A journey to the Black Hole that is the Oakland Raiders football club, is rarely a pleasant or profitable fantasy trip. A quick look at the Raiders' statistics over the past decade shows just how deep and dark the fantasy futility is in Oakland. Since the 2002 NFL season, just seven Raiders have cracked the top ten at any of the fantasy offensive scoring positions. Let's take a trip to the LA Memorial Coliseum to see if we can uncover anyone in Silver and Black who might live up to the commitment to excellence mantra during the 2012 NFL season.
Oakland Raiders Quarterback Fantasy Options
It's been a while since an Oakland pivot has produced numbers that are fantasy worthy. How long? One has to go all the way back to the NFL 2005 season to find the last Raiders quarterback (Kerry Collins) who posted more than 200 fantasy points in a single season. After the recent JaMarcus Russell and Jason Campbell experiences went bust, the Raiders sold their Soul to acquire QB Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals - a move I still don't understand.
Palmer had a mediocre start to his tenure as a Raider after he posted a 13 to 16 TD/INT ratio in ten games (nine starts) during the 2011 season. This was partly due to his late arrival in Oakland, his diminishing arm strength, and the fact that his receiving crew was a walking infirmary throughout the season. Injuries to downfield threats Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore hampered Palmer's ability to let the pigskin fly on a regular basis. The fact that he is getting up there in age (32) doesn't help matters much.
Raiders QB Analysis: Top draft pick and super bust, QB Matt Leinart will back up Palmer during the 2012 NFL season. With a mixed bag of receivers, none of whom can ever stay healthy, Palmer is a risky option as starting fantasy quarterback. While I fully expect CP to post some good games, along with some bad games, leave it to another fantasy owner to figure when those contests will happen.
Oakland Raiders Running Back Fantasy Options
After busting out with a 126.8 total yards per game average (to along with five touchdowns) through the first five games in 2011, RB Darren McFadden suffered a Lisfranc sprain that left him on the sidelines for the remainder of the season. McFadden has been a major pain for fantasy owners throughout his four-year NFL career as he has yet to play more than 13 games in a single season. Last year he managed to play through just the first six weeks of the season.
With goal line back Michael Bush bolting to the Chicago to join the Bears, RB Mike Goodson and RB Taiwan Jones will battle for the backup role in Oakland. Goodson comes over from Carolina where he spent three unproductive seasons. Jones had just 18 touches as a rookie last season and, while he may land a role as a change of pace back, he is largely a work in progress.
Raiders RB Analysis: Throughout all of my team previews I have stressed the drawbacks that are associated with drafting damaged goods. McFadden is a shining example of that on an annual basis. Every year owners expect that "this will be the year" only to watch Run DMC head straight to the infirmary. While McFadden's injury vs. talent factor makes him a huge risk vs. reward commodity, he is worth a roster spot if he falls to a reasonable level in your draft. That said, my best advice is to leave the entire Raiders backfield to someone else.
Oakland Raiders Wide Receiver Fantasy Options
It's difficult to know where to begin when it comes to the Raider wide receiver crew. Oakland has not had a wide-out bust through the 160 FP barrier since Jerry Rice did it back in 2002. In his third NFL season, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey posted a career high 975 receiving yards to go along with four TD in 2011. Considering everything that goes on in Oakland, it was a serviceable season for the former Maryland Terrapins star.
WR Denarius Moore dealt with foot and ankle injuries during his rookie season, but still managed to post 618 receiving yards, along with six total touchdowns, in 13 games played. A pure deep threat that can stretch the field, Moore usually goes boom or bust as is evident by his mediocre 33 catches on 76 targets last season. WR Jacoby Ford, who managed to play in just eight games last season, will be the Raiders' WR3 - if he can manage to stay healthy.
Raiders WR Analysis: Rookie WR Juron Criner out of Arizona (5th RD 168 OA) should beat out injury prone WR Louis Murphy as the Raiders' WR4. The bottom line to the Raiders receiving core is that they don't have a bona fide star at the position and none of them are worthy of anything more than a WR3 role on your fantasy roster. Watch where they fall and then scoop up Moore and Heyward-Bey as value picks and roster backups.
Oakland Raiders Tight End Fantasy Options
One area where the Raiders had started to make some noise was at the tight end position. That was until TE Zach Miller headed north to Seattle and then saw his performance go rapidly south as a Seahawk. That led the Raiders to take a chance on former Giants TE Kevin Boss who, with 28 receptions for 368 yards and three TD in 2011, also went bust. Boss has also moved on as he is now with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Raiders TE Analysis: Heading into the 2012 NFL season, the Raiders are without any semblance of a viable pass catching tight end. With their expected move to a more run and pass balanced offense, Brandon Myers , David Ausberry and Richard Gordon will all be asked to block first and catch passes second. Move along - there's nothing to see here.
Oakland Raiders Fantasy Bottom Line: There are far more fantasy questions than answers in the Black Hole as NFL 2012 training camps are set to open at the end of the July. Palmer's age and diminished arm strength, along with having injury prone players across the board, makes selecting any Raider a risky proposition on Draft Day 2012. Do yourself and your fantasy squad a favor by just not committing to the lack of excellence in Oakland.