When Mark Davis hired Jon Gruden, he was likely expecting better results than what Oakland got in the first season of the new Gruden Era. The Raiders traded Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, had a 4-12 record and became the butt of NFL incompetence jokes. Their draft picks drew LOLs from Twitter and some writers are questioning how long Gruden’s tenure will last. With all that said, the Raiders should be better this season. Their win total is set at over/under 6.0 wins after adding Antonio Brown in a trade with the Steelers. Even if the picks were questionable, Oakland did add three players in the first round. The roster has more talent this season than last and there is nowhere to go other than up.
Key Departures:Jared Cook, TE; Marshawn Lynch, RB; Rashaan Melvin, CB; Jordy Nelson, WR; Kelechi Osemele, G; Donald Penn, OT
Key Acquisitions:Johnathan Abram, S; Antonio Brown, WR; Trent Brown, OT; Vontaze Burfict, LB; Isaiah Crowell, RB; Clelin Ferrell, DE; Josh Jacobs, RB; Lamarcus Joyner, S; Brandon Marshall, LB; Tyrell Williams, WR
2019 Fantasy MVP
Antonio Brown, WRIn all likelihood, this team is not going to churn out many fantasy relevant players. The only player I am convinced will have to be drafted in standard leagues is AB. Just like in Pittsburgh, he is going to be a target monster in Oakland. There aren’t many other options in this offense and Derek Carr is a better quarterback than he’s given credit for. He isn’t as good as Ben Roethlisberger, but he’s competent enough to get the ball to Brown. Turning 31, perhaps AB will start to slip, but even a minor falter still has him as an elite receiver. He has six straight seasons with over 100 catches, 1,200 or more receiving yards and nine total touchdowns.
The bigger question regarding Brown is whether he is worth drafting. If he was getting taken at the top of the first round like in previous seasons, it would be a no from me, however, he’s getting picked in the middle of the second round. Given the consistency of his production, I think that’s a reasonable spot to take a risk on Brown, who has the upside to finish as the top ranked receiver. Even though he’s playing on a worse team, this could be a potential benefit. The Raiders are going to be playing from behind in most games this season. This is going to lead to Oakland playing from behind, needing to pass and playing against soft prevent defenses. Brown should accumulate more garbage time stats than in previous seasons.
2019 Fantasy LVP
Josh Jacobs, RBGruden spent a first-round pick on Jacobs, so the prevailing wisdom is that he will be the lead back. It’s possible, but this could turn into a timeshare and Jacobs is currently going in the third round of drafts. The issue I have with rookies in almost every yearly fantasy league is that they usually get picked near their ceiling production. Rookies are like the Family Guy mystery box joke. “A boat’s a boat, but the mystery box can be anything.” Jacobs could be a top-20 RB, but he’s getting taken around guys like Phillip Lindsay and Leonard Fournette, who we have already seen as top-20 backs. Oakland still has Doug Martin and Jalen Richard on the roster and both figure to see touches. The other issue that Jacobs figures to run into is game flow. With the Raiders expected to struggle to win games, they are going to have to pass to play catchup and he might not be in many run situations.
2019 Breakout Player
Darren Waller, TEI hate to be a downer, but realistically, nobody is having a breakout season for the Raiders. The defense is miserable, the running game could be a timeshare and the targets in the passing game will probably be dominated by Antonio Brown. If you are playing in the deepest of deep leagues, Waller has a non-zero chance of finding himself in a sizable role this season. With Jared Cook gone, it looked like Gruden could take a tight end in the draft. Instead, he decided to forgo the position because of his confidence in Waller. Gruden has sung his praises during OTAs and the Oakland offense prominently featured Cook as the starting tight end in the passing game last season. He was targeted over 100 times and caught 68 passes for 896 yards.
Final ThoughtsThe offense will be bad, the defense will be bad, the special teams will be bad and the coach will be bad. Oakland made improvements over last season, but that isn’t saying much after finishing with the 25th ranked offense in DVOA and 30th ranked defense. On the positive side, stacking the passing game in DFS could be a high-upside strategy without much ownership. The Raiders are going to be playing from behind this year and we know most of the targets are going to Brown. Break out those Carr to AB stacks for when Oakland is trailing in Kansas City by 30 points at halftime and throw the ball 40 times in a half to try to get back into the game.
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