2020 Fantasy Previews Part 17: Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders started the 2019 season slowly, going 1-2 with the two losses by a combined 38 points. Then they won 2 straight games. 1 surprising and 1 not so much. They beat the Colts who were struggling to find an identity without Andrew Luck. Then, they beat the Bears in London, who had high expectations for the season. It was a season of streaks for the Raiders as they lost their next two games, followed by them winning the three games after that. The Raiders were 6-4 and would end the season 1-5, to finish 7-9. The Raiders were in the middle of the pack in total defense, bottom 10 in pass defense, top 10 in rush defense, and bottom 10 in points allowed. Jon Gruden has one of the most complicated playbooks in the NFL. They had a lot of turnover on the offensive side of the football last year and that prevented Gruden from installing his whole playbook. The Raiders drafted 2 receivers and 1 flex (running back/wide receiver) in this year's NFL Draft. With not a lot of time to install his playbook, look for players like Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow to be used more in the passing game than Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, and Lynn Bowden. Look for players that were on the team last year to take a huge step forward in the third year of Gruden's offense.

Projected depth chart:

Quarterback: 1. Derek Carr 2. Marcus Mariota

Running back: 1. Josh Jacobs 2. Jalen Richard

Wide receiver: 1. Henry Ruggs 2. Tyrell Williams 3. Bryan Edwards 4. Nelson Agholor

Slot receiver: 1. Hunter Renfrow 2. Zay Jones

Tight end: 1. Darren Waller 2. Jason Witten

Quarterbacks - Derek Carr had yet another average season last year. He had 4054 passing yards on 70.4% completion, 21 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. Carr scored 244.36 fantasy points in 16 games. Carr finished as the QB14 and had under 15 fantasy points in 7 games. For reference, Aaron Rodgers had 10 of these games. Derek Carr was a great backup quarterback on fantasy teams last year, but his ceiling remained an issue as he only passed for over 300 yards once and never surpassed 24 fantasy points.

The Raiders wanted to push Carr a little more this year and signed Marcus Mariota in free agency. Mariota started the season strong last year, averaging 19.15 points per game. He had 8.62 points and then -1.08 points before getting benched for Ryan Tannehill in Week 7. Knowing he probably would not be the starting quarterback anymore, Mariota opted for free agency and decided to sign with the Raiders.

The Carr and Mariota situation is going to be one I am going to avoid this year. I would expect Carr to be on a very short leash and if he slips up only a couple times he is going to get benched. Derek Carr is currently the QB24 on ESPN and Mariota is outside the top 32. When I draft a quarterback in fantasy I want to be confident he will start the whole season.

The Raiders used a 60-40 touch split between Josh Jacobs and the 2nd and 3rd running backs, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. The latter was the better of the two as he finished as the RB40. Washington was the starting running back in the three games Josh Jacobs didn't play. Jalen Richard finished as the RB56 and was mainly used on passing downs. Washington finished with 121.9 points and Richard finished with 82.8.

Josh Jacobs was the number 1 running back for the Raiders last year. He had 242 carries for 1150 yards and 7 touchdowns. He finished as the RB21 and there were two problems with him. The first one was he played the second half of the year with a shoulder injury. The second reason why he finished so low was his boom or bust carries. Jacobs finished with under 20 carries in 6 games but over 20 in 7. He had 12 or fewer carries in 3 games.

Josh Jacobs will be one of the breakout players for fantasy football 2020. He is 100% healthy and is in line for a massive workload. As I said earlier, Jon Gruden's offense is extremely complicated and he should be able to do a lot more in it. Jacobs is being drafted in the second round and that is great value for someone who could get 300 carries. Jacobs is a player I am looking to target with a mid-second round pick this year. If he were to get hurt, I would take rookie Lynn Bowden as a backup. He is a wide receiver who can also play running back.

Wide receivers - The Raiders only had 2 receivers last year that were semi-fantasy relevant. The best one was Tyrell Williams. He was great in weeks 1-8 last year, where he played 5 games and averaged 16.1 fantasy points per game. From weeks 9-17 he only averaged 6.9 points. Williams finished as the WR47 and would've been the WR39 if he played in all 16 games. A problem for Williams was his drops as he dropped 6 passes.

The worst of the two receivers was Hunter Renfrow. Renfrow was a tale of two halves last season as he averaged 4.2 points in 6 games from weeks 1-7. He averaged 15.4 points in 7 games from weeks 8-17. If he would've kept that average the whole season, he would've finished as the WR11. Renfrow averaged 10.3 fantasy points for the season and finished as the WR54 in 13 games. If he played 16, he would've been the WR39.

The Raiders drafted 3 players who can play the receiver position in this year's NFL Draft. Henry Ruggs is likely the one that will play the most as he was taken in the first round. I do not think Ruggs is going to be that good for fantasy this year because it takes a lot of time to learn Gruden's system and it will be hard to do it virtually. Ruggs is being drafted around the 8th-9th round and that is way too high. I like Hunter Renfrow and Tyrell Williams as sleepers because they will understand the system a lot more in year 2. You can get both at the end of your drafts and while I am higher on Renfrow because he had over 9 targets in each of his last two games and the slot position likely won't get taken over.

Tight ends - Jon Gruden has found a lot of success at the tight end position in his two years for the Raiders. In 2018 he had Jared Cook who had 101 targets. He caught 68 of those for 896 yards and 6 touchdowns. That was good for 193.6 fantasy points, which made him the TE5. Cook's success was mainly predicated on the fact that they didn't have a top receiver.

In 2019, Jared Cook left leaving the tight end spot wide open. The Raiders were on Hard Knocks that offseason and it was stated that unknown Darren Waller would likely receive the gig. Jon Gruden was bullish on Waller now that he was clean of all substances. He had 117 targets and caught 90 of those for 1145 yards and 3 touchdowns. Waller finished as the TE3. He likely would've had a couple more touchdowns if he didn't finish with 7 drops.

Darren Waller is one of my top tight ends for 2020 due to his volume and the other receivers on that team. Waller will likely not surpass 100 targets, but will probably get pretty close. He will probably get around 90, which is great for a tight end. Waller will benefit from the Raiders signing Jason Witten in free agency, as he will be a great mentor for him. Waller is going around the 4th round and I think that is great value if you want to take a tight end early.

Fantasy analysis:

Breakout: Josh Jacobs

Deep sleepers: Hunter Renfrow, Tyrell Williams

Handcuffs: Marcus Mariota, Lynn Bowden, Bryan Edwards, Jason Witten

I'm not targeting: Derek Carr (Could get benched), Henry Ruggs (Will have to quickly learn the system and should have some early hiccups)

I hope you liked 2020 Fantasy Previews Part 17: Las Vegas Raiders. Next up is 2020 Fantasy Previews Part 18: Los Angeles Chargers. Feel free to comment on your thoughts on the Las Vegas Raiders' offense for fantasy 2020.

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