2017 Fantasy Football: Oakland Raiders Team Outlook
After missing the playoffs for 13 straight seasons, Oakland returned to their destiny with a 12-4 record. They tied for first in the AFC West, but the Raiders lost in the Wild Card game against the Houston Texans (27-14). Their growth came from the offensive side of the ball where Oakland finished seventh in points (416) and sixth in offensive yards. They scored 57 more points than 2015 (359). Jack Del Rio returns for his third season as the head coach. He has a 19-13 record with the Raiders and 87-84 over 11 years in the NFL with three playoff appearances. Del Rio was spent four other seasons as defensive coordinator with Carolina and Denver. Todd Downing makes the jump from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. Todd has 17 seasons of experience in the NFL with most coming from the offensive side of the ball while working with the QB position. The Raiders still have plenty of work to do on defense. They finished 20th in points allowed (385) and 26th in yards allowed. Oakland ranked below 20th in yards allowed in each of the last four years. Ken Norton Jr. will have a third season to prove himself as the defensive coordinator. He spent the previous five years as the linebackers coach for the Seahawks. If Ken doesn't get it done this year, he could be looking for a new job.
The only starter lost off the defensive side of the ball was LB Malcolm Smith who graded as a losing option. LB Perry Riley played well in 2016, but he remains unsigned. CB D.J. Hayden, S Brynden Trawick, S Nate Allen, LB Daren Bates, and DT Stacy McGee all has part-time snaps last season with each player finding a new home in 2017.
The Raiders decided to part ways with RB Latavius Murray. He had a step back in production while setting a career-high in TDs (12). WR Andre Holmes and TE Mychal Rivera fled for higher ground after losing snaps of the last couple of seasons.
Oakland added only LB Jelani Jenkins to the defense. He projects as a below league average player with rotational value.
QB E.J. Manuel was brought in to compete for a backup role. WR Cordarrelle Patterson should add value to the return game plus add depth to the wide receiver position. Oakland placed a bet that Jared Cook would upgrade the tight end position. T Marshall Newhouse will compete for a starting job after underperforming in 2016 with the Giants.
In the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Raiders tried to improve their secondary with CB Gareon Conley and S Obi Melifonwu. Conley has the skill set to be a run and chase corner with enough speed to recover from a mistake while holding his own in press coverage even with a need for more strength. Gareon seems indecisive when playing off the line of scrimmage when faced with decisions on routes and coverage. His game projects more as coverage cover due to his weakness in run support and aggression off blocks. Melifonwu will offer an edge in speed and athletic ability from the safety position. His vision on play development needs to improve. He'll add value in run support with enough speed to make long plays at deep safety. Obi will make plays on the ball while still having some risk when catching the wrong receiver in coverage.
The Raiders invested in DT Eddie Vanderdoes in the third round. This could be a nice value pick after Vanderdoes struggled in 2016, which came after a torn ACL the previous season. He plays with power and athletic ability with enough vision to offer more upside rushing the QB. Eddie looked soft last year with questions about his quickness off the line of scrimmage. With another year removed from his injury, Vanderdoes has a chance to gain valuable playing time in his rookie season.
In the fourth round, Oakland drafted OT David Sharpe. He's big, powerful man who will be at his best in a physical rushing attack. His range is extremely limited while struggling if ask to block outside his patch of real estate. Sharpe has enough punch to defeat power rushers while his hands improve his value in pass protection.
LB Marquel Lee was the Raiders' fifth selected in this season's draft. His game has the most value when attacking the line of scrimmage in run support. He'll offer power and strength, but his change of direction speed kills his value on passing downs if asked to cover. His decision-making, when asked to change direction, leaves him a step behind on too many cut-back runs.
Oakland has four picks in the seventh round – S Shalom Luani, OT Jylan Ware, RB Elijah Hood, and DT Treyvon Hester. Luani looks the part in coverage when it's in front of him. His game has a huge weakness vs. the run due to a poor skill set in tackling. Ware may develop into a nice option on the line once he adds more bulk and weight. His hands grade well, and he should handle his blocking responsibilities in the run game. Jylan will some improvement in his technique as well. Hood projects as a north/south runner with questionable speed, which make him easier to defend. Hester lacks the motor to play a high percentage of plays. His launch angle off the snap is too high to gain winning leverage. Treyvon plays with power with some value in his hands.
The Raiders finished 6th in the NFL in rushing yards (1,922) with 17 rushing TDs. Their ball carriers gained 4.4 yards per carry with 19 runs over 20 yards (second-highest total in the league). Oakland had 31 negative runs and 43 rushes over 10 yards.
Oakland ranked 13th in passing yards (4,051) with 29 passing TDs and seven Ints. Their offensive line allowed a league low 18 sacks and only 41 QB hits.
LT Donald Penn has been a steady rock on this line over the last three seasons. He played well in as run blocker while minimizing the damage in sacks. Donald starts the year at age 34 so his days as an elite player are winding down.
LG Kelechi Osemele played great for Oakland in his first season after signing a five-year $58.5 million contract in 2016. The Ravens drafted him in the second round in 2012. Over the last three years, Kelechi offered an edge for his position.
C Rodney Hudson continues to improve. He was one of the top passing blocking centers in 2016 with similar success in 2014 and 2015 with the Chiefs and Raiders. He signed a nice contract in 2015 ($44.5 for five seasons).
RG Gabe Jackson is the fourth player on this line that produced an edge in 2016. The Raiders drafted him in the second round in 2015. Jackson is at his best in pass protection while showing continued growth in the run game.
RT Austin Howard started ten games in 2016 due to an early season an ankle issue and a shoulder injury that required surgery after the season. Oakland signed to a nice contract before the 2014 season ($30 million for five years), but he'll have to beat out Marshall Newhouse for the starting job. Marshall has never been an asset in his six seasons in the NFL.
This line ranks as one of the better options in the league with four players that offer an edge. The low sack total is helped by Derek Carr's ability to get the ball out quickly, and the grade in the run game is helped by some long runs. With a more explosive runner, the Raiders could be even better offensively.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).
This information is based on 2016, which will work as our starting point for 2017. We'll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We'll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2016 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2016.
2016 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL last year.
2016 Adjustment is based on the 2016 league average and the 2016 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.
The Raiders have five games vs. teams that had success defending the run in 2016 (NE, TEN, BAL, NYG, and DAL) plus four other games that look to have some risk (NYJ, PHI, and LAC X 2). Their best four games should be against Denver (2), Miami, and Buffalo.
They have a poor schedule for their passing game due to two games vs. the Broncos. Oakland only has one matchup vs. a team with failure expected defending receivers (TEN).
Last season Oakland ran the ball 42.1 percent of the time, which seems low based on their high finish in rushing yards (6th). They attempted 27.1 runs per game, which was slightly above the league average. Carr will still have plenty of chances to make plays in the passing game (595 attempts in 2016). This offense is also helped by poor defensive play.
The Raiders will face three teams that run the ball well (TEN, BUF, and DAL). They also have six matchups vs. teams with some risk rushing the ball (DEN x 2, BAL, LAC X 2, and NYG) leading to just below league schedule against the run.
Oakland will play ten games against teams with weak passing offenses. Their toughest four games vs. teams with above average success throwing the ball are WAS, NE, and LAC x 2.
Stopping the run was an issue for Oakland in 2016. They allowed the 23rd most rushing yards (1,881) with 18 rushing TDs. Rushers had the most runs over 40 yards (5) in the NFL while gaining 4.4 yards per rush.
The Raiders also has risk defending the passing game (4,120 yards – 24th). Quarterback gained 7.9 yards per pass attempt with 27 TDs and 16 Ints. Their defense only had 25 sacks while allowing a league high 61 catches over 20 yards and the most receptions over 40 yards (16).
The best defender on this defense is DE Khalil Mack. Over the last two seasons, he has 26 sacks, and 150 tackles with an Int returned for a TD. DE Mario Edwards missed 14 games due to a hip injury. In his rookie season after being drafted in the second round, Mario only had two sacks while offering upside in run support. DE Denico Autry worked as a rotational player in all 16 games in 2016. His game had little value last year after showing more upside the previous year. DE Jihad Ward should improve in his second season after Oakland selected him in the second round in 2016. Ward projects as a high-motor pass rusher who needs to add more strength to take advantage of his raw talent. Jihad needs to improve his technique while adding more power to his game.
LB Bruce Irvin has his best season in the NFL in his five-year career after signing with Oakland. He finished with a career-high in sacks (7) and tackles (57). LB Jelani Jenkins flashed upside in his second year in the league in 2014 with the Dolphins, but his game faced in each of the last two years. Jenkins missed seven games in 2016 due to a knee injury. The other linebacking job looks wide open when Mack is playing closer to the line of scrimmage. I don't see any other option that will offer upside in 2017.
CB Sean Smith started off slow in 2016 before rounding into form. He finished as a top option at CB even with a career low in tackles (40) due to him playing through a shoulder injury that required surgery in January. S Reggie Nelson played well in pass coverage, but he showed regression in run support. Overall, he still grades as an asset while starting the year at age 33. The Raiders have added two safeties in the first two rounds over the last two years (Karl Joseph and Obi Melifonwu). Joseph was a neutral player in his first year. I expect Obi to improve the run defense when he's on the field. CB David Amerson will need to hold off rookie CB Gareon Conley. Amerson can make plays, but he can be beaten by top wide receivers. Conley has cover skills with no value supporting the run.
This defense has two elite players in Mack and Ervin plus Smith can handle his responsibilities in coverage. The secondary has three young players with upside plus a veteran with a winning resume. The key is getting better play from the interior line against the run and rushing the QB. Improvement should be expected with the best success coming against weak teams. More of a matchup play in the season long games until we see growth in the pass rush and improvement in turnovers. Patterson should break a TD or two in the return game.
QB Derek Carr, OAK - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 10/16/17All signs point to Carr crawling his way back onto the field in Week 6. His game look weak in his last start (118/1 and 143/1) while the Raiders struggled to throw the ball as well last week (159/1). Amari Cooper has been missing in action in his last three games (1/6, 2/9, and 1/8) while maintaining his poor catch rate (39.4). In two games in 2016 vs. the Chargers, Derek passed for 317 yards and two TDs at home with less success on the road (213/1). LA held the QB position to fewer than 20 Fantasy points in each of their last four games. No team has passed for over 245 yards vs. the Chargers in 2017 with eight combined TDs allowed. Oakland would like to keep him healthy in this game, which may require a lot of runs. Too much injury risk for me.
RB Marshawn Lynch, OAK - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 10/16/17Lynch was expected to be active in last week's game, but Oakland fell behind by 14 points early in the game. For the season long players, Marshawn was able to score his second TD of the year leading to playable game (12.3 Fantasy points in PPR leagues). Game score led to a split role while the Raiders played with a backup QB. With Derek Carr expected back this week, Oakland should regain some of his scoring upside. The Chargers allowed 5.0 yards per rush with RBs scoring three TDs. Over the last three games, RBs have 532 rushing yards and three TDs against LA. This a favorable matchup and we may see the old Lynch shine in Week 6. If DeAndre Washington doesn’t play, Marshawn will get a slight bump in value in the passing game. Possible 100+ yards rushing with a TD.
RB Jalen Richard, OAK - Low Potential
Over four seasons at Southern Mississippi, Jalen rushed for 2,086 yards on 397 carries with 19 TDs. He also caught 83 passes for 675 yards and another five TDs. His success was highlighted by his senior year (1,382 combined yards with 30 catches and 16 TDs). He signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and immediately showed upside in rookie camp. Oakland gave him some player time in each week of the season. His best game came in Week 5 against the Chargers (97 combined yards with six catches). By the end of the season, Richard had more production (685 combined yards with 29 catches and a three TDs) than Washington who played two fewer games. Jalen did play through a shoulder injury late in the year. The Raiders will use him on passing downs where he can sneak in a long run on a draw play. He needs to improve his value as a receiver (6.7), which requires him to gain more ground after first contact. Washington comes with more pedigree, but Richard may deliver the better season. Anywhere from 75 to 125 touches with one-third of his opportunity coming in the passing game.
RB DeAndre Washington, OAK - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Over the last two years at Texas Tech, Washington rushed for 2,595 yards on 421 carries with 16 rushing TDs (14 in his senior season) while also catching 71 balls for 703 yards with another two TDs. When looking at some of his highlights, Washington looked almost irrelevant if he had no room to run. He didn't attack the line scrimmage with any sense of urgency without seeing daylight. His short area quickness and acceleration gives him upside at the second level of the defense. DeAndre lacks impact deep speed with questions about his ability to pass protect even with some toughness in his game. He projects as a change of pace back with value in the passing game. In his rookie season, he did run the ball well (87/467/2) while averaging 5.4 yards per carry, which was much higher than Latavius Murray (4.0). DeAndre caught 17 of his 23 targets for 115 yards, but Oakland seems to trust Jalen Richard more especially on passing downs. Washington had his best game of the season in Week 16 (117 combined yards with two TDs and a catch). Improvement should be expected, but being the second option in the run game does limit his playable upside. Possible 125+ touches for 750 combined yards and low-level TDs.
WR Amari Cooper, OAK - Stud (low risk)
Update 10/16/17Playing Cooper in any format over the last month has been the kiss of death. He has two catches or fewer in each of his last three games with less than ten yards receiving in each game. Oakland only looked his way 20 times over the last four games (five targets per game). His catch rate (39.4) is atrocious with no sign of improvement. If you want to give him a pass, Amari did play with a backup QB play week. He had no chance against a top Broncos' secondary in Week 4 while the Raiders were barn stormed in every area in Week 3 with Josh Norman in his hip pocket. Last season Cooper had a great game at home vs. the Charger (6/138/1) while being shut down on the road (1/28 on three targets). If he draws Casey Heyward in coverage, I don't like his opportunity even with a low salary. His talent does outshine his price point so sometimes a Fantasy owner just has to bet on the come while remembering to double down with another swing off the fairway.
WR Michael Crabtree, OAK - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 10/16/17Crabtree continues to be the best WR in Oakland. In his three full games played in 2017, Michael averaged six catches for 81 yards and 1.33 TDs on only 21 targets. He's caught 79.2 percent of his chances (24). Last season Crabtree had a TD in both game against the Chargers with only nine combined catches for 107 yards on 15 targets. The lack of success by Amari Cooper may lead to Michael drawing LA's top CB Casey Heyward on many plays. More of steady matchup with his upside coming down to the activity on the scoreboard by both teams.