foot-3, three-year veteran out of Temple has been one the few bright spots for Oakland recently. The Raiders placed a second round tender on him so it seems likely the team will retain him at his salary of $2.356 million dollars. Oakland seems to favor him over the fellow restricted free agent Andre Holmes despite the fact that it was Holmes who led the Raiders in receiving last year. I do not think Streater is fantasy baller though and just because Oakland likes him does not mean his value is necessarily on the rise. He is a good player who they feel comfortable with as their third WR. and he could be a bye week replacement for your fantasy roster (14-16 man leagues) in 2015, but his ceiling seems limited at this point.

Other Free AgentsC Stefen Wisniewski, WR Denarius Moore, WR Vincent Brown, TE David Ausberry, DT Pat Simms, DE CJ Wilson, CB Carlos Rodgers, S Larry Asante, S Brandian Ross

 

Review/Preview of Fantasy relevant players

QB Derek Carr 

2014 Stats: 1,017 Snaps, 348 completions, 58% CMP Rate, 3,270 PYDS, 21 PTD, 12 INT, 87 RYDS, 0 RTD

Age/Contract status: 23 years old / Signed through the 2017 season

Oakland Raiders v Seattle Seahawks

Courageous, Athletic, Receptive, and Relentless

If every NFL team agreed to do the 2014 draft over again, chances are Derek Carr would end up a Jaguar or a Brown. Derek Carr started all 16 games for the Raiders last year and even though he fought through a minor leg injury, he seemed able to handle everything his opponents threw at him. Carr posted very sound rookie numbers despite the fact that he played behind one of the worst O-lines in the game and he had a WR corps that was also well below average. Carr manged to complete nearly 60% of his passes and had a 21:12 TD to INT ratio.

Looking forward to the 2015 season, there are many reasons for the Raider Nation to have optimism regarding their young QB. The Raiders upgraded their offensive line with the acquisition of center Rodney Hudson via free agency and they will probably add another piece during the draft. Oakland will also have the opportunity to draft an elite WR prospect if they choose. Both Amari Cooper and Kevin White should be on the board when the Raiders are on the clock (1.04) and either would be a huge upgrade to their WR depth chart. The added weapons and upgraded O-Line should help Carr take the next step or at least avoid the sophmore slump. Carr finished as the #20 Fantasy QB last season and with some personnel upgrades and improved coaching it is possible that Carr could finish among the top 10-12 QBs this year. His current Dynasty Start Up ADP here at DFW is around pick number 155 (14.8) which is attractive QB #2 value considering his rookie accomplishments and future role with the team.

The Raiders, yes the Raiders are on the upswing and Carr will be leading the charge.

RB Latavius Murray

2014 Stats: 285 Snaps, 82 carries, 424 YDS, 5.2 YPC, 2 TDs, 23 Targets, 17 REC, 143 YDS, 0 TD

Age/Contract status:  24 years old / Signed through the 2016 season

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Murray is Money?!

A broken leg derailed Murray’s rookie year (2013) before it even began and it forced the Raiders to sign Maurice Jones-Drew and re-sign Darren McFadden last season. MJD proved to be a mere shadow of his formal self and McFadden failed to impress again so the Black Hole rumblings for Murray got louder and louder as the losses mounted in 2014. Finally on a fateful Thursday night game versus the Kansas City Chiefs (in week 12), he was unleashed upon the fantasy world. Murray exploded for 112 yards on just 4 carries and scored 2 TDs (including a 90 yard run). Sadly a concussion ended his night prematurely and he did not have any other significant games over the last 4 weeks of the year.  Murray’s numbers in weeks 14-17 included 68 carries for 258 yards, 11 catches for 108 yards, and 2 TDs.

Murray has split the fantasy world’s opinion when it comes to his 2015 value. Some believe the team will add a RB in the draft and think Murray is too injury prone (concussions/leg) to warrant usage as a feature back in the NFL. Others seem much more optimistic and are ready to board the Murray train as a possible top 15 RB for the next four to five years. The truth (most likely) lies somewhere in between as Oakland will look to pair a RB with Murray. It may be Helu and TRich or they may add a RB via the draft. If the Raiders do not add another RB, it is safe to assume that early down work will go to Murray, but third downs may go to Helu and the goal line work may be vultured by Richardson. The one thing we know for sure is that new OC Bill Musgrave loves to use a workhorse RB which translates to fantasy gold so monitor this backfield very closely in the coming months.

RB Marcel Reece

2014 Stats: 59 targets, 37 REC, 265 YDS, 7.2 YPC, 1 TD, 21 carries, 85 YDS, 0 TD

marcel-reece-nfl-houston-texans-oakland-raiders-850x560Reece’s reliability and production (to date) have been the result of the team’s offensive scheme and with new OC Bill Musgrave in charge, Reece’s production could change significantly. Musgrave does not have a history of utilizing his fullback so it is possible that his targets will be reduced this year. Reece has excellent hands and has been a productive short yardage back when called on, but the uncertainty of his future role limits whatever minimal fantasy value he had in 14-16 man leagues.

WR James Jones 

2014 Stats: 739 Snaps, 111 Targets, 73 RECs, 65.2% catch rate, 666 YDS, 9.1 YPC, 6 TDs

Age/Contract status:  30 years old / Signed through the 2016 season (he can be cut and Oakland can save full amount of salary each year 3+ mill in cap savings)

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Jones can be a TD hog.

The fearless Jones has always played an important role with his team, but he has never had 1,000 yard receiving season. Even in 2012 when he led the league with 14 touchdowns receptions he had only 784 yards on 64 receptions. Last season, he became Oakland’s #1 WR by default and became a safety blanket for rookie QB David Carr. Jones’ 73 receptions were a career high but his 9.1 YPC was a career low. Jones had never averaged less than 12.3 YPC and the precipitous drop off could be a red flag as to his diminishing physical abilities or just a function of Carr having little time in the pocket for longer routes to develop.

2015 NFL mock drafts have been consistently projecting that the Raiders will use their #1 pick (1.4) on WR Kevin White or WR Amari Cooper, but the truth is the draft is fairly deep in WR talent so their #35 overall pick could land a talented WR like UCF’s Breshad Perriman who woke Al Davis from the grave when he ran an unofficial 4.22 40 yard dash at his pro day. With Oakland going after a top WR in the draft and TE Mychal Rivera playing better than expected Jones may once again take a back seat. He is currently listed as DFW’s #73 Dynasty WR, but if he continues to be a red zone threat and chain mover then he could jump up into 50’s.

WR Brice Butler

2014 Stats: 278 Snaps, 35 Targets, 21 RECs, 60% catch rate, 280 YDS, 13.3 YPC, 2 TDs

Age/Contract status:  25 years old / Signed through the 2016 season

It is hard to be overly excited about a seventh round pick, but Butler showed enough raw talent to potentially earn himself a future role in this offense. After just nine receptions as a rookie Butler took a small step forward in 2014. Butler is the fourth option at best in Oakland and the team will add to that depth chart soon. He remains a sleeper so deep you need not even care unless you are in a 16 man league.

WR Kenbrell Thompkins

2014 Stats:  320 Snaps, 48 Targets, 21 RECs, 43.8% catch rate, 262 YDS, 12.5 YPC, 0 TD

Age/Contract status:  26 years old / Signed through the 2015 season

Thompkins was everybody’s favorite sleeper as a rookie in New England and he showed major flashes during the 2013 pre-season. Sadly he could not turn the productive camp and preseason into a fantasy relevant season, despite seeing an average of almost 10 targets a game through the first 4 weeks and scoring 3 TDs in that same time span. Thompkin’s inconsistent route running and questionable hands earned him a place in Belichick’s dog house and a one way ticket to Oakland. His role in 2014 was minimal and his long term prospects do not look very promising at this point.

TE Mychal Rivera

2014 Stats: 845 Snaps, 100 Targets, 58 RECs, 58.6% catch rate, 534 YDS, 9.2 YPC, 4 TDs

Age/Contract status:  24 years old / Signed through the 2016 season 

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Is that Keith Byars? Oh its just Rivera rising.

Not many eyes were batting when Oakland selected Rivera in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. In fact, more eyes probably lit up when Oakland selected another TE (Nick Kasa) in the sixth, prior to taking Rivera. No one could foretell that Kasa would have one reception at this point and Rivera would emerge as a fantasy option. He reminds us of the rough and tumble Keith Byars who played in the NFL from 1986 to 1998. Rivera’s hands have been very impressive and there is no reason to think he cannot duplicate his 2014 numbers. In fact, he has improved so quickly that a place among the top 15 TEs could be waiting for him this season.