As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: The Oldtown Raiders.
Brad – JARED COOK. In 1998, “Armageddon” was the hot summer blockbuster, Next’s “Too Close” had people engaging in suggestive dance and then 44 year-old quarterback Steve DeBerg was still alive and kicking in the NFL. Though an eternity ago, Jon Gruden desires to live in decades long past by employing a smashmouth attack while completely turning a blind eye to the insightfulness of advanced analytics. His collection of thirty-somethings acquired this offseason rubber stamps this belief.
Chucky’s refusal to evolve makes Lynch interesting at his heavily slashed ADP, particularly behind an offensive line Pro Football Focus projects as the seventh-best in the league. But Cook owns the most profit potential.
Tight ends under Gruden during his previous stints with Oakland and Tampa were more blocking pieces, but it could be argued he never had a pass catcher the caliber of Cook. It’s probably why the veteran drew high praise from his head coach in OTAs and minicamp.
Quietly off a career-best 54 receptions, Cook could repeat or best his TE14 per game standing from 2017. He ranked No. 11 or better in total air yards, target distance and yards per target (8.0). His 57 percent success rate in 11 formations (3WR sets) also stood out. Again, if Gruden isn’t completely Spider2YBananas about running down opponent throats, Cook is an excellent low-dollar TE2 capable of 50-650-4.
Liz – DOUG MARTIN. He may still be under 30-years-old, but Martin deserves a mention here. With an ADP of 179.10 (RB54), he poses incredible fantasy value. The Raiders’ backfield figures to be used early and often, as Gruden has unabashedly advocated for the return to a run-first offense.
The former TV commentator also has close ties to Tampa Bay’s organization, which makes the addition of Martin especially intriguing. While Marshawn Lynch (who Gruden, in his first presser as coach of the Raiders, admitted to never having met) remains the favorite for starting duties, the vet is entering his age-thirty-two season. It makes sense then that Martin, who has reportedly demonstrated renewed “burst,” could push the former Seahawk for touches. #HiddenGem
Is Amari Cooper OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED or PROPERLY VALUED at his 37.9 (WR16) ADP?
Liz – OVERVALUED. I find it interesting that fantasy fans, whose memories are notoriously short, are so high on Cooper. Could it be Gruden’s endorsement of the ‘Bama prospect’s talent? Or maybe they’ve noted Cooper’s battles with the injury bug in 2017? Perhaps they were impressed by the 24-year-old’s 7 spikes last season? While those are noble reasons to project a bounce-back-season for the Raiders’ presumed No. 1 WR, they’re not enough to draft him inside the top-twenty players at the position.
With a 62 percent catch rate (#39 according to Player Profiler) in 2016 and a sad 50 percent conversion rate in 2017 (#91), Cooper’s efficiency leaves a lot to be desired. Additionally, he’s not a prime red zone target, as evidenced by Michael Crabtree’s continued looks and success in the red area (for three consecutive seasons). And even if Jordy Nelson takes the defensive heat off of his younger teammate (which I don’t think is likely), the passing opportunities in Gruden’s offense will be severely limited. After all, this is a coach whose first free-agent moves included re-signing a blocking TE, adding a fullback, and proclaiming his desire to “take the game back to 1998.”
Brad – OVERVALUED. Lambasted incessantly by yours truly, Cooper was one of fantasy’s biggest busts in 2017. On a mediocre 20 percent of the Raiders’ target share he managed an eye-gouging 48-680-7 output. His consistent inability to shake defenders (WR49 in TGT separation), concentration issues (10 drops; 50 catch%) and minimal red-zone presence (three total catches) pushed many toward the bottle. He was terrible. His 40 percent success rate was equally comical (h/t Sharp Football). Don’t even attempt to sugarcoat it.
Due to his baseline skills, young age (24 years old) and stand out 2015 and 2016, most fantasy owners have awarded Cooper a pass for last fall’s debacle, a rash assumption. Gruden hopes to shift Cooper about to minimize encounters with top DBs, but unless Jordy Nelson suddenly turns back the clock, the receiver should again draw top coverage more often than not. Oakland sports the seventh-toughest schedule among wide receivers.
Call me the captain of #TeamRaisins, but at the Round 3-4 turn in 12-team leagues, I prefer Stefon Diggs, Larry Fitzgerald or Josh Gordon ahead of the unnecessarily hyped Cooper.
TRUE or FALSE: Derek Carr turns a profit at his 148.1 ADP and finishes inside the position’s top-18?
Brad – FALSE. A puttering four-door Mitsubishi sedan with a McLaren price tag, Carr is an overpriced real-life quarterback with a pedestrian fantasy profile. The passer took a substantial step back in 2017 after a top-10 campaign the year prior. His TD percentage regressed for the third consecutive year and he exhibited uncomfortable dips in yards per attempt (6.8 in ’17), air yards per attempt (6.5) and multiple completion percentage categories. When considering he was kept clean on 72.8 percent of his dropbacks, his production was … umm … no bueno.
If Gruden gets his wish of instituting a largely conservative offense, another QB20-plus finish seems inevitable for Carr. Give me cheaper alternatives Mitch Trubisky, Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Eli Manning instead.
Liz – FALSE. Coming off a down year, it’s reasonable to expect some sort of bounce-back from Carr. Yet, a surge into the top-eighteen, especially in a year that possesses massive depth at the position, is unlikely.
Hampered by a back injury and let down by Cooper, Carr’s 2017 numbers took a down-turn. Notching just 22 passing scores and with a YPA of 6.8, the Raiders’ signal-caller closed out last season as fantasy’s QB19 overall. The prior year, however, Carr demonstrated promise, notching the seventh most TDs among QBs and averaging the fourteenth most fantasy points per week.
In 2016, then OC Bill Musgrave called the ninth most passing plays in the league, which gave Carr plenty of chances to produce. There’s no way he receives the same number of chances in Gruden’s scheme. The 27-year-old simply hasn’t proven efficient enough (career-high YPA of 7.0) to produce sans volume. He’s the Yahoo Fantasy consensus QB23 heading into 2018.