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2019 Team Report: Oakland Raiders

Offensive Philosophy

After the Raiders paid Gruden so handsomely to come out of retirement, Gruden promised to bring with him an "evolution" of the offense he ran over a decade ago when he was last in the league. While the offense struggled to produce points and yards in 2018, Gruden doubled down and essentially bet that the failures were with the personnel and not with the scheme. Now armed with All Pro receiver Antonio Brown and first-round rookie running back Josh Jacobs, Gruden has reached a point where there are no more excuses for his old-school system of a West Coast passing game paired with a power running game to not produce results.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Derek Carr
Backup(s): Mike Glennon, Nathan Peterman, Landry Jones,

Starting QB: Derek Carr shouldered much of the blame for Oakland's disappointing 4-12 season in 2018. However, he did set career highs in completion percentage (68.9%) and passing yards (4,049). He showed some resiliency after a brutal start to the season. Carr had eight interceptions through the first five games of the 2018 season, with many of them coming due to poor decision making. After the rough start, he steadied the ship and put together a streak of 10 straight games without an interception. When the Raiders offense struggled, it was often due to breakdowns in pass protection. The lack of receiving talent - especially after the midseason trade of Amari Cooper - also made Carr's job tougher. However, it is also fair to point out that Carr was not able to elevate the talent around him, which is a problem considering he is one of the highest-paid players in the NFL. In five season as a starting quarterback, Carr has led the Raiders to a winning record just once. Given his massive contract, 2019 could be a make or break year for Carr and the addition of Antonio Brown will only add to the pressure.

Backup QB: Mike Glennon signed a one-year, $2 million deal with an additional $2 million in incentives and is the heavy favorite to be Carr's primary backup in 2019. Originally a third-round draft pick of the Buccaneers, Glennon is now on his fourth team in four seasons. In his career, he has started 22 games and has put up solid, if unspectacular, numbers. He's thrown 35 touchdowns against 20 interceptions and has a career quarterback rating of 84.0. He is an above-average backup. Oakland also signed Landry Jones to a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum. He has an uphill battle to make the roster but should push Glennon in the preseason.

Running Backs

Starter: Josh Jacobs (R)
Backup(s): Jalen Richard, Doug Martin, DeAndre Washington, Chris Warren, James Butler
Fullback(s): Keith Smith, Ryan Yuracheck

Starting RB: The Raiders selected Josh Jacobs at #24 overall in the first round of the draft with the clear intention of making him a centerpiece of their offense going forward. Jacobs has the ideal skillset to emerge as a true three-down back. He runs with extreme power and toughness and is a fantastic route runner and receiving threat. Jacobs doesn't fit the profile of the typical first-round running back prospect, having carried the ball just 251 times in his entire college career. He made a strong impression as a true freshman, producing 723 total yards as part of a committee with Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris. He then struggled through an injury-plagued sophomore season in which he was slowed by a torn hamstring and fractured ankle. However, he ended his career on a high note with an impressive 2018 campaign filled with highlight runs despite seeing limited touches as part of a committee with Damien Harris and top 2020 NFL Draft prospect Najee Harris. Jacobs was named offensive MVP of the SEC Championship game against Georgia and posted 148 total yards in Alabama's College Football Playoff win over Oklahoma. Despite major offensive struggles in 2018, Raiders running backs still put up 2,289 total yards, caught 102 passes, and scored 8 touchdowns. In the Raiders post-draft press conference, John Gruden said, "if you're listening Josh...rest up, because we're going to run you a lot."

Backup RBs: Jalen Richard returns for his fourth season in Oakland. He has emerged as a very good third-down back, catching a career-high 68 passes for 607 yards last season. His lack of size and problems with ball security have kept him from earning an even bigger role. Chris Warren was undrafted out of Texas in 2018 but made waves in training camp and the preseason before an August injury ended his rookie season prematurely. After an April injury to Isaiah Crowell that will cause him to miss the 2019 season, the Raiders promptly signed veteran Doug Martin to bolster the backfield depth. As he enters his age-30 season, Martin has probably lost a step. However, he was solid for the Raiders last season, averaging 4.2 yards per carry and racking up 723 yards on the ground.

Fullback: Keith Smith signed with the Raiders in 2018 after spending the two previous years opening holes for Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas. Smith has just three carries in his career but has averaged 4.3 receptions per season over the last three years.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams
Backups: Marcell Ateman, J.J. Nelson, Ryan Grant, Hunter Renfrow (R), Dwayne Harris, Rashard Davis, Keon Hatcher, Saeed Blacknall, De'Mornay Pierson-El

Starting WRs: Antonio Brown forced his way out of Pittsburgh and burned every bridge on his way out the door. The Raiders acquired him for a pair of mid-round picks due to his contractual demands and off-field issues blunting demand. While Brown's attitude can be questioned, his production has been impeccable. He has posted six-straight seasons with at least 100 receptions. His production over the past seven seasons - 107.4 receptions, 1,419 yards and 10.3 touchdowns per season - will go down as one of the greatest in NFL history. The biggest question will be when age starts to slow Brown as he enters his age-31 season. He showed only mild signs of decline last season and should be primed for yet another big year as the clear go-to guy in Oakland. In addition to paying big money for Brown, the Raiders also paid big money to Tyrell Williams (four years, $44M dollars) to provide another reliable deep threat for Derek Carr. The 27-year old Williams has great size and deep speed, which have allowed him to average an impressive career average of 16.3 yards per catch. Williams will be the clear second option in the Raiders passing offense.

Backup WRs: The pecking order behind Brown and Williams is uncertain. Veteran Ryan Grant is the most proven commodity. The 28-year old spent his first four seasons in Washington, having a career year in 2017 with 45 catches and 573 receiving yards. He spent last season in Indianapolis. Undersized speedster JJ Nelson also arrived in Oakland this offseason via free agency after spending his first four years with Arizona. He had back-to-back 500-yard receiving seasons in 2016 and 2017 before falling out of favor under a new coaching staff last season. Rookie fifth-rounder Hunter Renfrow was a clutch performer for Clemson in his college career and should immediately push for snaps in the slot. Second-year receiver Marcell Ateman is a big-bodied jump ball specialist.

Tight Ends

Starters: Darren Waller
Backups: Foster Moreau (R), Derek Carrier, Luke Willson, Paul Butler

The Raiders tight end depth chart lacks proven talent after Jared Cook left via free agency and veteran Lee Smith was cut. The early favorite to lead the group is Darren Waller. He is a being counted on to fill the role of receiving Y-tight end, a position at which Cook just had a career season and finished as a top-5 fantasy tight end. Waller only had six catches for Oakland last season but did flash as a big-play threat, with an impressive 44-yard catch and a 21-yard run on an end around against the Bengals. Waller is a freaky size-speed specimen, having run a 4.46 at the NFL combine at 6'6, 238. He was drafted by and spent his first two seasons with the Ravens, where he caught a total of 12 passes. Waller is far from a sure thing but does have some fantasy upside due to his athleticism. Fourth-round rookie Foster Moreau out of LSU has a chance to step instantly into a big role as the top inline tight end.

Place Kicker

Daniel Carlson: The Raiders had three kickers in training camp last year, and none of them are likely to be their kicker this season. Sebastian Janikowski was let go, his long term camp opponent Giorgio Tavecchio ended up in Atlanta, possible cheap solution Eddy Pineiro got hurt, and so Mike Nugent became the team's kicker - until he got hurt. Enter Daniel Carlson, who was a revelation after flaming out early in his potentially promising career with the Vikings. He made 16-of-17 field goal attempts and all 18 extra point attempts in ten games with the Raiders, which projects out to be viable numbers for a fantasy kicker over a whole season. He's a consideration in the last round after the Raiders traded Eddy Pineiro to the Bears after the draft.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Dwayne Harris

Oakland is one of the few remaining teams in the NFL whose return game is essentially a one-man operation. For the Raiders, that one man is Dwayne Harris, provided 49 out of Oakland's 54 returns in 2018 after many years as the all-around returner for the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.

Punt Returners: Dwayne Harris

Oakland is one of the few remaining teams in the NFL whose return game is essentially a one-man operation. For the Raiders, that one man is Dwayne Harris, provided 49 out of Oakland's 54 returns in 2018 after many years as the all-around returner for the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Trent Brown, Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson, Denzelle Good, Kolton Miller
Key Backups: Jordan Devey, Brandon Parker, Chaz Green, David Sharpe

Left tackle Trent Brown was acquired from New England in free agency, and was given a hefty contract. His arrival means last year's starter Kolton Miller shifts to the right side. Miller had an uneven rookie campaign on the left side, so this change is likely for the best. Gabe Jackson has been moved back to his traditional left guard position after the departure of Kelechi Osemele, and the team signed Denzelle Good to start at right guard in Jackson's place. Rodney Husdon remains a stalwart at center and the additions of Jordan Devey and Chaz Green are nice veteran insurance policies. Overall this is a mid-tier line with talent but hurt in the short term by transition. The cohesion is a work in progress but once the dust from all the changes settles, this line could be among the league's better units.

Team Defense

There was no lower scoring fantasy team defense than the Raiders last year. Save for some big plays in a bizarre shootout against the Browns and a punt return score against the Broncos in Week 16, they were basically useless. They added Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict to revive their linebacker group, inked nickel corner/safety Lamarcus Joyner to a massive deal and drafted Clelin Ferrell to attempt to replace Khalil Mack, but it's still a weak group on paper. The offense will be improved with Antonio Brown and first-round pick Josh Jacobs in the fold to create better game scripts in maybe the best news for their fantasy team defense. If they can generate some momentum as a team, we might consider the Raiders as a streamer in ultra-favorable matchups.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Clelin Ferrell [R], DE Arden Key, NT Johnathan Hankins, DT Maurice Hurst
Backups: DT P.J. Hall, NT Justin Ellis, DE Maxx Crosby [R], DE Josh Mauro

Starting DL: The Raiders' rebuild of their defensive line has been both comprehensive and essential - all told, the team managed a pitiful 13 sacks in all of 2018. Their selection of Ferrell at No. 4 was surprising with Josh Allen still on the board. But Ferrell fits the team's rebuilding blueprint as an experienced, multi-dimensional end who produced majorly at Clemson. Over 44 games, he posted 27 sacks and forced 5 fumbles, and he walked away with the ACC's Player of the Year award as a junior. He'll be counted on as a Khalil Mack-like cornerstone right off the bat, and like Mack, he boasts the upside for double-digit sacks early in his career. Second-year men Hurst and Key are also breakout names to watch. A beast at Michigan, Hurst drew 474 injury-plagued snaps over his rookie year, but managed to produce 4.0 sacks. Key was all-SEC at LSU, but produced little as a rookie (just 30 tackles and 1.0 sack over 643 snaps). With Ferrell on board to occupy blocking, Hurst and Key could feast and make a run at 6-8 sacks apiece. Neither is worthy of a late-round fantasy pick, but both could make names for themselves in leagues that feature big-play defensive linemen. Hankins remains a solid run-plugger, but is a rotational, one-dimensional journeyman that doesn't help in fantasy leagues.

Backup DL: Hall, last year's second-round pick, will continue to log rotational snaps inside. He's an athletic beast who racked up 42 sacks (and blocked 14 kicks) at Sam Houston State, but he was hardly heard from as an NFL rookie (22 tackles and no sacks). Ellis returns from a mostly-lost 2018 - he managed to play in the final 4 games of the season - but may be crowded out of the team's rebuilding line. He's a one-dimensional space-eater who may not have the versatility this coaching staff craves. Crosby is light for a down lineman, but fits well with the Raiders' sudden desire for athletic edge rushers; he'll push for a rookie role. In fact, he could knock journeyman Mauro out of the rotation entirely.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Vontaze Burfict, MLB Brandon Marshall, SLB Tahir Whitehead
Backups: WLB Nicholas Morrow, SLB Marquel Lee, MLB Kyle Wilber, SLB James Cowser

Starting LBs: Burfict comes to town with far more questions than answers. His dynamic talent of yesteryear has been eroded by a series of suspensions and serious injuries, and it's fair to wonder whether he even projects to play in more than a handful of games. (Since 2014, he's missed 37 of a possible 80.) There's reason for LB2 optimism, but it's worth noting that his tackle average has fallen sharply for three straight seasons. He looked like a shell of himself last season and may not be long for the NFL, let alone the Raiders' lineup. Whitehead played all but one snap last season and acquitted himself nicely. He's long been a solid and underrated commodity, capable of playing all three positions and racking up tackles (7.7 per game over his last 3 seasons). He doesn't contribute much else, but did break up five passes last year. He's a steady fantasy LB3. Marshall should start in the middle, but he's no longer much of a fantasy option. He's only 29, but his decline was obvious last season in Denver, as he lost quite a few snaps and posted just 42 tackles over 11 games.

Backup LBs: Lee opened 2018 with a big defensive role, but was scaled back markedly and an afterthought by the end of the year. No one set the world ablaze in his place. Morrow is the only reserve to watch here; he ate heavily into all of those snaps down the stretch, posting six tackles or more in three of the Raiders' last five games. Should a starter go down, he could be an intriguing waiver add. Wilber is a special-teamer at heart, while Cowser provides pass-rushing depth at the bottom of the roster.

Defensive Backs

Starters: SS Karl Joseph, FS Lamarcus Joyner, CB Gareon Conley, CB Daryl Worley
Backups: FS Johnathan Abram [R], SS Jordan Richards, CB Trayvon Mullen [R], CB Nick Nelson, CB Nevin Lawson

Starting DBs: Former first-rounder Joseph fell out of favor with Jon Gruden last year, then rebounded to close the season in decent fashion. Still, the team didn't pick up his fifth-year option, and he remains squarely on the hot seat. Once touted as a splash-play dynamo, Joseph has recorded just 3 interceptions and 3.0 sacks over chunks of 3 seasons, and he could find himself replaced early by rookie Jonathan Abram. The diminutive Joyner was a sneaky addition to this talent-starved group. Handed $21.5 million in guarantees, he'll start immediately and should bring a big-play presence to the back end. A full-time contributor with the Rams over the last 2 years (when healthy), Joyner posted 126 tackles, 12 pass breakups, and 4 interceptions over 26 games. He's strong in coverage and could be the centerfielder the Raiders keep whiffing at in the draft. Conley, another former first-round pick, came into his own as a cover man down the 2018 stretch. On the year, he broke up 15 passes and intercepted 3 more, and his future is bright as an on-the-ball playmaker. Worley was nightmarish in coverage for most of 2018, and rookie Trayvon Mullen could leapfrog him quickly.

Backup DBs: The two high-round rookies are in great position to earn significant snaps in Year 1. Abram is a free safety at heart, with tons of coverage experience, but he's unlikely to outright beat Lamarcus Joyner for the starting role. Still, he brings big speed and physicality the back end - traits starting strong safety Joseph has yet to show consistently. Richards hasn't proven himself a starting-caliber safety, but could unseat the inconsistent Joseph and run with the job. Mullen was a big playmaker at Clemson, but probably needs time in an NFL weight room to become a contributor. Nelson was relatively poor in the slot last year and could be pushed hard by Lawson for those duties.

Last modified: 2019-05-22 17:23:38