23rd in a series.
The Raiders have a new general manager in Reggie McKenzie and a new head coach in Dennis Allen, the Broncos' former defensive coordinator who took Denver from last in the league in defense to 20th in 2011. Despite the media attention around QB Tim Tebow, Allen's defense played a large part in the Broncos' rise from last to first in the AFC West and a surprise playoff berth. Allen brought back Greg Knapp, the Raiders' offensive coordinator from 2007-08. Knapp immediately should improve the RB and TE positions.
What's the future for QBs Carson Palmer and Terrelle Pryor?
In 10 games as Oakland's starter in 2011, Palmer had four multi-TD games and ended the season by throwing for 417 yards, two TDs and one interception against the Chargers. He surpassed 273 yards six times and 300 yards in four games. His arm strength was questioned but he quickly showed it was no longer an issue and is healthy. However, now has another offense he needs to learn. This offense can be a high-octane attack, and Palmer will enter the offseason as a No. 2 fantasy QB. He ended last season having thrown for 2,753 yards and 13 TDs with 16 interceptions — an average of 275.3 and 1.3 TDs with 1.6 interceptions in 10 games.
Pryor should be grateful that Knapp is his coordinator. In Atlanta, Knapp helped to develop an offense that allowed Michael Vick to exploit his legs and strength as a runner. Knapp was never able to get a consistent passing game with Vick, but for fantasy owners, the results with Vick's legs were enough to make him a No. 1 fantasy QB. At 6-6, 233 pounds, Pryor has the physical tools to play in the NFL and is big enough to absorb the punishment without injury. His value is in keeper leagues right now, as I expect the team to bring in an experienced No. 2 QB to back Palmer up with Jason Campbell likely to depart via free agency.
Does the team keep RB Michael Bush and if so, what does it do with Darren McFadden?
McFadden is injury-prone and in four years has yet to play a full season. He has missed 19 games in that time, including seven contests in 2011. He will earn $5.65 million in 2012 and $5.8 million in '13, and rumors are that the team is willing to move him, but his salary might make it too difficult to do so. It's tough for interested teams to justify giving up high draft picks for an oft-injured back with a high price tag.
Bush is a free agent, and considering McFadden's injury history, the Raiders want him back. Bush wants to start and that won't happen in Oakland. He has proven himself as durable after breaking his leg in college and taking a couple of years to recover. If he's franchised, he will earn approximately $7.7 million. The team probably can't commit that much money to two backs. Oakland likely won't give Bush the franchise tag, but I believe the Raiders will pursue a trade for McFadden and keep Bush, as he's the more durable of the two and a proven player.
Both players should remain in all keeper-league formats, but until free agency ends their value is unknown; both will be high mid-round picks regardless of where they play. One note on McFadden — the human body doesn't stop growing until the mid-20s and he doesn't turn 25 until late August. He finally could be ready to handle the punishment and would be a possible undervalued pick if he drops, so watch him on draft day.
Taiwan Jones totaled only 16-73-0 rushing and 2-25-0 receiving on three targets as a rookie last season. However, depending on how the situations with Bush and McFadden play out he's someone to keep an eye on.
What is the eventual shakeout with WRs Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy?
The wide receivers were a mess last season, and a combination of youth and injuries made the position too inconsistent. There's plenty of young talent to build on, but there's talk about signing a high-end free agent to be a starter.
Moore was explosive at times but also missed three games. In Week Two, he had 5-146-1 receiving on eight targets, and in Week 10 had 5-123-2 on seven targets. As a vertical threat and playmaker, right now he's the one receiver you target. He's a likely starter regardless of who's brought in.
Heyward-Bay was inconsistent and disappeared at times, but he did lead all Raiders receivers and had career highs in targets (115), receptions (64) and yardage (975). He set a career high with four TDs as well. He showed big-play ability and had a four-game run from Weeks 14-17 in which he totaled 26-433-2 receiving on 42 targets. Until free agency settles, his starter status is unknown but he does have fantasy value until then.
Ford is likely to be in the slot and was inactive for eight games with a foot injury. However, his speed and size (5-9, 194 pounds) makes him a natural fit at the position. Entering the offseason, his value makes him only a late-round pick but he did have an impressive Week Nine with 5-105-1 on six targets that showed his big-play ability. He ended the season with 19-279-1 receiving on 33 targets.
Murphy, who totaled 15-241-0 on 33 targets, is a forgotten player and could stick with an impressive camp. However, he enters the offseason with minimal if any fantasy value.
Will Greg Knapp be able to make Kevin Boss a fantasy-relevant tight end?
Knapp as offensive coordinator and TE production:
- 2009 with the Seahawks: John Carlson caught 51-574-7
- 2008 with the Raiders: Zach Miller had 56-778-1
- 2006 with the Falcons: Alge Crumpler totaled 56-780-8
Boss ended last season with 28-368-3 on 40 targets and will see his numbers increase. However, his upside is only in larger leagues as a late-round pick. In other formats, he's someone you want to watch on the waiver wire.