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Fantasy Football Team Previews: Las Vegas Raiders

There are a lot of different ways this season can play out for the Las Vegas Raiders.
Josh Jacobs is the highest rated Las Vegas Raider in Rally Towel’s top-300 cheat sheet. (Twitter // @PFF)

2019 summary

Record: 7-9 (3rd in AFC West)

2019 Offensive Points-Per-Game: 19.6 (24th)

2019 Total Defense-adjusted Value Over Average: -11.6% (24th)

Derek Carr very quietly put together what may be the best year of his career to date. He set new career-bests in passing yards, completion percentage, yards-per-attempt and QB rating. He did all of this while dealing with a B-list group of wide receivers, headlined by Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow. Neither player finished the year with more than 50 receptions, however, and it was tight end Darren Waller who actually led the Raiders in targets, receptions and receiving yards. Rookie running back Josh Jacobs ran the ball well, toting the rock for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns on 242 attempts. His passing game involvement left a lot to be desired, as he only brought in 20 receptions on 27 targets.

Major additions

  • QB, Marcus Mariota
  • LB, Nick Kwiatkoski
  • DE, Carl Nassib
  • DT, Maliek Collins
  • TE, Jason Witten
  • SS, Jeff Heath
  • LB, Cory Littleton
  • WR, Nelson Agholor
  • WR, Henry Ruggs
  • CB, Damon Arnette
  • WR, Lynn Bowden
  • WR, Bryan Edwards
  • LB, Tanner Muse

Major subtractions

  • LB, Tahir Whitehead
  • LB, Vontaze Burfict
  • DE, Dion Jordan
  • RB, DeAndre Washington

4 major storylines for 2020

Will Josh Jacobs become more involved in the passing game?

The only thing holding Jacobs back from being higher in my rankings (he’s currently RB10) is the limited role he held in the passing game last season. Jalen Richard was the team’s preferred back in those situations, outdoing Jacobs 36-20 in the receptions category.

Jacobs has stated this offseason that he wants to improve as a blocker and receive at least 60+ balls this year. While 60 seems like a very ambitious leap, especially with Richard still around, it’s entirely feasible that his reception total jumps from 20 to 30, a bump that would’ve catapulted him from 48th to 36th last season amongst RBs. He’s being appropriately valued in fantasy football drafts as a back-end RB1.

What will Henry Ruggs’ rookie season look like?

Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson stated earlier this offseason that Ruggs will start in the slot. Joining a lacklustre receiving core as a first-round pick, Ruggs has the best chance to make an instant impact in the NFL of any rookie.

The middle of the field was a frequently targeted area of the passing game for the Raiders last season, thanks to tight end Waller. Las Vegas had the ninth-most short middle pass plays of any team while their deep middle pass plays were near the league average at 21. Utilizing the middle of the field in the passing game is something OC Olson did when he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016. The Jags ranked second in short middle pass plays and sixth in deep middle pass plays under Olson in 2016.

Judging by the history, there’s a good chance that Ruggs will help Olson take the top off of defenses down the middle of the field. I think in a best-case scenario, he brings in 60 receptions and over 800 yards of production. He’s being drafted as a low-end WR4 in the NFFC which seems appropriate.

Can Bryan Edwards also contribute as a rookie?

A report recently floated out stating Edwards could start for the Raiders at the ‘X’ position. That would mean Edwards has a clear path to playing time on three and even two wide receiver sets. The important thing to remember here is that the quote does come from a beat reporter and he uses the key word ‘could’.

That being said, Edwards’ prospect profile is very intriguing. Playing for the University of South Carolina, Edwards broke out in his first season and was clearly the centrepiece of their attack during his tenure. He offers good size for the position, and has been making an impression early on in camp. Carr stated that the rookie has earned his trust and likened him to Davante Adams, someone Carr played with in college.

If Edwards can work his way into three WR sets, I can see him having value in 14 and 16-team leagues.

Will Derek Carr be replaced by Marcus Mariota this season?

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has been impressed by recently added QB Mariota. Gruden has been a big fan of the former Oregon Duck since he entered the league.

Skip to 2:09 to hear Gruden gush about Mariota.

He calls Mariota the steal of the draft despite the fact that he went second overall. That is some insanely high praise.

Carr will get the first crack at the job, however, and Las Vegas went out and tried to bolster it’s receiving core in the draft. 2020 will be the show-me year for Carr. If he can take a step forward with his revamped, albeit green wide receiver talents, this’ll be his offense. Additionally, Carr will be playing this year with a chip on his shoulder.

Given Gruden’s affinity to Mariota, though, the leash is likely to be very short for Carr. It would not shock me at all if Carr lost the job at some point this season.

Sleeper and Bust

Sleeper: Henry Ruggs

Ruggs has a clear-cut opportunity to becoming the No. 1 WR on the Raiders. Even though Waller will likely remain the No. 1 option in the passing game, the tantalizing speed Ruggs possesses could help him achieve instant success at the next level.

Bust: Hunter Renfrow

Renfrow was just fine with the opportunities he received in his rookie season last year. He is an older rookie as he will turn 25 later this season, which means there may not be much developing left in his game. With Las Vegas revamping its wide receiver room and Ruggs taking some of his reps from the slot, I don’t think there’ll be much left for Renfrow who is currently being selected in the NFFC at pick 163.49.

Raiders Players in Rally Towel’s Top-300 2.0 Fantasy Football Rankings

14. RB, Josh Jacobs

69. TE, Darren Waller

117. WR, Henry Ruggs

162. WR, Bryan Edwards

171. WR, Hunter Renfrow

201. WR, Tyrell Williams

229. RB, Jalen Richard

237. QB, Derek Carr

278. WR, Nelson Agholor

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