If one of your guiding principles in fantasy drafts is that you will not, under any circumstances, invest in the Raiders' passing game, then you can't be blamed. Johnnie Lee Higgins(notes) led all Oakland wide receivers last year with 22 catches for 366 yards – nice numbers for a kick returner, pitiful stats for a team's leading wideout.
But the Raiders have a clear No. 1 receiver entering 2009, and it's not Higgins. It's also not the dude who got the $55 million contract (since restructured), nor is it the guy they selected with the seventh overall pick in the draft. Chaz Schilens(notes) is the wide receiver you'll want to own, if you allow yourself to sample the Raiders' air attack at all.
In the preseason opener against Dallas on Thursday night, Schilens dominated the first series. He picked up 11 yards on Oakland's first play from scrimmage, then drew a 47-yard pass interference penalty on safety Gerald Sensabaugh(notes) on third down. Schilens caught a short pass on the next play, moving the ball to the Dallas two … and then a typical Raiders series broke out. They committed a holding penalty, then lost two yards on a completion. But on third and goal from the 14, JaMarcus Russell(notes) found Schilens for a 10-yard gain, setting up a short field goal that gave Oakland a 3-0 lead.
Schilens finished with five receptions for 52 yards over three series and he caught everything that was thrown his way. (Video here via NFL.com). Sure, it was just five targets in a meaningless game against vanilla defense, but if you're a Raiders fan, you have to seek out hope wherever you can. All things considered, it was an impressive effort from Schilens, a second-year pro. You'll note that he closed out the '08 season with six catches for 98 yards and two TDs in the Raiders' final two games.
Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune has actually referred to Schilens as, "the reason the Raiders were able to pass on Michael Crabtree," That may seem overly optimistic (perhaps irrationally so), but consider the fact that Schilens is bigger than Crabtree (6-4 vs. 6-2) and his pro-day performance was basically superhero-grade (43-inch vertical, 4.38 40-yard dash). No pre-draft WR cheat sheet is complete without him, despite his Raiderness.
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