Oakland Raiders: 2015 Outlook

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Oakland Raiders

By Larry Gold, Friday, September 12, 2014

The Raiders can only hope they have found a savior to their organization. Carson Palmer wasn't it; Terrelle Pryor wasn't it and Matt Schaub is likely a short-term band-aid at best. Derek Carr was drafted in the second round and reports indicate that the Raiders are pleased with their choice. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson has raved about Carr's accuracy in OTAs and while it's not live game action, Oakland likes what they've seen. The Fresno State alum brings a strong arm, good size, precise passing and a hard-working mentality to the team. It helps that he learned from his older brother [David Carr] who spent nine years as a quarterback in the NFL. Carr will likely also benefit from Matt Schaub taking him under his wing as he goes through the normal growing pains as a rookie, but the belief is that Carr will be under center to start at some point this year. Even if he starts, Carr shouldn't be considered for fantasy purposes just yet (unless you are talking dynasty leagues).

Update: An extraordinary performance in the closing week of preseason has the league buzzing about Derek Carr. 11 completions on 13 attempts and 3TDs are talking numbers. With Matt Schuab proving to be unimpressive, Carr is in the conversation to be starting QB for the Raiders sooner than later.

Matt Schaub joins Raider nation after a nightmarish year that was painful to watch. The former Houston Texans QB posted a career-low quarterback rating (73.0), as well as ranking near the bottom of many other QB categories. Schaub struggled mightily with his confidence as evidenced by a NFL record four-game streak of giving up a pick-six. It was so bad that Schaub was benched in favor of Case Keenum at midseason when it became apparent that a season previously filled with Super Bowl aspirations was a lost cause. As the last man standing, the veteran QB started Week 17 and finished the season with a paltry 10 TDs and 14 INTs. Now sporting the silver and black, Schaub is looking to put 2013 well behind him and regain the form that placed him in the Pro Bowl twice and led the league in passing once (2009). While it's likely the Raiders will benefit from the quarterback's experience, the drafting of Derek Carr (the presumed quarterback of the Raiders' future) signifies that Schaub will need to regain his confidence to hold the starter's role for any great length of time. Also working against him is the fact that he is surrounded by a weaker supporting cast than those on the Texans. There is no Andre Johnson or Owen Daniels around to make tough catches. He will need to rely on an aging Maurice Jones-Drew and the perpetually injured Darren McFadden is a run-down version of Arian Foster in his prime. Schaub comes to camp as the starter, but watch closely to see if Carr make a push for competition. Whether it's Schaub or Carr under center, the Oakland QB position is a fantasy bye-week fill in at best and that's assuming the matchup is in their favor.

While the fantasy world continues to try and figure out the apparent time-share between Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden, it may be Latavius Murray who steals the show. Granted, Murray's best opportunity for playing time is if the two veteran backs continue to regress, but the former Central Florida back has the attention of his offensive coordinator Greg Olson. He was quoted as saying Murray has "the biggest upside" in the crowded Raiders' backfield. The 6-foot-3, 223-pound back has serious jets and is looking to play catch-up after missing his entire rookie year with an ankle injury. Murray can be had late in drafts and should be considered a viable sleeper in deep leagues.

Editor's note: If the planets do align, Murray has huge potential. Unfortunately, he needs both MJD and McFadden to get injured at the same time... Maybe that's not as crazy as it seems.

CALL THE INFIRMARY: It's hard to believe that the upcoming season will be the seventh for Darren McFadden. Every year experts gush about his skill-set, potential to dominate and clear bill of health, yet every year he misses games. In fact, McFadden has missed a remarkable 29-of-96 games (30-percent) during his up-and-down career; that doesn't factor in the fantasy nightmare that comes along with leaving games early with knee and hamstring injuries. Fantasy owners know all too well the pain that comes from Run DMC's questionable status that seems to be a weekly occurrence on the injury report. At just 26 years old, the injuries seem to have taken their toll on the back as seen by his poor 3.3 yards per carry average over the past two years. Now that MJD has joined the Raiders, it appears that the last group of McFadden supporters have finally jumped ship, judging by the former Arkansas standout being the 44th RB off the board in fantasy drafts (ADP: 128.64). Jones-Drew and McFadden are both wild cards this year. Both are strong red-zone runners and are equally capable of being a factor receiving the ball (making them fantasy-worthy if given the lion's share of touches). According to his agent, McFadden reportedly turned down better paying offers from other teams in order to return to the Raiders because he "has something to prove." Playing time will dictate whether there is any value here, but the injury risk will always be a concern.

Editor's note: The media reported McFadden looking excellent during OTAs. We'll see how that translates to the field in a couple more months when the pads go on.

Marcel Reece is one of the few fullbacks that occasionally posts an impressive stat-line for fantasy purposes. A poor man's Mike Tolbert, Reece has made his presence felt with 84 receptions over the past two years. Reece should be on the field a lot in 2014, blocking for the flavor of the day in the Raiders' backfield. Expect a few high-volume reception days, but Reece should not be considered a fantasy option for your team.

If history is any indication, Rod Streater fits the bill of a receiver that can see a significant uptick in production. The Temple alum comes into his third year (often a breakout year for receivers) poised to continue the upward trend in production seen in his first two years. Streater quietly had 100 targets in 2013 and comfortably made plays over the middle; a role that very few young receivers adapt to. The Raiders' receiver began to be featured over the last two months of the season, which bodes well for this year. With James Jones joining the team to stretch the field, there should be more room in the middle for Streater to operate. Working against Streater is the uncertainty at QB as he will need to develop chemistry with Matt Schaub (or Derek Carr should he win the job at some point). Either way, this big target is being overlooked in fantasy drafts (WR71 in high stakes drafts) and could be a sneaky high volume play as a guy who can come off your bench when the matchup fits.

Andre Holmes came out of nowhere to finish 2013 on a high note. As Denarius Moore fell more out of favor, Holmes became a more prominently-featured target. The 6-foot-4 receiver has impressive length and enough speed to get downfield. He had a breakout game on Thanksgiving Day in a heartbreaking loss to the Cowboys. Holmes was targeted 11 times that day, catching seven passes for 136 yards and was unstoppable in single coverage. Granted it was the Cowboys defense, but Holmes caught everyone's attention and was a hot waiver wire pick-up the following week. Holmes has a shot to climb the depth chart, but he isn't likely to make significant fantasy contributions unless he cracks the Top 3.

Slowly but surely, the heavily-hyped Denarius Moore is sinking on the depth chart. On the surface, the talented Moore should have run away with a starting receiver role given his ability to make the big play; however, he continues to struggle with drops and inconsistent route running. The fourth-year receiver seemed to develop chemistry with former Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor (evidenced by his 11-124-1 stat line in primetime vs. the Broncos), but fizzled out during the back half of the season. A 29-target decline from 2012 to 2013 tells the tale of a coaching staff losing confidence in their young receiver. It remains to be seen if Moore can find some consistency as a receiver, but for now he is in a battle to hold off Andre Holmes as the No. 3 receiver in Oakland.

Sebastian Janikowski (now in his 15th year) still has one of the strongest legs in the game. He regularly bombs kicks from 50-plus as if they are extra points. There is some concern coming into this year as 'Seabass' is coming off his worst year since 2005. Janikowski converted only 70-percent of his field goal attempts, prompting the Raiders to bring in free agent rookie Michael Palardy for a look. The Raiders have upgraded their offense, so Janikowski should be in line for an increase in attempts. He is a waiver wire pick-up in your fantasy league when the season starts.

SHOCKING, BUT TRUE: It may be a shock to some, but the Raiders defense wasn't so bad last season. Yes they got shredded by Peyton Manning twice and we all remember Nick Foles' career day, but the team put together some impressive numbers. The unit sacked the quarterback 44 times, ranking 10th in the league. The Silver and Black also picked off opposing QBs 20 times, good for seventh in the league. New face Justin Tuck brings leadership and a winning pedigree. Khalil Mack was one of the most coveted pass-rushers in the draft and is expected to make an immediate impact. Don't run out and chase the Raiders defense in your draft, but don't be surprised if they are a viable start against the right opponent during the season.