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Las Vegas Raiders Writers
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While the league as a whole has been shifting toward putting more and more wide receivers on the field, new Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels has resisted the trend, consistently ranking among the league leaders in 2 running back or 2 tight end formations, which should result in a boost in playing time for backup tight end Foster Moreau. Derek Carr has grown tremendously as a downfield passer over the last few seasons, but McDaniels' offense typically calls for more of the underneath timing routes that were historically Carr's bread and butter. Meanwhile, running back Josh Jacobs has seen his role in the passing game increase in each of his three seasons in the league and could be in line to step into an even bigger role in 2022.
Going into his ninth season at the age of 31, we typically know what to expect from Carr as a fantasy quarterback. He has never finished as a QB1 (Top 12) in fantasy points per game. He has consistently been a mid-to-high-end QB2. On the other, there is real hope Carr could be on the verge of a career-best season. The biggest reason for optimism is due to Carr having by far the best weapons he has ever had. Davante Adams is a difference-maker who arrives with ready-made chemistry with Carr from their college days. With Adams in addition to Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow, the Raiders now have one of the top pass-catching trios in the NFL. The only reason Carr was not a fantasy QB1 last season despite throwing for 4,804 yards was his modest number of touchdown passes (23). Adams is a beast in the red zone whose presence should bump expectations for Raiders passing touchdowns. Carr's lack of rushing ability limits his upside, but improved red zone production would make Carr a low-end QB1.
Mullens has started 17 games in the NFL. That experience has value for a team with an established franchise quarterback on a long-term deal. After starting his career with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2017, Mullens has racked up a total of 4,861 yards and 26 touchdowns in 20 games. The Raiders swapped late-round picks with the Patriots in a trade for Jarrett Stidham. The previous connection between Josh McDaniels and Stidham could give him a leg up in the backup competition. McDaniel was the Patriots offensive coordinator in 2019 when New England drafted Stidham in the fourth round. In three seasons with the Patriots, Stidham never started a game.
Jacobs just turned 24 years old in February but already finds himself entering what could be a make-or-break season. With the Raiders declining to pick up his fifth-year option, Jacobs will hit free agency next spring and needs to put together a healthy and productive season if he hopes to find a healthy market for his services. Jacobs has shown an ability to play through injuries and has started at least 13 games in each of his three NFL seasons. However, he has missed at least one game each year and has regularly been limited by nagging injuries. Jacobs is coming off of his best receiving season, catching 54 passes for 348 yards in 2021. However, his rushing production dipped due to a career-low 217 carries. With Kenyan Drake healthy and Brandon Bolden signed, projecting Jacobs' receiving role is difficult. Jacobs' upside will be limited if his usage drops back to the two-to-three targets per game level like in 2019 and 2020. He does have a solid floor, however. He has put up at least 1,200 total yards in his three seasons and averaged 9.3 touchdowns per season.
Kenyan Drake signed a surprisingly lucrative deal before the 2021 season to provide a change of pace option behind Jacobs. He appeared in 12 games before suffering a season-ending broken ankle. His rehab has progressed well, and he should again have a regular role on third downs. Last season, Drake had 93 touches for 545 total yards. He will have increased competition for backup snaps. The Raiders selected Zamir White in the fourth round of the draft. With a similar skillset to Jacobs as a power back who thrives between the tackles, White should be considered the handcuff and favorite for early-down work should anything happen to Jacobs. There is also an obvious opening for White to step into the lead role in 2023 if he impresses as a rookie and Jacobs is not extended. Brandon Bolden signed a two-year $5.1M deal in free agency at age 32. He was a special teams standout in his eight seasons in New England who played sparingly on offense until last season when he caught 41 passes for 405 yards. Bolden should compete with Drake for third-down snaps.
Jakob Johnson is one of the many former New England Patriots who have made their way to Las Vegas under new coach Josh McDaniels. Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound battering ram of a lead blocker should be the favorite to make the roster. Johnson has not had a single carry in his three-year career and has caught just 13 passes in 37 career games.
- Demarcus Robinson, Mack Hollins, Keelan Cole, Tyron Johnson, Dillon Stoner, DJ Turner, Tre Turner (R), Justin Hall
Adams arrives as the clear top target in the Raiders offense after a blockbuster trade from the Packers and a monster extension. Adams has been one of the league's bet wide receivers over the past four seasons. Since 2018, he has averaged 7.6 receptions, 93 receiving yards, and 0.82 touchdowns per game. Adams produced career highs with 123 catches and 1,553 receiving yards last season. In 2020, he led the NFL with 98.1 receiving yards per game and scored 18 touchdowns in just 14 games. Adams will start at the X-receiver spot, while Hunter Renfrow will start in the slot. Renfrow had a breakout third season in 2021 with 103 catches for 1,038 yards and 9 touchdowns. While Renfrow may cede some targets to Adams, he remains a high-floor fantasy WR3 in PPR leagues. The starting Z-spot is wide open and could end up being a rotation.
There are four primary competitors for the open starting Z-receiver spot after the trade of Bryan Edwards: Keenan Cole, Demarcus Robinson, Mack Hollins, and Tyron Johnson. Each of the four signed cheap one-year-prove-it deals, so this should be a wide-open competition. Robinson played six seasons in Kansas City, with career highs of 45 catches for 466 yards in 2020. He has good size and decent speed. Hollins was drafted by the Eagles in 2017 and spent the last two-plus seasons with the Dolphins. He caught 14 passes for 223 yards last season. Johnson was undrafted out of Oklahoma State in 2020 but put together a solid rookie season as a big-play specialist for the Chargers with 20 catches for 298 yards. He caught just two passes total last season, splitting time between the Jaguars and Raiders. Cole was signed recently after a disappointing 2021 season with the Jets. Even if one of these four is able to separate and play the majority of the snaps, the targets won't be enough for fantasy relevance, given the Raiders' other top weapons.
Darren Waller was the subject of some trade speculation but will return for a fifth season with the Raiders. After a pair of impressive seasons in 2019 and 2020 with 1,145 and 1,196 yards, respectively, Waller struggled through an injury-plagued 2021 season. He played in 11 games and averaged 60.5 yards per game (down from 74.8 in 2020) with a catch rate of 59.1% (down from 74.8%). While Waller is likely to put together another TE1 season, he could see his role decrease with the addition of Adams and the emergence of Renfrow as a go-to option. Foster Moreau had career highs of 30 catches and 373 yards last season. Most of the production came in a handful of games when Waller was sidelined. Moreau is in the final year of his rookie deal and could find greater opportunity elsewhere in free agency.
- LT Kolton Miller
- LG Denzelle Good
- C Andrew James
- RG Jermaine Eluemunor
- RT Alex Leatherwood
- Brandon Parker, Dylan Parham [R], John Simpson
Left tackle Kolton Miller is a quality pass protector and the young leader of this lowly ranked group. The same cannot be said of right tackle Alex Leatherwood, who should bounce back after a rough rookie year. Center Andre James is an underrated starter. The big questions are at guard. Left guard is a competition between John Simpson and Denzelle Good, while right guard will be either Jermaine Elumunor or rookie Dylan Parham (Third round, Memphis).
Carlson carried over his 2020 breakout year to lead all kickers in scoring for the second straight year (he tied Younghoe Koo and Jason Sanders for the lead in 2020), including a 6-for-7 conversion rate from 50+ and 12-for-13 from 40-49 yards. There's no reason to think he won't continue his reign as the Raiders should be in a lot of high-scoring games in the stacked AFC West. He joins Justin Tucker among the kickers worthy of being the first selected in fantasy drafts.
While new running back Kenyan Drake failed to make the expected impact on offense, he was able to contribute on special teams. Receiver Tyron Johnson is a long shot to make the final roster, but if he does he could also handle kickoff return duties.
Receiver Hunter Renfrow has quietly developed into one of the best punt returners in the NFL, ranking in the top 3 in per-return average in each of the past two seasons.
The Raiders defense was a non-factor in fantasy outside of two games against the weak Broncos offense. The unit should get an overhaul with the introduction of Patrick Graham, who got the most out of a mediocre personnel group for the Giants before leaving to reunite with Josh McDaniels. Chandler Jones will replace Yannick Ngakoue, and the team is trying some new players at linebacker after Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkowski were free agent busts. We should be open to this defense improving, but they are only worth a look as a spot start against AFC South opponents.
Crosby earned his $95 million extension by posting 25.0 sacks over his first 49 NFL games. His numbers aren't eye-popping, but they're consistent and make him a fringe DL1 candidate across from Chandler Jones. Journeyman Hankins returns for a fifth season with the Raiders and will lead the charge on running downs. Hankins has registered just 2.5 sacks as a Raider, but he's leaned on exclusively as a run-stuffer, and he's been one of the league's most consistent nose men for years. Nichols made for a solid real-life pickup in March. He should fill in capably for Quinton Jefferson, who left in free agency, though his impact also won't show up much in the box score.
Ferrell's No. 4 selection in the 2019 draft remains just as puzzling as the day it was made. Ferrell has yet to make an impact on defense, and a new coaching regime has no real incentive to chase it. Hence, in comes Chandler Jones. Ferrell is on his last gasp, assuming he makes the final roster, and that's no sure thing. He saw just 24% of the defensive snaps last year, and the new front office regime played no role in that puzzling pick. Matthew Butler is an intriguing rookie sleeper; he could've gone 2-3 rounds higher than he ultimately did (fifth). Vernon Butler and Farrell will battle as end-of-bench depth on the nose, but they'll be hard-pressed to challenge the steady, experienced Hankins for any real time.
Now 32, Jones may no longer be the smothering force he was as a two-time first-team All-Pro. But that did come as recently as 2019, when he recorded 19.0 sacks and forced 8 fumbles. While his impact wavered last year, he'll benefit just by lining up opposite the widely-respected Crosby. It would be an upset to see him play a full season but fail to reach double-digit sacks. Perryman remains a limited every-down guy, lacking the instinct and athleticism to make an impact against the pass. But for fantasy purposes, Perryman is a no-brainer near the LB1/2 borderline as the team shifts to more four-LB sets. He's still a dependable tackler (154 last year), and he should thrive in a simpler, run-focused role on the inside. Ex-Titan Brown flamed out in Tennessee but boasts some coverage ability and should start next to Perryman. He's notched 6.7 tackles per game of his own over the past four years. Deablo is moving over from safety, where he enjoyed a mini-breakout at the end of last season, to a more sensible linebacker spot for his size (6-foot-3) and profile. His performance from Week 13 through the playoffs would extrapolate to a full-season line of 119 tackles.
Kiser will almost certainly slot in as the top backup inside. He spent most of last year on special teams for the Rams and Broncos, but he played extensively on defense in 2020. This defense looks poised to offer huge tackle numbers on the inside, so an injury could make Kiser a coveted IDP pickup. Koonce is a project, but as a third-round pick just last year, he'll likely get at least one shot to impress the new coaches off the edge. But the team may prefer Fackrell, a journeyman signee who erupted for 10.5 sacks in 2018. He and Young will round out the veteran depth.
Moehrig played all but six defensive snaps as a 2021 rookie but managed to produce just 55 tackles and a single interception. Those numbers may not be very sticky, though, as Moehrig boasts more than his share of playmaking potential. Last year's top-drafted safety, he brings size, speed, and instinct to the table. Positive regression would push him into the fantasy DB1 tier. Abram was an IDP star last season on the heels of 8.3 tackles per game, but he's grown nearly impossible to trust. He's missed time with various injuries and disappointed wildly when on the field. The new coaching staff and may lose patience quickly and turn to veteran signee Duron Harmon. The Raiders are (again) starting over at cornerback, looking to wash away some of Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock's mistakes. Hobbs was a great find in last year's fifth round, quickly proving his value both inside and out. He'll bounce around again as the team's top all-around cornerback in 2022. Ya-Sin was traded for in March, and he'll almost certainly start across the field, with Trayvon Mullen coming on in nickel sets. It has all the makings of the Raiders' first worthwhile cornerback trio in years.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see Harmon overtake the shaky Abram by Week 1. Harmon is on the downside of his career but would likely bring a stabilizing force next to Moehrig on the back end. Teamer helped fill in for Abram down the 2021 stretch, and Gillespie, a fourth-round pick from last year, will battle for position behind them. The wild card is Mullen, a former surprise second-round pick who impressed in 2021 before going on injured reserve. He'll likely reclaim his job on the outside whenever the Raiders use nickel sets. Averett brings over lots of experience from Baltimore, but little of it was good.