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2020 Team Report: Las Vegas Raiders

Last updated: Sun, Sep 6

Offensive Philosophy

It flew under the radar a bit, but last year head coach Jon Gruden coached Derek Carr to his best season as a pro. Gruden's offense has continued to emphasize the short patterns that Carr prefers, but has worked on gradually increasing his accuracy and consistency on those throws and the addition of Tyrell Williams gave Carr a talented deep outlet to work with on occasion. Gruden and general manager spent last offseason talking about how running back Josh Jacobs would be an immediate workhorse, and he ultimately proved their predictions correct, finishing 8th in rushing and 10th in carries despite missing three games (on a per-game basis, he was third in the league). In his previous head coaching stint a decade ago, though, Gruden also called for plenty of passes to top backs like Charlie Garner and Michael Pittman, but recently he's been running more of a committee in that aspect; Jacobs finished third among running backs in receiving, trailing DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. Expect a similar distribution this year, with Jacobs hoarding the carries but other backs seeing time on passing downs.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Derek Carr
Backup(s): Marcus Mariota, DeShone Kizer, Nathan Peterman

Starting QB: The Raiders find themselves in a form of quarterback purgatory. Derek Carr has been solid and posted stats that were above-average. His 8.0 adjusted yards per attempt in 2019 ranked 10th-best in the NFL, his 70.4% completion percentage was 2nd behind only Drew Brees, and he posted a QB rating (100.8) that was 9th-best. However, he has done little to inspire confidence that he can be the guy to get the Raiders over the hump. Carr has shown he can run the offense and find the open man. However, he has not shown much in the way of play-making when the pocket breaks down and he has to try to create on his own. His shortcomings as a playmaker are magnified due to the presence of Patrick Mahomes within the division and it is understandable that John Gruden appears to be in the market for an upgrade. In the meantime, the Raiders can hope that upgrading Carr's supporting cast can help propel the offense to the next level. If Carr does not rise to the challenge, Marcus Mariota is waiting in the wings. He was brought in on one of the more lucrative deals for a backup quarterback in recent history, so the pressure will be on Carr to hold off the challenge.

Backup QB: Marcus Mariota was signed to a lucrative deal (two years, $17.6M with additional bonuses available) that indicates the Raiders likely view him as more than just a backup. Last season, Mariota found himself in a similar situation to the one Derek Carr currently faces. Mariota was the highly-paid incumbent starter but it was clear he was on a short leash with Ryan Tannehill waiting in the wings. He got off to a solid start through four games but the wheels fell off in back-to-back embarrassing losses in Weeks 5 and 6 that led to Mariota getting benched. Mariota has a lot of physical talent and at just 26-years old has time to resuscitate his NFL career.

Running Backs

Starter: Josh Jacobs
Backup(s): Jalen Richard, Devontae Booker, Rod Smith, William Stanback
Fullback(s): Alec Ingold

Starting RB: Josh Jacobs should be the centerpiece of the Raiders offense in his second season. As a 21-year old rookie, he produced 1,316 yards from scrimmage in 13 games. He missed some time late in the year with a shoulder injury but showed extreme toughness in playing through pain before the Raiders fell out of playoff contention. Jacobs was a workhorse on the ground, carrying 242 times for 1,150 yards (a 298-carry pace over 16 games) at a 4.8 yards per carry clip. There is potential for Jacobs to make the leap to elite fantasy producer and it revolves largely around how much his role as a pass catcher will increase in his second season. Despite coming in with a reputation as a very good receiver out of the backfield, Jacobs had just 20 receptions as a rookie. He should have the chance to double those receiving numbers in 2020, which would likely make him a top-10 fantasy producer at the position.

Backup RBs: Jalen Richard returns for his fifth season with the Raiders after signing a two-year deal worth $7M. Richard has excelled as a receiving back, racking up 68 catches for 607 yards in 2018 and 36 catches for 323 yards last season. Richard could lose some third-down snaps to Josh Jacobs, who is expected to take on an increased role in the passing game in 2020. However, that should be offset by the fact that Richard will no longer have to compete with DeAndre Washington for backup touches. Devontae Booker saw his offensive snaps dwindle to almost zero in Denver last season but did contribute on special teams. A special teams role is his most likely path to making the Raiders as well.

Fullback: Alec Ingold had a strong rookie season as fullback for the Raiders. He was used primarily as a blocker but did carry 10 timer for 17 yards and also had 44 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards (R), Hunter Renfrow
Backups: Nelson Agholor, Zay Jones, Keelan Doss, Marcell Ateman, Anthony Ratliff-Williams

Starting WRs: The Raiders made Henry Ruggs the highest-drafted receiver of the 2020 class when they selected him 12th overall. Ruggs has dynamic speed, running a 4.27-forty yard dash at the NFL Combine. He was a big-play specialist at Alabama, scoring 25 touchdowns on just 100 touches in his three-year career. Unlike some other speedy wide receivers who were drafted highly in recent years, Ruggs also has a physical dimension to his game, excelling as a blocker and showing an ability to make tough catches in traffic. He should quickly become the top receiver for the Raiders. Tyrell Williams was placed on injured reserve with a torn labrum, opening the door for Bryan Edwards to step into a starting role as a rookie. The third-round pick out of South Carolina fell further in the draft than he should have due to a foot injury. Edwards has great size, underrated speed, and solid hands. He adds a physicality that should greatly benefit the Raiders offense. Edwards has real fantasy upside and makes for a nice late-round pick who could end up paying off later in the year. Hunter Renfrow had an excellent rookie season and came on especially strong down the stretch. He started to emerge in Week 8, putting together a four-game stretch where he caught 19 passes for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns. Seemingly every third down, Carr locked onto Renfrow operating out of the slot. His momentum was halted by a rib injury during a Week 12 loss to the Jets that kept Renfrow out of action for a month. When he returned in Week 16, he immediately had the best game of his young career, catching 7 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. He came back the next week with 6 catches for 102 yards and another touchdown, giving him back-to-back 100-yard receiving games to close out his career. He has the potential to be a volume slot receiver, which makes him an intriguing upside pick in PPR leagues.

Backup WRs: The Raiders brought in Nelson Agholor on a one-year deal for just over $1M, that is almost fully guaranteed. After five years in Philadelphia that could most charitably be described as up and down, Agholor seemed to lose confidence and should benefit from a change in scenery. He has physical talent with some quickness and 4.42-speed but has failed to put it all together. He will compete for playing time with Zay Jones, another highly-drafted receiver who washed out with his previous team. Jones was mostly a non-factor after moving from the Bills to the Raiders midway through 2019. In 10 games, he caught 20 passes for 147 yards and failed to find the end zone.

Tight Ends

Starters: Darren Waller
Backups: Jason Witten, Foster Moreau

At this time last year, the Raiders had nothing but questions marks at tight end. Today, it might be the strongest position group on the team. Darren Waller emerged as a bona fide star. He is a freaky size-speed specimen, having run a 4.46 at the NFL combine at 6'6, 238. The 27-year old entered 2019 with just 18 career catches but went on to finish second in the NFL amongst tight ends with 90 receptions. He was also second amongst all tight ends with 1,146 receiving yards. The only thing that kept him from having a truly dominant fantasy season was the fact he scored just three touchdowns. He did enough to earn himself a lucrative, long-term extension from Las Vegas. The depth behind Waller is another point of strength. Jason Witten will be 38-years old in 2020 but is coming off of a season in which he finished 8th amongst all NFL tight ends with 63 catches. Foster Moreau is also very much in the mix. He had a strong rookie season in 2019, excelling as a blocker and red zone threat. His five touchdowns was tied for 7th amongst NFL tight ends. At just 23-years old, Moreau has a bright future alongside Waller.

Place Kicker

Daniel Carlson: Carlson ended up sticking with the Raiders in 2018 after failing to win the Vikings job even though they drafted him in the fifth round. Carlson's accuracy tailed off in the second half of the 2019 season and he only made 19 of 26 field goal attempts, with only 6 of 10 made from 40-49 yards and none made from 50+ with only two attempts from long distance. The team re-signed him in the offseason anyway, and they released Dominik Eberle, his competition, at the open of camp.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Jalen Richard, Hunter Renfrow

The Raiders have gone through several full-time return specialists in recent years, but in 2020 it appears more likely that they'll hand returns to players on their offensive depth chart-- primarily Jalen Richard and Hunter Renfrow-- instead.

Punt Returners: Hunter Renfrow, Jalen Richard

The Raiders have gone through several full-time return specialists in recent years, but in 2020 it appears more likely that they'll hand returns to players on their offensive depth chart-- primarily Jalen Richard and Hunter Renfrow-- instead.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Kolton Miller, LG Richie Incognito, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Trent Brown
Key Backups: OL Brandon Parker, OL David Sharpe, OL Denzelle Good, OG John Simpson [R]

The Raiders return all five starters from last season, and three earned postseason honors. Center Rodney Hudson and right tackle Trent Brown both made All-Pro, while left guard Richie Incognito has been maintaining his former Pro Bowl grade. Kolton Miller has untapped potential at left tackle while Gabe Jackson is solid at right guard. The team invested a fourth-round pick in John Simpson from Clemson to push Jackson.

Team Defense

The Raiders defense took baby steps forward in 2019, with 32 sacks, 15 takeaways, and two defensive scores, with some big contributions from rookies Maxx Crosby and Trayvon Mullen. The 2020 offseason brought an influx of Cowboys role players (DT Maliek Collins, S Jeff Heath), and the team also signed two everydown linebackers - Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkowski. 2019 first round pick Jonathan Abram was injured last year and should boost the safety group, although the team will be starting surprise first round pick Damon Arnette (Ohio State) at one cornerback position. They are going off of the board in the mid-late 20s among team defenses, which is correct and they hold no appeal as a best ball third defense sleeper pick.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Maxx Crosby, NT Maliek Collins, DT Maurice Hurst, DE Clelin Ferrell
Backups: DE Carl Nassib, DE Arden Key, NT Jonathan Hankins, DT Datone Jones

Starting DL: 2019 rookie Maxx Crosby was a revelation for football's worst pass rush, and he enters 2020 as the Raiders' linchpin. Crosby was actually one of the league's best rushers down the stretch, posting 8.0 sacks and forcing 2 fumbles over the final 8 games. Still, the high-motor Crosby may be maxed out as a productive second fiddle. It's worth noting that 4.0 of those sacks came in a single game. Ideally, it will be Ferrell, last year's fourth overall pick, anchoring a unit that still needs to take a step or two forward. But Ferrell produced little as a rookie (just 4.5 sacks over 659 snaps), and his draft status remains a mystery to many. Hurst doesn't put up much by way of numbers (7.5 sacks over 29 games), but is developing into a solid rotational cog on the inside. The team brought in Collins, who recorded 14.5 sacks in 4 years as a Cowboy, to compete in a crowded interior group.

Backup DL: Nassib was a shrewd pickup as a rotational edge rusher who's always made an impact. He just posted 12.5 sacks and forced 3 fumbles over 2 shortened seasons in Tampa Bay. Key will also factor in for snaps; he had begun to shine a bit before going down in Week 9, and there's no reason to doubt he'll be ready for 2020. Hankins, still just 28 years old, has settled into a niche as a stout run-plugger on the inside. He recorded 50 tackles last year, but almost nothing else. The same goes for Hill, who managed just 26 across 16 games. Former first-rounder Jones may be on his last life in Las Vegas. All could be important pieces for the Raiders, but none offer any appeal to fantasy leagues - even those requiring multiple DT starters.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Cory Littleton, MLB Raekwon McMillan, SLB Nick Kwiatkoski
Backups: SLB Nicholas Morrow, WLB Tanner Muse [R], MLB Marquel Lee

Starting LBs: Littleton, allowed to walk by the cash-strapped Rams, was a surprising and welcomed get for this unit. Active and versatile, he's blossomed into a three-down playmaker. Wherever he lines up, he enters the year as the Raiders' defensive backbone and a clear LB1 in fantasy. McMillan was acquired in a late-camp trade, and he'll likely play in the middle when the Raiders deploy three linebackers, which may not happen all that much. McMillan came on fairly strong as a run stopper for the Dolphins over the past two years but is not likely to see much action in sub-package situations. Kwiatkoski closed out 2019 as the Bears' starter in the middle and showed promise. He averaged 6.3 tackles over the final 8 weeks and showed the ability to play the pass. There's not much ceiling there, but the opportunity at least sets him up as an option in multi-LB formats.

Backup LBs: Morrow played a ton last year when nickel back Lamarcus Joyner was forced to sit, but was a bit player otherwise. The Raiders prefer a nickel base under coordinator Paul Guenther, and Morrow isn't a fantasy consideration even when he starts. Third-round rookie Muse is intriguing as a downhill attacker. He played safety at Clemson but probably lacks the pass-game ability to stay there in the pros. Muse likely tops out as a two-down thumper, but he could certainly bypass Morrow and put up tackles if forced into action. Lee is a holdover who saw just 71 snaps as a depth option last year.

Defensive Backs

Starters: FS Jonathan Abram, CB Lamarcus Joyner, CB Trayvon Mullen, SS Jeff Heath
Backups: CB Damon Arnette [R], CB Amik Robertson [R], CB Nevin Lawson, FS Erik Harris

Starting DBs: Abram's rookie season was a washout due to a torn rotator cuff. Much is expected of him, though, in 2020. Abram boasts big-time speed and athleticism and excelled all over the secondary at Mississippi State. Capable of crashing the box and making plays behind the line, Abram has the opportunity to put up DB2 numbers all over the stat sheet. Heath should start the year next to him after the team gave up on new signee Damorious Randall in August. He brings over plenty of experience (54 starts) and toughness in the run game from Dallas, but has never graded well against the pass. Joyner didn't pan out as well in 2019 as the Raiders had hoped, but remains integral as the nickel back and occasional centerfield-type safety. Mullen endured a rough rookie season, but he and first-round rookie Arnette should open the year in the lineup by default.

Backup DBs: Arnette, a surprise pick at No. 19, was a strong press man at Ohio State with NFL-ready fundamentals. He could start quickly on the outside, or at least rotate in plenty as Lamarcus Joyner pushes into the slot. Harris could push Heath for starting snaps, but he's a replacement-level talent who makes his hay on special teams. Lawson has long been a liability, even as a backup, and the team would love to see fourth-rounder Robertson leapfrog him. Like Joyner, Robertson is undersized but athletic and active on the ball. He could slot in quickly as Joyner's direct backup in the slot.