Raiders pressing fantasy questions: Receiving beauties and the Beast

Uncertainty looms with Marshawn Lynch in his return season, but the opportunity is more than ripe. (AP)
Uncertainty looms with Marshawn Lynch in his return season, but the opportunity is more than ripe. (AP)
3-Point Stance: Back in black, Lynch set for splashy fantasy return

As the mercury rises, Brad Evans and Liz Loza will tackle pressing fantasy questions tied to every NFL team. Read, ponder and get a jump on your offseason research. Friday’s topic: The Oakland Raiders.

Marshawn Lynch’s reinstatement was one of the biggest stories of the fantasy offseason. At his advanced age (31) and coming off a one-year siesta, OVER/UNDER 9.5 total touchdowns for Beast Mode in his homecoming campaign?

Liz – OVER. Even I, an admitted cynic, who views this whole homecoming shtick to be more about selling tickets than anything else, believes that Lynch will see double-digit TDs. I mean, of course, the marriage between a brand-conscious ex-player and a team desperate to retain its fan base before high-tailing it to the desert would result in numerous end zone celebrations and the resurrection of said player’s catch phrase.

Plus, as we saw last season with Latavius Murray, totes and TDs are two very different things. Murray averaged under 14 carries per game in 2016, but each week, nearly 3 of those opportunities came in the red area of the field. Racking up the seventh most RZ carries in the league (40), the Raiders gifted Murray with ultra-meaningful touches. I suspect they’ll employ a similar strategy with Lynch, especially considering the former retiree’s dominance at the goal line (he’s scored double digit touchdowns in four of the last five years in which he was active).

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Brad – OVER. An uncountable number of fantasy players have already, and blindly, given Lynch the Mr. Met, refusing to draft a RB with a history of back ailments who is on the wrong side of 30. Their points are entirely fair, but the environment surrounding the rusher is awfully nourishing. Why? 1) The Raiders offensive line, which should again be one of the league’s most unyielding, ranked No. 11 in run-blocking last year. 2) Having complementary options Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington on roster means Lynch won’t be leaned on for 20-25 carries per games, which helps assure his physical sustainability. 3) Upright runner Latavius Murray tripped over a rake and into the end zone a dozen times last year. A DOZEN. If Mr. Skittles logs anywhere close to the 40 red-zone carries Murray tallied in 2016, he sails past the proposed number.

It’s also important to remember what Lynch accomplished prior to his brief stint biking around Europe. Injuries marred his final year in Seattle, but the underlying numbers accumulated in 2015 paint an encouraging picture. He notched an appreciable 2.6 YAC per attempt and ranked No. 2 in tackles avoided per attempt among RBs with at least 100 carries. There was plenty left in the tank. A year off to heal and thrust into an ideal situation, Beast Mode should make a triumphant return. Roughly 1000-1050 combined yards with 10-12 TDs may be underselling him. He’s at least a midrange RB2 (42.4 ADP, RB17).

PICK YOUR POISON. At their respective ADPs, which Oakland wide receiver would you rather raid the bank for: Amari Cooper (16.4, WR9) or Michael Crabtree (41.8, WR22)?

Brad – CRABTREE. Maximizing value is a fundamental practice in fantasy. Crabs’ ADP discount is a clear example. I realize Cooper is several years the veteran’s junior, but he actually finished lower in total points last season. It’s absurd the younger is going some 25 picks, or two full rounds, ahead of Crabs in average drafts. It’s like overpaying for the brand name when the generic product owns equal quality.

Yes, you should never draft Crabtree No. 1 in an egg toss game – his 12 drops set the pace last year among WRs – but he’s Carr’s most trusted weapon near the goal-line. His 23.9 to 14.1 advantage in targets share percentage last season is the sole reason why playing the patience game is recommended. Cooper will dwarf Crabs in most categories, but TDs are always the great equalizer. Bank on the veteran coming close to an 80-1000-9 line.

Liz – COOPER. I usually advocate for value, but in this case, one player is ascending and the other is not. Crabby, who is entering his age 30 season, is coming off a year that ended with a concussion. Furthermore, he struggled with focus issues throughout 2016, leading all receivers in drops (13).

Yes, he may have out-produced his younger counterpart for the past two campaigns, but Cooper’s stats are on the rise. From snap-share to red zone targets, the youngster’s opportunities are growing. Taking into consideration his talent and familiarity with the offense, I’m willing to wager Cooper makes the leap in 2017, growing into a top-ten producer.

FILL IN THE BLANK. The year, make and model that best describes Derek Carr’s 2017 fantasy value (98.8 ADP, QB9) is a/an ________.

Liz – 2004 FORD THUNDERBIRD. Rereleased in 2002, the Thunderbird was the “it” coupe of the early 2000’s. Once sales declined after its initial debut, however, Ford decided to stop production on the eye-catching convertible. Now it’s remembered fondly by Gen-Yers as the car Alicia Silverstone drove in the equally short-lived series MISS MATCH. But dang, in the moment, people really wanted one.

Similarly, the narrative surrounding the Raiders triumphant season has positively affected Carr’s fantasy stock. Falling just outside of the top-twelve producers for the past two years running, we’ve seen the former Bulldog’s ceiling. Given Oakland’s top-notch pass protecting unit and a solid group of pass-catchers, Carr has solid value, but he’s not a top-ten fantasy QB. Don’t let the zeitgeist’s fascination force you to overpay, especially at such a deep position. FF: 4,000 passing yards and 30 TDs

Brad – 2005 TOYOTA PRIUS. The bubbly, spaceship design wasn’t exactly an eye catcher, but the second generation hybrid was exactly what it was billed to be, a fuel efficient, point A-to-B people mover. Carr’s projected fantasy worth evoke similar feelings. Though he played smartly last year posting a 28:6 TD:INT split over 15 games, he finished QB16 in Yahoo leagues. Can the passer really take the next step and become a 4,200-yard, 32-35 TD contributor? I have my reservations. Because he isn’t a runner, that level of passing production is imperative for him to land inside the QB1 ranks, which I don’t foresee. His unattractive YPA history (’15: 7.0; ’16: 7.0), unsightly red-zone completion rates (48.3, QB25 in ’16) and only occasional tosses downfield (QB21 in deep-ball attempts in ’16) dampen the outlook.

In the end, Carr could very well generate 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns this fall, but in today’s age of prolific passing, that’s only average fantasy production. Simply put, he isn’t a top-10 QB. However, Kirk Cousins, Marcus Mariota and Philip Rivers, all signal callers going after Carr, may be.

Chuck passes at Brad and Liz follow them on Twitter @YahooNoise and @LizLoza_FF