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2015 Team Report: Oakland Raiders

Quarterbacks

Starter: Derek Carr
Backup(s): Matt McGloin

Starting QB: After a relatively impressive rookie season in 2014 which saw Carr amass 21 touchdowns against only 12 INTs despite a lack of weapons, Carr enters 2015 as the undisputed starter. He will look to build on his solid rookie year and the hope will be that the additions of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree will give a big boost to a Raiders offense that has lacked potency in recent years. Carr has a big arm and quick release and showed the leadership qualities and decision-making acumen to provide hope that he can develop into a true franchise QB. The Raiders under new OC Bill Musgrave are likely to try to establish a strong running game to take some pressure off of Carr. He enters 2015 as a low end fantasy QB2 with some upside that adds to his appeal as a streaming option.

Backup QB: Matt McGloin was able to fend off a challenge from Christian Ponder to win the backup job. McGloin has below average physical tools but has shown leadership ability, savvy and toughness in his young career. He has just enough arm strength that he may be capable of adequately filling in for a couple games should Carr go down. But he is not an attractive fantasy option and his physical limitations would be exploited by opposing defenses should he be forced into a starting role for an extended stretch.

Running Backs

Starter: Latavius Murray
Backup(s): Roy Helu, Taiwan Jones
Fullback(s): Marcel Reece, Jamize Olawale

Starting RB: Latavius Murray enters 2015 as the undisputed lead back. Murray is an impressive physical specimen at 6 ft. 3 in., 230 pound and having clocked a 4.38 40-yd dash at his 2013 pro day. He was able to show off that game-breaking speed in his limited opportunities late in the 2014 season. Murray averaged an impressive 5.2 YPC that was buoyed by a number of long runs, including a 90-yard TD scamper against Kansas City in Murray's first start. Murray has had a hard time staying healthy and there are some minor questions about his ability to play through the minor injuries that all starting running backs must endure. But should he be able to stay healthy his upside is high in what should be a run-heavy Raiders offense. Murray enters the season as a low end RB2 with the potential to put up top 15 fantasy numbers at his position if he plays to his potential and the Raiders offense takes a step forward.

Backup RBs: Roy Helu signed a two-year deal and was brought in by Oakland to be the primary 3rd down back and to be a change-of-pace runner behind Murray. He should be able to amass a fair amount of receptions but his fantasy upside is limited by the presence of Murray. After a failed attempt to convert to CB, Taiwan Jones is back at RB and surprisingly was able to win the #3 job with a strong preseason. Jones is undersized and will not ever develop into a lead back, but he provides big-play ability and strong receiving skills in a part-time role.

Fullback: Marcel Reece is arguably the most talented fullback in the NFL and brings a good deal to the table offensively with his ability to line up all over the field. He is a capable pass catcher and has averaged just over 40 receptions per season the past three years. But his fantasy upside is limited by his limited carries as he has never rushed the ball more than 59 times in any season. With the Raiders lack of depth at the running back position however, Reece could end up getting a shot as the primary rusher should both Murray and Helu go down with injuries. His presence allowed the Raiders to keep only three running backs. Olawale is a bruising blocker and will not see many touches.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Amari Cooper [R], Michael Crabtree
Backups: Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Brice Butler, Seth Roberts

Starting WRs: Amari Cooper enters the season as the Raiders' top WR after arriving 4th overall in the 2015 NFL draft and putting together a strong training camp. Cooper comes into the NFL with a strong physical profile. Cooper has decent size combined with a blazing 4.42 40-yd. dash at the combine and elite quickness demonstrated by his 3.98 short shuttle. Perhaps most impressive though is the level of polish and route running acumen that Cooper has shown. He should transition smoothly to the NFL and see a high volume of targets as a rookie. He should be a high end fantasy WR3 at worst but with mid-WR2 upside. Michael Crabtree arrives as a free agent from San Francisco and has locked down the WR2 job heading into the regular season. Crabtree is a proficient route runner with good hands who should be a reliable possession receiver. His fantasy upside is somewhat limited and he enters the season as a fantasy WR4 or WR5.

Backup WRs: The 27-year-old Streater battled through some early training camp health issues to emerge as the 3rd WR for the Raiders. He is unlikely to have much fantasy value unless one of the top two WRs go down with injury though. After going undrafted in 2012, Streater emerged as arguably the best WR on the Raiders in 2013 on his way to racking up 888 yards and 4 touchdowns. In 2014, he began the season as a starter and got off to a solid start before breaking his foot early in Week 3 and missing the remainder of the season. When Streater went down with injury in 2014, Andre Holmes stepped into the lineup to replace showed some flashes as his size allowed him to make some big plays. He was a restricted FA in 2015 and the Raiders only tendered him at the lowest level which opened the door for him to sign elsewhere without Oakland receiving any compensation. That decision is evidence that Holmes is not viewed as a key piece of the puzzle moving forward, but he does provide the team with a red zone mismatch on jump balls and enters the season as the 4th WR. Brice Butler was a 7th round pick in 2013 and has been able to stick in the NFL as a 5th WR the past couple seasons. He has made some plays when his number has been called but is just an average talent. Undrafted rookie Seth Roberts was a bit of a revelation during the preseason and was able to stick as the 6th WR. Roberts is a burner and showed a knack for making plays all throughout training camp. Of all the Raiders backups, he may have the most long-term upside if he can add polish to his game.

Tight Ends

Starters: Mychal Rivera, Lee Smith, Clive Walford (R)
Backups: Gabe Holmes Nick Kasa, David Ausberry, Jake Murphy (R)

The Raiders enter the 2015 season with a three-headed monster atop the depth chart at tight end. Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford are locked in a heated battle to be the Raiders top receiving tight end that could last well into the regular season. Rivera emerged as a trusted target underneath for Derek Carr in 2014, though his catch rate (58%) and yards per target (5.34) were both quite underwhelming. He is a low upside, low-end TE2 for fantasy purposes. Clive Walford was added by the Raiders early in the 3rd round of the NFL draft and was considered the consensus 2nd best tight end in the draft class. When healthy, he impressed in offseason work and may be the rare rookie TE capable of making an early impact as a rookie. The former Miami Hurricane is a well rounded player equally adept as both a receiver and blocker and should have a bright future in Oakland. Lee Smith signed a lucrative free agent contract to move from Buffalo to Oakland this offseason and is considered one of the NFL's best blocking TEs. He adds little in the passing game but should help Latavius Murray and the other Oakland runners with his punishing run blocking. Undrafted rookie Gabe Holmes rode a strong training camp to a spot on the 53-man roster, but will need multiple injuries to the trio ahead of him to have any real impact in 2015.

Place Kicker

Sebastian Janikowski: The old reliable Janikowski was in the bottom four in scoring among kickers that played all 16 games, mostly due to getting only 22 field goal attempts in 2014. He made 19 of them, including 3-of-5 from 50 yards or longer, but the state of the Raiders offense is only marginally improved with the addition of Amari Cooper and Derek Carr's progress in year two. Janikowski is purely bye/injury/emergency filler despite his name recognition getting him drafted in the top 15 kickers off of the board.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Taiwan Jones, Jeremy Ross, Roy Helu, Travis Carrie

Travis Carrie had a fair 2014 season as a kickoff returner, handling 15 returns with a 24.1 yard average. The Raiders were looking to rookie Andre Debose for returns this season, but he was lost to injury. Oakland could also use Latavius Murray in the return game though his role as a starter may keep him away from returns. Both saw opportunities last season though were outplayed by Carrie. Trindon Holliday was signed in preseason but then released. After the roster cut down, Taiwan Jones has ended up as the primary kickoff returner. When Jones missed time with an injury, Roy Helu served as his backup.

Punt Returners: Jeremy Ross, Amari Cooper, Travis Carrie

There was talk last year that the Raiders might wish to limit extra injury risk to Carrie as his role on defense increased. The team drafted Andre Debose to be a returner, but lost him to injury before training camp even began. Trindon Holliday was signed, but then cut before the final preseason game. Carrie handled punts late in preseason, and with most other options cut from the roster, continued as the punt returner until the middle of the season when Oakland signed receiver Marcus Thigpen. Thigpen only lasted on the roster for a short time, with Carrie taking back over after Thigpen's release. Amari Cooper has also been used as the returner, including taking the bulk of them in some games.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Donald Penn, LG Gabe Jackson, C Rodney Hudson, RG Khalif Barnes, RT Austin Howard
Key Backups: T Menalik Watson, T Matt McCants, G Tony Bergstrom, C Kevin Boothe, G Jon Feliciano [R], T J'Marcus Webb

The Raiders' line is usually ranked near the bottom of these articles but this year they grade out as a surprisingly decent squad. The main reason for this has been the exceptional play of left tackle Donald Penn. Penn played at a borderline Pro Bowl level last season, giving up only one sack through the first ten games. This is not completely surprising as Penn did make the Pro Bowl in 2010. Even more impressive than his pass protection was the rare offensive tackle touchdown by Penn in the Raiders' signature victory at home over the 49ers. It was a dream come true for Penn, who is reportedly a life long Raiders' fan. Next to Penn, left guard Gabe Jackson had an excellent rookie season, and made a reputation for himself as a nasty and physical player at the point of attack. Another important reason for the Raiders' relatively high ranking this preseason is the acquisition of center Rodney Hudson from the division rival Chiefs. Hudson is known as an athletic and capable young center who is still improving his game. On the right side, Khalif Barnes is likely going to swap inside and allow Austin Howard to man his more natural right tackle position. The team hopes to upgrade upon the penalty prone Barnes with their selections of Jon Feliciano and Anthomy Morris on day three of the NFL draft. Neither player is likely to start in the short term but Morris is a giant and could be a player to watch in the future. Overall this line is a mid-tier unit on the rise and if the left side of Penn and Jackson continue to improve, and the team can find a better starter than Barnes, the line's ranking could soar.

Team Defense

The Raider defense sputtered badly once again in 2014. While the pass defense showed promise, the team was thoroughly gashed in the run game as teams routinely closed them out of games early. And from a fantasy standpoint, things were even bleaker - the Raiders allowed the most points in football and forced the third-fewest turnovers. Their relatively high investments in declining pass rushers Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley produced very little pass rush and only the Bengals registered fewer than their 22 sacks. Little help appeared in the offseason, but DE Khalil Mack offers real hope as a potentially devastating sack artist in the vein of Von Miller. All told, however, the Raiders are likely to remain one of the 3-5 least attractive teams to pluck from in your draft.

Defensive Line

Starters: LE Justin Tuck, NT Justin Ellis, UT Dan Williams, RE Khalil Mack
Backups: DE Mario Edwards [R], DE Benson Mayowa

Starting DL: One of the 2014 draft's big no-brainers was the Raiders' pick of Mack at #5 overall. A well-built pass rush demon with remarkable athleticism, Mack rivaled America's sweetheart, top pick Jadeveon Clowney, as the class's top rusher. The Raiders have no complaints, as Mack proved their best player on either side of the ball as a rookie. While his four sacks failed to catch the eye. Mack's nine QB hits, 39 hurries, and 52 overall pressures all ranked second to Von Miller among 4-3 OBs, and his 14 TFL ranked third. A determined, violent finisher in college, Mack can be confident that the dam will burst and the sacks will come. That potential, combined with the moderately high tackle numbers we can expect from a guy who plays plenty of 4-3 OB, give him great DL2 value with the upside for significantly greater things. Tuck came aboard for his 10th season to pair with fellow declining veteran Lamarr Woodley, but neither brought to Oakland the productive pass rush skills of their better years. Tuck provided just 35 pressures and a 7.9 pass rush productivity rating per Pro Football Focus, good for 19th among 36 qualifying 4-3 ends. His five sacks made for a disappointing total, and given his mediocre 35 pressures, it seems unlikely to increase much at age 32. In a best-case scenario, Mack and rookie Edwards will make a marked impact out of the gates and keep offenses from loading up against Tuck, pushing his upside back into the 10-sack range. But in general, it seems foolhardy to invest a pick here unless your league uses multiple DL slots. Williams, the 26th pick in the 2010 draft, gave the Cardinals five years of solid run support before joining Oakland this offseason. But his contributions are almost entirely of the "more valuable to the team than to fantasy owners" variety. Boasting two career sacks, Williams is a situational run-stuffer and little else. He's never taken more than 41% of his team's snaps, and logged just 427 last year. And not even his career-high of 44 tackles would bring him into fantasy relevance. Ellis, the team's fourth-round pick in 2014, added decent depth as rookie. He improved noticeably against the run as the season wore on, but didn't show much as a pass rusher and looks ticketed for a situational role.

Backup DL: Aside from Mack, Edwards stands as the only source of fantasy upside in this unit. Raiders LB coach Sal Sunseri coached Edwards at Florida State and presumably pounded the table for the young man. A versatile talent who saw time inside, outside, and as a stand-up LB at Florida State, Edwards has drawn comparisons across the spectrum, from Richard Seymour and Sheldon Richardson to Vinny Curry. In the NFL, however, he projects strictly on the line as a pure power rusher. He won't dazzle anyone with speed off the edge or an arsenal of rush moves, but he brings decent athleticism to the table and. He'll likely platoon at RE with Wilson and has the skillset to provide a Malik Jackson type of impact as a rookie, but isn't more than a mere DL4 stab at this point. Mayowa, a former undrafted Seahawk, saw some 2014 work in Lamarr Woodley's place and graded horribly as a pass rusher. He was strong against the run, but at 6'3 252 is likely a bit wiry for anything more than situational snaps.

Linebackers

Starters: SLB Ray Ray Armstrong, MLB Curtis Lofton, WLB Malcolm Smith
Backups: MLB Lorenzo Alexander, OLB Ben Heeney [R], MLB/OLB Neiron Ball [R]

Starting LBs: The Raiders' leaky defensive front has long provided its linebackers opportunity for fantasy relevance. Even with the addition of run plugger Dan Williams, that outlook definitely holds true in 2015. All three Raider starters project well, with solid ceilings and floors all over the place - provided any hold starting roles for 16 games. Lofton has always been a tackle machine, averaging 136 over his last four seasons. He doesn't bring much else to the table just seven sacks and three interceptions in seven years but those tackles speak loudly in fantasy ball. He also gets sky-high marks for durability, having never missed a game to injury. Lofton probably fits best as an upper-tier, high-floor LB2 in typical IDP leagues, but carries far less value in big-play performance formats. Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Smith joined the stable to provide depth and little else, but was given the starting job over the inconsistent Moore. Despite the trophy, Smith was rarely more than a package player in his four years as a Seahawk and the quality of his play waned wildly. He did post four performances of 6+ tackles in a part-time role in 2014, but was wholly ineffective and saw just 28 snaps after Week 11 (including playoffs). He's just as likely to fade behind Moore as to post LB4 numbers, so he's not worth the draft pick. Armstrong, a replacement-level special teamer, looks like little more than a rotational guy. He was atrocious in 78 snaps in Week 17 last year and may not be long for the roster.

Backup LBs: Considering the injury history and inconsistency of this unit, rookies Heeney and Ball could find themselves with fantasy relevance at some point soon. Heeney is the more dynamic of the two, a remarkably productive and versatile LB who racked up 335 tackles and two all-Big 12 selections in four years at Kansas. He then went on to shred the combine, besting all other LBs in all three agility drills to put to rest any visions of a slow-moving MB type. Heeney is somewhat undersized at 6' 231, but projects as an ideal backup for Moore as a sideline-to-sideline pursuer who can defend the pass. Ball, a talented pursuer from Florida with sneaky pass-rushing ability, has been horribly beset by injuries, including meniscus and microfracture knee surgery in November and a 2011 brain surgery. If his knee is right, Ball could win a backup job behind Lofton or Moore, but that's a massive if. He possesses decent athleticism and some scouts had him pegged for a much earlier pick aside from the injury woes. Alexander is a special teams specialist, having seen just 133 defensive snaps over the last two years.

Defensive Backs

Starters: LCB Keith McGill, RCB Travis Carrie, SS Nate Allen, FS Charles Woodson
Backups: CB D.J. Hayden, CB James Dockery, SS/FS Brandian Ross

Starting DBs: Even at age 38, Woodson continues to hold together a very shaky Raider secondary. Of course, he's now doing so with far less effectiveness than during his Hall of Fame prime, grading at or below average in coverage throughout his Oakland return. But that's of little matter to fantasy owners; Woodson is returning for 2015 and faces little worthwhile competition for the FS spot. So there's plenty of reason to expect his dynamite 2014, in which he finished as the overall DB4 by standard scoring, to repeat itself. Woodson was in on 98.8% of Raider snaps, routinely racking up numbers in both the pass and run games. He finished sixth in the NFL in total tackles, adding four interceptions and eight pass breakups. As with any player of advanced age, Woodson calls for a bit of caution from fantasy owners the bottom could drop out entirely at any moment, of course but generally makes for a safe, if back-end, DB1. Allen comes to town after four up-and-down-but-mostly-down seasons in Philadelphia. The 37th pick of the 2010 draft finally flashed in 2014 after an utterly horrendous start to his career, drawing positive grades across the board on a whopping 1,121 snaps. In Oakland, he'll be the no-brainer starter at SS following Tyvon Branch's departure. That said, expecting fantasy production is somewhat foolhardy. Never much of a playmaker on the ball, Allen accrued 40% of his career interception total with last year's four, and a move to one of the league's worst teams makes it unlikely he'll see much pass game opportunity. Allen will need to make his fantasy hay in the run game a tricky proposition for a mediocre tackler. Still, Oakland's leaky front seven lends plenty of tackle opportunities to its DBs. Allen has never topped 83 stops, but should threaten that this year, landing him in the discussion among the top DB3 options. McGill, a massive (6'3 211) second-year corner, looks likely to unseat Hayden in the lineup. McGill saw 147 snaps as a rookie and acquitted himself nicely, allowing just four completions on 13 targets. But like the rest of the Oakland secondary, he likely projects best as long-term depth, and his relative lack of ball skills suggests he won't soon be a fantasy contributor. Carrie, a seventh-round pick last year, was a surprise contributor as a rookie. He saw major snaps beginning in Week One and posted a few nice real-life games, but his real future is providing depth behind more talented starters. His lengthy injury history certainly doesn't boost his chances of maintaining a starting job in the long term.

Backup DBs: The Raider bench consists of a handful of young, flawed talents, none of whom project to much as fantasy prospects. The top name to watch is former first-round pick Hayden. Thanks to some awful health luck a torn heart vein in his final year of college and abdominal complications from the resulting surgery Hayden has spent most of his young NFL career in a holding pattern. He's missed 15 of his first 32 games and played poorly when healthy. Hayden isn't much of a playmaker, having disrupted just 8.2% of his targets as a pro, so he would need a starting job and the tackle opportunities that come with it to gain any semblance of fantasy value. Dockery, a lightly used free agent from Carolina, provides depth and little else. The likely third safety will be Brandian Ross. He's a dependable player, but a reserve talent; he racked up 55 tackles in limited work for the Raiders in 2013.

Last modified: 2015-12-01 18:24:19