It’s a new era for the Oakland Raiders, but with a familiar face. Jon Gruden has returned as their head coach and looks to get the team back on track after their hugely disappointing 2017 campaign. Their high-octane 2016 offense had many people lining up to draft their players last year. Those who did draft them were left dissatisfied. With a new offensive philosophy from one of the more creative offensive minds in the league, the team has a lot of potential to redeem themselves in the fantasy realm.
2018 Oakland Raiders Fantasy Football Outlook
Derek Carr’s last two seasons have put him at opposite ends of the fantasy spectrum. The best season of his career came in 2016 when he led the Raiders to comeback win after comeback win in the fourth quarter. It all came crashing down in week 16 when he went down with a broken leg. Overall this had Carr finish as the QB10 in fantasy. Take away his missed week 17, and he was the QB8.
Coming back from his leg injury last year, Carr was supposed to pick up right where he left off. Unfortunately, that did not happen. He started the season off strong, throwing five touchdowns to zero interceptions in his first two games. It was all downhill after that though. Carr started off week three against the Washington Redskins by throwing an interception and ended up having one of the worst games of his career. Then, he broke his back next week against the Denver Broncos and missed week five. He never looked the same. His disappointing season pushed him all the way back to the QB19 for 2017.
So which version of Carr can fans expect for the 2018 season? Will Gruden be able to get him back on track to his 2016 numbers? The argument can be made that he has more weapons than ever with the addition of Martavis Bryant as the third wide receiver. Still, we don’t know how he, or other newcomer Jordy Nelson will mesh with Carr and the offense. Right now, it is wise to stay away from Carr until further notice. There are plenty of other options out there like other up-and-comings like Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz, or established veterans in Drew Brees and Cam Newton to target instead.
Last year, Marshawn Lynch came out of a brief retirement to play for his hometown team. Though it did not go as expected, he decided to stick around for at least one more go this season. Like the rest of Oakland’s offense, Lynch underperformed. He seemed underutilized for most of the season, getting a minimal amount of carries. Lynch is a power back who gets stronger as the game goes on, so the lack of carries crippled his potential to perform. He ended up finishing as the RB19 in standard scoring leagues.
This season, he is being ranked as the RB29, projecting him to finish a full 10 spots lower than last year. Looking at his competition, this seems realistic. Lynch is another year older, and Oakland brought in another homegrown running back in Doug Martin. It won’t be a surprise to see Lynch take on an even smaller role than last year or lose the job altogether. That said, he could still be worth the risk should he be on the board in the seventh round or so. The Raiders did add Tom Cable to coach their offensive line, who was with the Seattle Seahawks when Lynch was at his finest. If the Raiders offense returns to 2016 form, Lynch could end up actually improving on last year’s numbers.
Perhaps the biggest wild card in the fantasy world for the Raiders is Doug Martin. Coming to Oakland after previously playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Martin is about as big of a boom or bust as they come. He was a first-round pick for the Bucs in the 2012 draft and exploded onto the scene. Earning the nickname “Muscle Hamster,” he bulled through defenders on his way to over 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns. This was good enough to award him the RB2 spot in fantasy, behind only Adrian Peterson.
From there he fizzled out, not even cracking 500 yards each of the next two years, and only totaling three touchdowns. Then he reminded the league why he got his nickname. In the 2015 season, he racked up 1,402 yards and six touchdowns on his way to an RB3 finish. (Coincidentally, he finished right behind Peterson once again.) Since then, injuries and a suspension have hurt him, and he’s been largely ineffective when on the field.
Still, Martin would immediately jump right into the starting role if Lynch gets hurt. He is currently ranked as the RB53 and likely goes undrafted except in deep leagues. Martin is a player to keep an eye on, and might even be worth a flier in the final round of the draft, especially for people who take a chance on Lynch.
Perhaps the Raiders player with the best shot to be a fantasy star is Amari Cooper. He was expected to have a big year last season but instead ended up being a huge bust. Cooper did play a lot of the latter half of the year hurt, suffering a concussion and an ankle injury. Still, his troubles were apparent well before his injuries. Cooper caught a case of the drops all season, securing a horrid 50 percent of passes thrown his way. He still showed flashes of his big talent throughout the season though. This was best encapsulated by his week seven game against the Kansas City Chiefs where he caught 11 balls for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
Many team owners will be hesitant to draft Cooper this year, especially those that owned him last season. Still, he is a player who is worth it at his ADP. Currently slated as the WR16, Cooper should still be available towards the end of the third round. Gruden has emphasized that Cooper will be the focal point of the offense, and rightly so. Even with the new big-name wide receivers acquired by the Silver and Black, there is no doubt that Cooper is the most talented at the position in this stage of his career.
The biggest departure for Oakland this season was sending Michael Crabtree packing. He was immediately replaced by the wily veteran, Jordy Nelson. While some are hoping that he can regain his 2016, where he amassed 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns, that won’t be the case. Nelson is 33 and could struggle to even match Crabtree’s 618 yards he produced last season. Many will blame the Aaron Rodgers injury for Nelson’s lack of production last season. Though that contributed, it wasn’t entirely the reason for his decline.
Even with Rodgers, Nelson failed to top 80 yards a game last season. He did manage six touchdowns in the first five weeks, but that was a result of the years of chemistry between him and Rodgers. That will not be duplicated with Carr at the helm. Nelson will likely be looked for to make difficult catches on crucial third downs, but don’t expect many flashy plays or big stat lines.
He’s currently the ranked as the 100th best player overall, so if players really think Nelson can turn back the clock with Carr, they might get lucky, but he has huge buyer beware lights flashing all over him. Team owners would be better to look elsewhere for a late-round steal.
One of the more intriguing draft prospects for the Raiders would have to be Martavis Bryant. Acquired in a trade during the draft, the troubled wideout is looking for a fresh start with the Silver and Black. If he can put his past behind him, he will be given his shot but will have his work cut out for him in a crowded receiving corps. There is no way he surpasses Cooper for targets or yards, but he does have a much higher ceiling than Nelson.
Bryant’s main problem is getting onto the field. Though drafted in 2014, he has only appeared in 36 games, mostly due to substance abuse violations that led to extended suspensions. One more failed drug test would get Bryant an indefinite ban. This explains his basically non-existent ADP (139), as most owners would prefer to take a wait and see approach.
When on the field, Bryant has proved that he can perform. In 2015, Bryant came back from his five-game suspension to average 10.9 points per game. That would have put him as a solid WR2. He is in the perfect situation to succeed in Oakland and is worth the risk as a pick in the final few rounds when picks are basically dart throws. He has the potential to be the steal of the draft.