Juggernaut Index No. 26: It's not entirely a black hole

The Juggernaut Index is our annual attempt to rank every NFL team for fantasy purposes. We're not concerned with real-life wins and losses here. No, here we just care about imaginary winning. If an NFL team gains lots of yardage, limits turnovers, and scores when they reach the red zone, then you'll want to own their skill position players in fantasy leagues. You'll find those teams at the top of the Juggernaut Index. We began at No. 32, the worst of the worst, and we're working our way to the elite fantasy offenses.

These rankings rely on hard, incontrovertible math. There are algorithms at work. This stuff is peer-reviewed. Seasons are simulated. You can't argue with science, so don't even try...

26. Oakland Raiders

First, the good news: the Raiders have a ground game.

Last season Oakland ran more often than they threw, averaging 31.8 rush attempts per game and 28.2 passes. That's particularly impressive for a four-win squad. The Raiders were sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (130.4), and they averaged 4.1 per carry.

Another impressive fact: LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes did quite a bit of the productive rushing. They each had a pair of 100-yard rushing efforts (Weeks 2 and 3 for Jordan, Weeks 16 and 17 for Rhodes), yet no reasonable observer would call either an elite runner.

Darren McFadden, however, is an elite runner. As Jason Cole reported back in February, when you run the 40 in 4.3 seconds at the scouting combine, people stop discussing any off-the-field issues and they begin discussing potential. And McFadden has greater fantasy potential than any player in his draft class.

Here's a quote from that piece by Jason:

“He's a game-changing talent,” said Kansas City president Carl Peterson, whose team holds the No. 5 overall pick and has running back Larry Johnson already in the fold. “(McFadden) helped himself a lot today … if he’s at No. 5 overall, I’m going to have to consider him long and hard. … And I have a great running back.”

McFadden is elusive, powerful, scary-fast, and he has excellent hands. He's No. 19 in our composite RB rankings, but he could easily outperform that rank. He should outperform his current average draft position, too (52.4).

Sure, Michael Bush may poach some TDs. And yes, McFadden is expected to share the workload with Justin Fargas, another Raider running back who had multiple 100-yard efforts in '07. But let's remember that we're talking about a big workload that produces useful fantasy totals. For that reason, McFadden and Fargas are both ranked among the top 35 backs.

You can expect McFadden to be a receiving threat, as Jordan was last season when healthy. (Oakland can't give that guy away, apparently). And just look at how effortlessly McFadden escapes those small orange cones attempting to gang-tackle him. Please imagine that it's Week 1, and the cones are tiny Broncos.

So is it clear enough that we really like the Raiders running attack generally, and McFadden specifically? OK, good. We've now exhausted the really good news.

We're left to deal with JaMarcus Russell and the Oakland receiving corps. It's reasonable to expect continued improvement from the gigantic (6-6, approximately 269 lbs) and seriously strong-armed Russell. There's no doubting his talent. And if you do doubt it, please check the tape. But he's still a 22-year-old quarterback, and he may have actually had better receivers at LSU (Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, Early Doucet) than he'll have in Oakland (Ronald Curry, Javon Walker, Drew Carter).

Curry and Walker are tied at No. 47 in the wide receiver rankings, although it's worth noting that Funston and I are responsible for dragging Walker out of the 30s, where Buser, Evans and Pianowski rated him. A variety of question marks surrounded Walker before the terrible and much-discussed robbery that left him with a fractured orbital bone and broken jaw. There were already concerns about his conditioning and his recovery from knee surgery.

At this point, no matter what the team says publicly about when Walker will be ready to play and what he'll be able to do, it seems to me that people are simply drafting a familiar brand name. Walker is the 34th receiver taken in drafts over at Mock Draft Central, which suggests that many owners still consider him a fantasy starter. That's an increasingly difficult case to make, though.

Tight end Zach Miller had a nice rookie season (44 receptions, 444 yards), and he had his most productive day in Week 17 (eight receptions, 84 yards). That's notable because it was also Russell's first NFL start. Miller could emerge as an ownable player in fantasy leagues, and a favorite of Russell's.

On defense, the Raiders...well, they spent a lot of money. That much is clear. They allowed 24.9 points and 341.6 yards per game in '07, and had only 27 sacks. The Oakland defense was 28th in fantasy scoring last year, finishing with a miserable 96 points. San Diego more than doubled that total (206). Kirk Morrison, Thomas Howard and Gibril Wilson are the names you'll want to know for IDP purposes, but the team defense shouldn't be drafted in public leagues.

Those of you seated in sections 104-107 might disagree with our placement of the Raiders here. Please remember, this is all just fantasy.


2007 Oakland Raiders team stats

Rushing: 130.4 Y/G

Passing: 164.4 Y/G

Points per game: 17.7

Turnovers: 37

Red Zone possessions and TDs: 35, 21

'08 Schedule strength: .438


The rest of the Index...

32) Chicago, 31) Tennessee, 30) San Francisco, 29) Miami, 28) Baltimore, 27) NY Jets, 26) Oakland