2017 Fantasy Football: Oakland Raiders Team Outlook
After missing the playoffs for 13 straight seasons, Oakland returned to their destiny with a 12-4 record. They tied for first in the AFC West, but the Raiders lost in the Wild Card game against the Houston Texans (27-14). Their growth came from the offensive side of the ball where Oakland finished seventh in points (416) and sixth in offensive yards. They scored 57 more points than 2015 (359). Jack Del Rio returns for his third season as the head coach. He has a 19-13 record with the Raiders and 87-84 over 11 years in the NFL with three playoff appearances. Del Rio was spent four other seasons as defensive coordinator with Carolina and Denver. Todd Downing makes the jump from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. Todd has 17 seasons of experience in the NFL with most coming from the offensive side of the ball while working with the QB position. The Raiders still have plenty of work to do on defense. They finished 20th in points allowed (385) and 26th in yards allowed. Oakland ranked below 20th in yards allowed in each of the last four years. Ken Norton Jr. will have a third season to prove himself as the defensive coordinator. He spent the previous five years as the linebackers coach for the Seahawks. If Ken doesn't get it done this year, he could be looking for a new job.
The only starter lost off the defensive side of the ball was LB Malcolm Smith who graded as a losing option. LB Perry Riley played well in 2016, but he remains unsigned. CB D.J. Hayden, S Brynden Trawick, S Nate Allen, LB Daren Bates, and DT Stacy McGee all has part-time snaps last season with each player finding a new home in 2017.
The Raiders decided to part ways with RB Latavius Murray. He had a step back in production while setting a career-high in TDs (12). WR Andre Holmes and TE Mychal Rivera fled for higher ground after losing snaps of the last couple of seasons.
Oakland added only LB Jelani Jenkins to the defense. He projects as a below league average player with rotational value.
QB E.J. Manuel was brought in to compete for a backup role. WR Cordarrelle Patterson should add value to the return game plus add depth to the wide receiver position. Oakland placed a bet that Jared Cook would upgrade the tight end position. T Marshall Newhouse will compete for a starting job after underperforming in 2016 with the Giants.
In the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Raiders tried to improve their secondary with CB Gareon Conley and S Obi Melifonwu. Conley has the skill set to be a run and chase corner with enough speed to recover from a mistake while holding his own in press coverage even with a need for more strength. Gareon seems indecisive when playing off the line of scrimmage when faced with decisions on routes and coverage. His game projects more as coverage cover due to his weakness in run support and aggression off blocks. Melifonwu will offer an edge in speed and athletic ability from the safety position. His vision on play development needs to improve. He'll add value in run support with enough speed to make long plays at deep safety. Obi will make plays on the ball while still having some risk when catching the wrong receiver in coverage.
The Raiders invested in DT Eddie Vanderdoes in the third round. This could be a nice value pick after Vanderdoes struggled in 2016, which came after a torn ACL the previous season. He plays with power and athletic ability with enough vision to offer more upside rushing the QB. Eddie looked soft last year with questions about his quickness off the line of scrimmage. With another year removed from his injury, Vanderdoes has a chance to gain valuable playing time in his rookie season.
In the fourth round, Oakland drafted OT David Sharpe. He's big, powerful man who will be at his best in a physical rushing attack. His range is extremely limited while struggling if ask to block outside his patch of real estate. Sharpe has enough punch to defeat power rushers while his hands improve his value in pass protection.
LB Marquel Lee was the Raiders' fifth selected in this season's draft. His game has the most value when attacking the line of scrimmage in run support. He'll offer power and strength, but his change of direction speed kills his value on passing downs if asked to cover. His decision-making, when asked to change direction, leaves him a step behind on too many cut-back runs.
Oakland has four picks in the seventh round – S Shalom Luani, OT Jylan Ware, RB Elijah Hood, and DT Treyvon Hester. Luani looks the part in coverage when it's in front of him. His game has a huge weakness vs. the run due to a poor skill set in tackling. Ware may develop into a nice option on the line once he adds more bulk and weight. His hands grade well, and he should handle his blocking responsibilities in the run game. Jylan will some improvement in his technique as well. Hood projects as a north/south runner with questionable speed, which make him easier to defend. Hester lacks the motor to play a high percentage of plays. His launch angle off the snap is too high to gain winning leverage. Treyvon plays with power with some value in his hands.
The Raiders finished 6th in the NFL in rushing yards (1,922) with 17 rushing TDs. Their ball carriers gained 4.4 yards per carry with 19 runs over 20 yards (second-highest total in the league). Oakland had 31 negative runs and 43 rushes over 10 yards.
Oakland ranked 13th in passing yards (4,051) with 29 passing TDs and seven Ints. Their offensive line allowed a league low 18 sacks and only 41 QB hits.
LT Donald Penn has been a steady rock on this line over the last three seasons. He played well in as run blocker while minimizing the damage in sacks. Donald starts the year at age 34 so his days as an elite player are winding down.
LG Kelechi Osemele played great for Oakland in his first season after signing a five-year $58.5 million contract in 2016. The Ravens drafted him in the second round in 2012. Over the last three years, Kelechi offered an edge for his position.
C Rodney Hudson continues to improve. He was one of the top passing blocking centers in 2016 with similar success in 2014 and 2015 with the Chiefs and Raiders. He signed a nice contract in 2015 ($44.5 for five seasons).
RG Gabe Jackson is the fourth player on this line that produced an edge in 2016. The Raiders drafted him in the second round in 2015. Jackson is at his best in pass protection while showing continued growth in the run game.
RT Austin Howard started ten games in 2016 due to an early season an ankle issue and a shoulder injury that required surgery after the season. Oakland signed to a nice contract before the 2014 season ($30 million for five years), but he'll have to beat out Marshall Newhouse for the starting job. Marshall has never been an asset in his six seasons in the NFL.
This line ranks as one of the better options in the league with four players that offer an edge. The low sack total is helped by Derek Carr's ability to get the ball out quickly, and the grade in the run game is helped by some long runs. With a more explosive runner, the Raiders could be even better offensively.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).
This information is based on 2016, which will work as our starting point for 2017. We'll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We'll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2016 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2016.
2016 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL last year.
2016 Adjustment is based on the 2016 league average and the 2016 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.
The Raiders have five games vs. teams that had success defending the run in 2016 (NE, TEN, BAL, NYG, and DAL) plus four other games that look to have some risk (NYJ, PHI, and LAC X 2). Their best four games should be against Denver (2), Miami, and Buffalo.
They have a poor schedule for their passing game due to two games vs. the Broncos. Oakland only has one matchup vs. a team with failure expected defending receivers (TEN).
Last season Oakland ran the ball 42.1 percent of the time, which seems low based on their high finish in rushing yards (6th). They attempted 27.1 runs per game, which was slightly above the league average. Carr will still have plenty of chances to make plays in the passing game (595 attempts in 2016). This offense is also helped by poor defensive play.
The Raiders will face three teams that run the ball well (TEN, BUF, and DAL). They also have six matchups vs. teams with some risk rushing the ball (DEN x 2, BAL, LAC X 2, and NYG) leading to just below league schedule against the run.
Oakland will play ten games against teams with weak passing offenses. Their toughest four games vs. teams with above average success throwing the ball are WAS, NE, and LAC x 2.
Stopping the run was an issue for Oakland in 2016. They allowed the 23rd most rushing yards (1,881) with 18 rushing TDs. Rushers had the most runs over 40 yards (5) in the NFL while gaining 4.4 yards per rush.
The Raiders also has risk defending the passing game (4,120 yards – 24th). Quarterback gained 7.9 yards per pass attempt with 27 TDs and 16 Ints. Their defense only had 25 sacks while allowing a league high 61 catches over 20 yards and the most receptions over 40 yards (16).
The best defender on this defense is DE Khalil Mack. Over the last two seasons, he has 26 sacks, and 150 tackles with an Int returned for a TD. DE Mario Edwards missed 14 games due to a hip injury. In his rookie season after being drafted in the second round, Mario only had two sacks while offering upside in run support. DE Denico Autry worked as a rotational player in all 16 games in 2016. His game had little value last year after showing more upside the previous year. DE Jihad Ward should improve in his second season after Oakland selected him in the second round in 2016. Ward projects as a high-motor pass rusher who needs to add more strength to take advantage of his raw talent. Jihad needs to improve his technique while adding more power to his game.
LB Bruce Irvin has his best season in the NFL in his five-year career after signing with Oakland. He finished with a career-high in sacks (7) and tackles (57). LB Jelani Jenkins flashed upside in his second year in the league in 2014 with the Dolphins, but his game faced in each of the last two years. Jenkins missed seven games in 2016 due to a knee injury. The other linebacking job looks wide open when Mack is playing closer to the line of scrimmage. I don't see any other option that will offer upside in 2017.
CB Sean Smith started off slow in 2016 before rounding into form. He finished as a top option at CB even with a career low in tackles (40) due to him playing through a shoulder injury that required surgery in January. S Reggie Nelson played well in pass coverage, but he showed regression in run support. Overall, he still grades as an asset while starting the year at age 33. The Raiders have added two safeties in the first two rounds over the last two years (Karl Joseph and Obi Melifonwu). Joseph was a neutral player in his first year. I expect Obi to improve the run defense when he's on the field. CB David Amerson will need to hold off rookie CB Gareon Conley. Amerson can make plays, but he can be beaten by top wide receivers. Conley has cover skills with no value supporting the run.
This defense has two elite players in Mack and Ervin plus Smith can handle his responsibilities in coverage. The secondary has three young players with upside plus a veteran with a winning resume. The key is getting better play from the interior line against the run and rushing the QB. Improvement should be expected with the best success coming against weak teams. More of a matchup play in the season long games until we see growth in the pass rush and improvement in turnovers. Patterson should break a TD or two in the return game.
QB Derek Carr, OAK - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 12/09/17Carr played last without his top two WRs. He finished 287 yards and a TD vs. the Giants. Derek has two TDs or fewer in eight of his last nine games. He has two games with three TDs and three games with over 300 yards passing. His best game of the season came in Week 7 against the Chiefs (417/3). Kansas City allows the fourth most Fantasy points to QBs with five teams posting playable scores (PHI - 333/2, HOU - 261/4, OAK - 417/3, DAL - 276 combined yards with three TDs, and NYJ - 333/3). If Amari Cooper plays, Carr has a chance to have one of his better games of the season.
RB Marshawn Lynch, OAK - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 12/29/17Lynch will fall short of his 2017 projections, but he did run hard all year. His lack of upside is more tied to the poor play by the Raiders' offense. Over his last seven games, Marshawn has 619 combined yards with five TDs and 14 catches. In Week 6, he had 13 rushes for 63 yards against the Chargers. LA is 24th against RBs (2,396 combined yards with 12 TDs and 84 catches). The Chargers allow 4.9 yards per rush with failure vs. the run game in their last two contests (32/174/1 and 30/197/1). If Oakland plays from the lead, Lynch will get plenty of chances to gain yards with a possible TD.
RB DeAndre Washington, OAK - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Update 10/28/17Washington will be the starting back for the Raiders in Week 8. On the year, DeAndre has 23 rushes for 53 yards with a TD plus 14 catches for 74 yards. Oakland has six rushing TDs with only one game of value (Week 2 - 299 combined yards with 11 catches and three TDs). The Bills allow 3.5 yards per rush with RBs scoring three rushing TDs. Only one team has success against Buffalo on the ground (ATL - 29/149/1). Not playing well with limited value in the passing game and a tough matchup. Even with a low salary, Washington may not do enough to deliver a winning score.
RB Jalen Richard, OAK - Low Potential
Update 10/28/17With Marshawn Lynch out this week, Richard could have his best opportunity of the season. Last week he gained 76 yards on 13 touches and four catches. Jalen did shine in Week 2 (109 combined yards with a TD and two catches) in a relief role in a blowout game. He's gaining 4.5 yards per rush and 12.8 yards per catch compared to 2.3 and 5.3 by DeAndre Washington. Richard will enter this week as the change of pace back with the most value in the passing game. RBs have 29 catches for 252 yards and no TDs on 39 targets. Not a great matchup while still offering explosiveness and a favorable salary.
WR Michael Crabtree, BAL - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 12/29/17Crabtree left my girl Kimra broken hearted last week when he posted a zero on three targets against the Eagles. He did get a chance at the goal line and was open for a long possible TD that was underthrown by Derek Carr as he was getting hit. This came after receiving 30 combined targets in his last two games leading to 14 catches for 99 yards and two TDs. Michael has 27 TDs over his last 45 games, but his final stats in 2017 will fall well below his expected value. In Week 6, Crabtree caught six passes for 52 yards and a TD on ten targets. LA sits 8th in WR defense (161/1809/11 on 273 targets). On the wrong path to ride in the daily games at this level.
WR Amari Cooper, OAK - Stud (low risk)
Update 12/29/17Cooper hit on a 63-yard TD last week leading to a steady game (3/66/1) with only four targets. The Raiders had him on the field for 44 of 69 plays. The Chargers held him to five catches for 28 yards on six targets in Week 6. Amari will face CB Casey Hayward in coverage suggesting a low upside matchup even with a low salary.