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Oakland Raiders: Fantasy Football 2016 Preview


The Oakland Raiders are finally poised to make a huge step forward in 2016 and are the dark horse candidates to take the AFC West crown. Their offense is ready to take a step forward, and with free agent acquisitions Sean Smith, Bruce Irvin and Reggie Nelson and first rounder Karl Joseph in tow, the defense is set to be one of the surprise stories of 2016. Just a few years ago, selecting a Raider in your fantasy football draft was a pointless endeavor. Now, they have a bevy of options for you.

Quarterback
Derek Carr is the only Raider quarterback worth owning since this is his team and if he gets hurt, Matt McGloin is the number two and rookie Connor Cook is a project.

Gun to your head, you wouldn’t believe that Carr had nearly 4,000 yards and a 32:13 TD: AINT ratio last season, but that was only good enough for quarterback nineteen last season on a points-per-game basis. He epitomized the deep nature of the QB position last season, as an extra point per game put him tied with Eli Manning as QB12 last season.The second year with Amari Cooper, a solidified offensive line and a potential breakout from Clive Walford means that Carr could easily get that extra point per game.

As of right now, he is a great QB2 option for your team, and ideally should be part of a platoon. He’s a good pair with someone like Matthew Stafford, who is criminally underrated this season. They share a bye week (week ten) but by then, you should definitely have an idea of which one of them has broken out to go get a fill-in (I would suggest whichever of the QB Cerberus in Denver as they take on New Orleans). Carr is going at pick 107 and QB #13, so he’s perfect for snagging as part of a platoon. Play the matchups and he should get you QB1 production when you use him.

Running Back
Latavius Murray is one of the hidden gems of the fantasy football draft process. He’s currently going as a mid-level RB2, but he has the potential to be so much more. The Raiders O-Line is ready to be one of the best in the league, and Murray was third in the league in carries last year, and the Raiders want to give it to him more this season.

He had over 300 touches, and if he can average just 4 yards per touch, that comes out to 1200 yards through the air and on the ground. All he needs is an increase on his six touchdowns and that’s clear RB1 territory, at an RB2 price. He’s currently going behind Matt Forte, who is in an offense full of question marks and time shares. Take advantage of his early-fourth ADP and snag him late in the third and you’ll get a high-end RB2/low-end RB1 on your hands.

Behind Murray is Taiwan Jones and DeAndre Washington. Washington is worth an add in deep PPR leagues to see if he pulls out third-down work from Murray. If Murray goes down, Washington is the back to add and the Raiders are reportedly very high on the fifth-rounder. He won’t be a real threat to Murray’s production, but will be a must-add if Murray goes down.

Wide Receiver

There are two receivers worth a look in Oakland, and like running back, there isn’t anything worth looking at behind the top two.

Last season, Amari Cooper set the league ablaze before he faded hard down the stretch. In Cooper’s first eight games, he scored nearly eleven fantasy points per game. In his last eight, he averaged just 7.6. While the drop of nearly four fantasy points per game was concerning, it’s also misleading. It was even worse than that.

He had a 120-yard, two-touchdown performance week fourteen against Green Bay, and surrounded that with eight catches for 99 yards in the four games that surrounded that outburst. However, there is suddenly an explanation for that poor performance: The Raiders revealed that Cooper was battling a particularly nasty case of plantar fasciitis, which led to his breakdown at the end of the season. Cooper is currently a WR1 in twelve-team leagues, going as the first pick of round three.

He has a ton of potential, but plantar fasciitis is a particularly nasty foot issue that has a high chance of recurrence. With that information, I would not go after Cooper before Mike Evans or Brandon Cooks, two receivers who are currently going behind Cooper by ADP.

Cooper’s running mate, Michael Crabtree, enjoyed a career renaissance with his first season as a Raider, pulling in 85 receptions for 922 yards and nine touchdowns. His receiving numbers could get even better this season, as sure-handed Crabtree only pulled in 58% of his targets after catching at least 62% of his targets in his last three healthy seasons.

That means that Crabtree’s 2016 could be even better than his 2015 from a yardage standpoint, but his nine touchdowns were very high. If he starts to reel in 64% of his targets, assuming a similar target volume (his average in his last three healthy seasons), that bumps him up to 93-94 receptions, and at his 10.8 yards per target, that puts him above 1000 yards for the season. 1000 and 9 touchdowns puts him in 2015 Sammy Watkins territory. He’s currently going as #90 overall, an eighth-round pick in twelve team leagues.

He will be the ideal consistent third receiver for your team, but he won’t be flashy. He’s very likely to exceed his draft stock, but isn’t going to blow past it. He’s currently going in sleeper territory, surrounded by Tyler Lockett, Kevin White and Josh Gordon. If you don’t believe in those guys and you have two great WRs ahead of him, Crabtree is a decent bet to be your third receiver.

Tight End
Last season, Clive Walford showed flashes of usefulness last season, but there wasn’t enough in the Raiders passing game to go his way, and he also fell victim to the rookie tight end curse (rookie tight ends are rarely even remotely fantasy relevant). As Walford enters his second season, reports out of Raiders camp are that he is more comfortable with the playbook and is going “to be a big part” of what they do.

He is behind Lee Smith, but Smith is beyond a JAG. A blocking tight end on a team that doesn’t particularly need one with a beastly O-Line, Smith will be quickly surpassed by Walford. Walford is the #24 tight end off the board, and isn’t even being drafted on average in 14 team leagues. He’s not worth drafting, but is definitely worth monitoring as the season develops.

Kicker

Sebastian Janikowski isn’t who he used to be. The player known as Sea Bass is entering his sixteenth season, which may be his last. He isn’t worth a draft pick anymore, as he’s likely to be between kicker 15 and 20. That isn’t worth your time.

D/ST
The Raiders are set to be the surprise of the D/ST ranks, and are the huge D/ST sleepers of this season. Why? Khalil Mack is going to have a massive season this year as an edge rusher with Bruce Irvin manning coverage duties. The additions of Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson to an improving secondary will also lead to more interceptions for the team. They’re currently completely, 100% undrafted in most leagues, meaning you could wait until the last pick to snag them.

They’re currently completely, 100% undrafted in most leagues, meaning you could wait until the last pick to snag them. They’ll have a real test week one, but then they get the Falcons, Titans and Ravens. You’ll get a good look at them, and if they don’t live up to the hype they cost you next to nothing.

Oakland is a team worth getting pieces of for the first time in a long time. The Raiders stink has left a good number of them severely under-ranked, namely Latavius Murray and the D/ST. Crabtree and Carr represent good value picks, but Cooper’s ADP may just be ignoring his potential for injury.


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]