Raiders Team Preview

John Daigle
Rotoworld

2018 Stats (Rank)
Total Offense: 5,379 yards (23rd)
Offensive Touchdowns: 28 (28th)
Offensive Plays: 995 (24th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 608 (13th)
Rush Attempts: 387 (24th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 359 (1st)
Unaccounted for Carries: 101 (16th)

Coaching Staff

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Oakland’s offseason was one for the ages, but not for reasons most teams prefer to gain notoriety. For every win the franchise seemingly earned, they additionally took two steps back in the process. New GM Mike Mayock lured star LT Trent Brown to Oakland on a four-year, $66 million deal, for example, only to move him to right tackle and keep 2018 first-rounder (and league-leader in sacks allowed) Kolton Miller protecting Derek Carr’s blindside. The team also kept OL coach Tom Cable around despite the fact he’s never placed a unit any higher than 20th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Sack Rate metric. DC Paul Guenther somehow survived the offseason, too, despite the team’s league-low finishes in pressure rate (22%), sacks (13), and yards per attempt allowed (8.2). It doesn’t bode well that outside of his three seasons coaching Rich Gannon and Hall of Famers Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, Jon Gruden’s never engineered a top-nine unit in either total yards or points per game as head coach. Optimists can hang their hats on the fact those numbers might not matter given Oakland’s league-high 22 players added in free agency.

Passing Game
QB: Derek Carr, Nathan Peterman
WR: Antonio Brown, Marcell Ateman
WR: Tyrell Williams, J.J. Nelson
WR: Hunter RenfrowRyan Grant
TE: Darren Waller, Luke Willson

Despite spiking career-highs on the surface in completion rate (68.9%) and passing yards (4,049) in his first year under Gruden’s tutelage, Carr lost all propensity to attack over the top as his 7.1 average depth of target and 51 attempts 20-plus yards downfield were both career-low marks. Potentially stemming from the fractured back he initially suffered in Week 4 of the 2017 season, Carr’s overall production has declined significantly over the past two years as he’s hit on just 39-of-106 deep attempts (36.7%) for nine touchdowns and 10 picks with a shaky 50.5 passer rating under pressure since returning from said injury in Week 6; his deep ball was fairly accurate to that point following his rookie campaign, successfully nailing 51-of-122 downfield attempts (41.8%) in the two seasons he played prior to injury. Now entering a make-or-break year behind a significantly improved o-line and revamped receiving corps (see below), it’s genuinely Carr’s last shot to secure his ticket to Las Vegas considering the Raiders can conveniently save $16.5 million on the books by simply cutting him after the 2019 season. Essentially going undrafted in 12-team leagues, Carr should remain as such in any format outside of 2-QB systems.

Oakland couldn’t get out of their own way this offseason as Mayock precipitously shipped a third- and fifth-round pick to the Steelers en route to acquiring Brown and making him the highest paid player annually ($16.7 million) at his position. Fresh off a career-high 15 touchdowns entering his age-31 season, Brown’s career-low tally in Pro Football Focus’ predictive Yards Per Route Run (1.94) metric last year is cause for concern. There’s still no denying his unabashed opportunity as he arrives as the direct beneficiary of a league-high 359 available targets (67.8%) missing from last season’s production. An obvious mismatch with his quarterback given Brown’s advantageous 2,037 air yards averaged over the past two seasons, the newly-acquired wideout is merely an opportunity-driven top-10 option (as opposed to his recent stint as fantasy’s unequivocal WR1). He’s my WR7 in Best-Ball leagues.

Amari Cooper wasn’t the only receiver replaced this offseason as Jordy Nelson was kicked to the curb for 6’4/205 4.40-speedster Tyrell ‘The Gazelle’ Williams. Primarily a blazing deep-ball specialist who averaged 10.1 yards per target as a full-time player with the Chargers the past three years, Williams remains an extremely gifted specimen whose downfield prowess doesn’t mesh with Carr’s style of play in the slightest. The free agent acquisition is an intriguing late-round Best-Ball option given his athleticism, but he’s not even a FLEX for re-draft purposes. That latter opinion could change if the 27-year-old unexpectedly opens training camp in the slot as, outside of fifth-round rookie Hunter Renfrow, no other pass-catcher on the roster spent more time lined up in the middle of the field than Williams (40.7%) did last season. Note Renfrow is still expected to “move around and do a lot of things” in three-wide sets with sixth-year pro Ryan Grant and former Cards burner J.J. Nelson pushing for reps.

Arguably no player in the league received more backing this offseason than 6’6/255 converted-wideout Darren Waller. It was made clear from the very beginning that the soon-to-be 27-year-old would get every opportunity imaginable to turn his 4.46-40 and 4.25 20-shuttle times into actual on-field production, as OC Greg Olson and Gruden both confirmed Waller would receive the “chance of a lifetime” and “has that position” locked down after the team pocketed fourth-round blocking tight end Foster Moreau in the draft. It only helps the Raiders targeted their tight ends (and Jared Cook in particular) at the seventh-highest rate (23%) last year, and second-highest (37%) rate inside the 20. While his 74th-percentile SPARQ presence is unproven, Waller is an easy late-round TE2 to nab based on sheer every-down usage. Barring injury, I fully expect him to finish top-10 in snap rate at his position.

Running Game
RB: Josh Jacobs, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard
OL (L-R): Kolton Miller, Denzelle Good, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, Trent Brown

Say what you will about Brown (questionably) moving to right tackle, but his presence alone undoubtedly bolsters Oakland’s above-average 4.49 Adjusted Line Yards (13th-overall) from last year. That unit will ideally create holes for No. 24 overall pick Josh Jacobs, the first back off the board in this year’s draft. Although the former Crimson Tide bruiser didn’t test well with a 4.60/4.63 40-time at Bama’s initial Pro Day, Jacobs improved to 4.52 in later tests. The 21-year-old additionally showed well across the board in efficiency at the collegiate level, finishing third in percentage of carries over eight yards (28%) while averaging a standout 4.07 yards after contact per carry. Warren Sharp projects the Raiders to face the seventh-toughest slate of rush defenses in ’19, but Marshawn Lynch’s absence assuredly puts Jacobs in pole position to absorb Oakland’s 101 unaccounted for carries (including three inside the five-yard line) from last year. He’s a clear-cut low-end RB2 out the gates with obvious room for a higher ceiling if handed Jalen Richard’s third-down role.

Doug Martin’s re-signing following Isaiah Crowell’s spring Achilles’ tear would normally be daunting had the Raiders not invested a first-rounder in Jacobs. Last year’s team-leader in carries (172), Martin flashed the elusiveness of an anchor, avoiding a measly 26 tackles on 190 touches and finishing 40th among 62 qualifiers in PFF’s Yards After Contact per Attempt category. Spiking two century-mark outings to close the year, 28.6 percent of the eight-year vet’s production occurred in a whimsical send-off of the Coliseum in front of the home crowd in Week 16 and a 21/100 rushing line against the league’s worst rush defense DVOA at Arrowhead in Week 17. Richard remains the pick-to-click if Jacobs goes down as the former’s previous third-down role propelled him to RB3-status on a whopping 81 targets. Former UDFA Chris Warren is also a backfield darkhorse (despite ballooning to 260 this offseason) and name to monitor in camp after leading the 2018 preseason in rushing.

Win Total

Suddenly enriched with a volatile cast of characters, Mayock obliviously reneged on his concerted effort to finding high-character guys, instead defending the signings of Vontaze Burfict and Richie Incognito by simply stating the Raiders “can’t have all boy scouts.” Although the team will undeniably start a much-improved 11-man personnel on defense — including free agents Lamarcus Joyner, Nevin Lawson, and No. 27 overall pick Johnathan Abram — come Week 1, Oakland’s slated to square off against the sixth-toughest schedule of opposing offenses. It’s going to take point-for-point production for the black hole to eclipse their Projected 6 Season Win Total (-110), and that’s something I’m not willing to bet on happening.

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