The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the end of July as training camps open. We’ll tackle pressing season-long fantasy questions, Best Ball tips (new on Yahoo for 2019) and team win totals. Next up, the Oakland Raiders.
The first season of the Jon Gruden era in Oakland had a lot of what you might expect. A plethora of losses (they finished 4-12). Questionable play-calling. The haunting of previous trades *cough, Khalil Mack, cough*.
Anyway, the Raiders hope that the addition of Antonio Brown and rookie running back Josh Jacobs can add an infusion of talent to a roster not only in desperate need of a spark, but also one trying to become a cohesive, productive unit around Derek Carr. The question for fantasy gamers is, can we fully trust any of these guys this season?
Freshly signed rookie Josh Jacobs is a consistent top-20 RB pick in best-ball drafts (38.9 ADP, RB20). YES or NO the rusher profits at his current price point in .5 PPR leagues?
Liz: YES. The contract dispute is over! Rejoice and stockpile all the Jacobs shares!
One of the best stories of this year’s draft, Jacobs is poised to dominate in Oakland. The hands-down best running back in the 2019 class, he has the physical and mental tools to be a premier player at the next level. His aggressive running style and all-out effort may make him vulnerable to injury, but the extra yards he gains will be greatly valued. Furthermore, his ace receiving ability should help boost his stats in PPR friendly formats. The only back with every down potential on the Raiders roster, Jacobs is my RB16 and the Yahoo consensus RB19 heading into the season.
Andy: It’s the right price, more or less, so put me in the YES camp. We should always be a bit skeptical of backs who were committee runners at the college level becoming full-workload players in the NFL, but that’s my only serious concern with Jacobs. He’s clearly a talented back with receiving ability, and he faces no significant challengers on the Raiders’ current roster. (Please don’t tell me you’re worried about the zombified husk of Doug Martin. Just ... no.)
Oakland’s offense has a chance to be frisky this season and the team has been clear about Jacobs’ backfield role:
Raiders GM Mike Mayock on RB Josh Jacobs: "This is a three-down back. He's explosive. He's tough. We've watched him pass protect."
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) April 26, 2019
The rookie has a relatively clear path to 260-plus touches, which isn’t something we can say about many players. On projected workload alone, he deserves RB2 consideration.
BOOM for BROWN?
Based on his insane hand-eye workouts this offseason, Antonio Brown has no designs of slowing down in his new digs. At his 19.3 ADP (WR7), will the decorated wide receiver be a fantasy FLAME, LAME or STAY THE SAME?
Liz: FLAME. The two biggest problems facing Brown’s fantasy stock are his QB and his perceived persona. It’s true that Carr is quite a few steps down from Big Big, but Brown has the talent to drag a QB into production. As for the stud receiver’s big personality… well, at least there won’t be any concern about target share or high-value looks in the Black Hole.
A top-five fantasy producer for six consecutive seasons, Brown is one of the best receivers of our time. In the 96th percentile for success rate vs. man coverage for five straight years, I have little concern about him fending off elite CBs. His ability after the catch (434 in 2018, WR7), clutch presence in the end zone (15 TDs in 2018, WR1) and other-worldly athletic skills make him an easy top-ten pick. He’s my WR7 and a delicious second-round pick.
Brad: FLAME. Similar to his social media sparring partner and former teammate, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Brown is in the running to set the league pace in targets. Last season in Pittsburgh, he elicited an obscene 169 throws from Ben Roethlisberger, once again proving his mettle as one of the game’s true receiving elites. His rapid-chopping footwork, prominent red-zone success (No. 4 in end-zone target% in ‘18), downfield capabilities (WR8 in air yards) and jukes after the catch (WR7 in YAC) all point to continued dominance. His biggest problem: Derek Carr. Still, with the possibility of 190 targets on the horizon, he’s bound to top 100 receptions and finish inside the WR top-seven for the seventh consecutive season. He’s a fantastic Tier 1 RB complement widely available in the middle portion of Round 2.
Here in my CARR
With a host of upgraded weapons surrounding him, there are some who believe Derek Carr (180.3 ADP, QB25) will rebound in a major way after a downtrodden 2018. OVER or UNDER 24.5 passing touchdowns this fall?
Brad: UNDER. Channeling the football ghost of JaMarcus Russell, Carr pulled a Thelma and Louise and drove off a cliff last year. On a positive note, he boosted his output in deep-ball and red-zone completion percentages from the year before, but his abysmal performance in air yards per attempt (QB22) and general production (QB31 in fantasy points/dropback) doomed him to the position’s junkyard.
The Raiders supporting cast is light years ahead of 2018’s. However, Carr, who sports a career 6.7 YPA, isn’t the plus passer conventional analysts consider him to be. He’ll improve on his 19 TD chucks from last year, but mark me down for 22-24 scores.
Andy: UNDER, slightly. But it’s not a bad number. Carr has only reached this total twice in his five seasons and hasn’t reached it since 2016. If Carr rebounds to his career TD rate this season (4.4) and attempts another 550-ish passes, he’ll finish with 24 TDs. We shouldn’t expect some massive leap in production from Carr, even with AB in the fold, but a bounce-back to his career norms is perfectly reasonable.
Best Ball Bargain Bin
Brad: TYRELL WILLIAMS. After occasional standout performances down the coast with the Chargers, the field-stretcher (10.2 yards per target in ‘18) signed a jackpot deal this offseason. Cemented outside opposite Brown, Williams is to benefit from his advantageous position. Approximately 800 yards with a handful of scores on 100 targets is believable. That’s exceptional value potential at his 137.9 ADP (WR55).
Liz: DARREN WALLER. A converted wide receiver and 74 percentile SPARQ athlete, Waller is the Raiders starting tight end. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said as much in late May after the former Raven wowed at OTAs. Replacing Jared Cook — who drew 19 percent of the team’s targets and averaged six looks per contest — Waller has a massive opportunity, even if his volume doesn’t match Cooks’ with AB now on the squad. Expect some big outings from the Ramblin’ Wreck.
Mad Bets (From FanDuel Sportsbook): Oakland 6.5 wins OVER (+140) or UNDER (-165)
Liz: UNDER. The Raiders are definitely getting better, but they’re still a team in transition. Plus, it’s hard to imagine them besting the Chiefs or the Chargers.
Andy: UNDER. I can’t quite get to seven wins, not with a pair of Super Bowl contenders at the top of the division.
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