Oakland Raiders 2012 Offense Preview: Can Carson Palmer Elevate Them?

It does not look like they're talking about the same thing.

The Raiders went for broke. Draft picks and dollar signs flew out the window like they were having a sale on... draft picks and dollar signs? I don't know, I've been writing a lot lately, okay? I've only got so much before I have to re-fuel. (Transition to Raiders, Kenny. Come on, you can do this)

Oakland also has to re-fuel. (Boom. Still got it.)

The addition of Carson Palmer looked like a desperate move and it cost the organization a lot. At first, it seemed like a bad move, but as the season went on it did appear that maybe Palmer still had something left in the tank. (Great work, dude! You just went back to the gas analogy.) Upon closer inspection, while Palmer definitely looked rusty and frustrating at times, it was better than he had looked for the Bengals in quite some time. Oakland is not that short on talent around him either, as long as they can stay healthy. It's hard to believe that at the beginning of this century, the Raiders were an offensive football team, but that's what they used to be.

With an emerging group of wide receivers and just maybe the best running back in the NFL, could they be back there? Was Palmer the key to unlocking that fortune of points? Or did the Raiders just raise the price of gas by a full dollar even though they're filling up at AM/PM? (Nailed it)

Here's a preview of the 2012 Oakland Raiders from a fantasy perspective:

2011 Record: 8-8

Drafted Skill Players: Juron Criner, WR (5th round)

Dearly Departed: Kevin Boss, Michael Bush, Jason Campbell, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chaz Schilens, Kyle Boller

QB

Carson Palmer

The Raiders unconscionably traded a 2012 first round pick and a conditional 2013 second round pick (first rounder if they win a Divisional Round playoff game this year) for Palmer, a player that fits the mold of franchise quarterback in many ways but had not been truly elite for at least five seasons. On top of that, he still had a hefty contract and everybody knew for a fact that he'd never play for the Bengals again. While Palmer threw 26 touchdowns and for almost 4,000 yards in 2010, he had also thrown 20 interceptions and for just 6.8 yards per attempt. Still, the Raiders were desperate after Jason Campbell went down for the season and they suspected that they could still win the division. They nearly did, but ultimately came up short and are now truly banking on Palmer returning to form.

Can he?

The interesting thing is that Palmer did end up having an interesting season with Oakland. His 8.4 yards per attempt were a career high and if you throw out his first game, in which he had no business playing in and threw 0 TD and 3 INT, he had an even better season.

Palmer, 32, was not perfect but he did have some good games. He started nine games and in:

4 games he had a QB rating over 100

5 games had multiple touchdowns

5 games had over 9 yards per attempt

3 games completed ovver 70% of his passes

Remember, this is a guy that hadn't played all year long, hadn't gone to training camp, hadn't had but a few practices with his teammates, and wasn't working with the most extraordinary of talent around him. But he managed to have a pretty decent season. I'm sure Oakland fans are very curious to see what Palmer will do now that he has had a lot more time to work on timing with his receivers and develop a real relationship with them. I don't want to go overboard and say that Palmer will become a Pro Bowl quarterback again, but he could be highly underrated.

2012 Projection: 62.5%, 4,000 yards, 28 TD, 15 INT

Matt Leinart

You'd think that these were the Seahawks quarterbacks with all the talk that Pete Carroll focuses on USC guys. The two former Trojans stars are back together again, and this time Palmer won't be "graduating" any time soon to give Leinart a shot; he's going to have to find a way to take it. (Not likely)

Since 2007, Leinart has made just two starts. Last season he finally got another shot when Matt Schaub went down in Houston, but after going 10-of-13 for just 57 yards, Leinart found himself on IR. Palmer has remained pretty healthy over the last few seasons, but there's always a chance that he goes down.

2012 Projection: Hot tub livin'

Terrelle Pryor

The Raiders spent a supplemental second round pick on Pryor last season and it has not yet panned out. If the season started today, he'd be the third string QB. Who knows what his future holds. Normally I would say something to make fun of a third string QB, whatever, but Pryor has had some personal tragedy lately, so let's just give the kid a break.

RB

Darren McFadden

I snagged McFadden in like the third or fourth round of a draft last year and I consider it both my greatest pick and an unfortunate mistake. If health were not an issue, McFadden would be anywhere from the fifth to simply the best fantasy (or real) running back in the game. In my opinion, he's everything you look for in a classic running back. Unfortunately, health is an issue.

McFadden has played in 13, 12, 13, and 7 games in each of his four seasons. He tallied 614 yards on 5.4 yards per carry but missed nine games with injury. The injury is going to get you a potential #1 fantasy player later than he would normally go, but he has not been the measure of health in his NFL career. It's a chance you're willing to take at a certain point in the draft, but ignoring health completely will almost always get you in trouble.

2012 Projection: 12 games, 200 carries, 1,100 yards, 9 TD. (If 16 games: 280 carries, 1,400 yards, 12 TD)

Taiwan Jones

The departure of Michael Bush is leaving a more sizable hole than I would have expected. People were wondering if they'd make a push to sign someone like Cedric Benson (who is still available) but they didn't, instead grabbing Mike Goodson from Carolina. His neck injury from practice seems to be okay, but just another reminder that they do not have much behind the guy that missed nine games last season.

Jones is interesting. 6'0", 200 lb, 4.33 40-yard-dash. He played in ten games last season after being a 4th round pick and carried it 16 times for 73 yards. He's not built anything like McFadden, so he's more like the complement instead of the replacement, if anything were to happen to McFadden.

Mike Goodson

He carried the ball 103 times for 452 yards for the Panthers in 2010 and played in four games with zero carries last season. He's also built more like Jones than McFadden, except not as fast. He did have two 100 yard games back-to-back in 2010 and then three straight games with a touchdown, as some of you fantasy players may remember.

Truth be told, I don't know what he'd do this season if asked to start, but we might find out.

Lonyae Miller

Is dangerously close to playing.

Marcel Reece is a fan favorite at fullback, but more valuable to the Raiders than to your fantasy squad.

WR

Darrius Heyward-Bey

DHB clicked incredibly well with Carson Palmer by the end of the season, catching 26 passes for 433 yards and two touchdowns over the final four games. Production close to that for 16 games would make him an easy WR1 and one of the top receivers in the game, something completely unexpected from Heyward after his first two years in the league.

He's basically one of the most Al Davis picks you'll ever see, but then again, what Al Davis pick wasn't so obviously an Al Davis pick? Russell?

But this one might actually be working out. However, receivers coach Dennis Allen does not care about having a "number one wide receiver" as he said in training camp, only that the guys are doing what they need to do to prepare for the game and then I think Palmer is going to float it around without focusing on any guy in particular. He did build up Chad Johnson and T.J. in Cincinnati to be fantasy receivers (not that Johnson wouldn't have been anyway) and he could be doing that again for Heyward-Bey and another guy. Who though?

2012 Projection: I'm not going to go crazy.... Heyward-Bey did click well with Palmer but he also had a very similar stretch with Campbell/Boller from weeks four-seven until he got injured. Wait, maybe that's still a good thing. Still not going crazy: 60 catches, 1000 yards, 5 TD

Jacoby Ford

When I asked my buddy Levi Damien over at Silver and Black Pride which receiver I should like the most, he told me Ford. I don't have a problem with that because Ford was my favorite Oakland receiver going into last season until he ultimately disappointed. But it's not for a lack of speed or explosiveness.

Ford is a wind-up car that just goes. He's exciting but he needs to consistently put it together and also decide where he is going to go when he turns on the burners. Palmer is reportedly clicking well with him and I'll hype up the Jacoby Train once again. Modestly.

2012 Projection: 50 catches, 900 yards, 6 TD

Denarius Moore

A really strong training camp and preseason pushed Moore from the 5th round of the 2011 draft to actually being drafted in fantasy leagues with high expectations. Week One: 0 catches. DROP! DROP! DROP!

Week two: 5 for 146 and a TD. PICKUP! PICKUP! PICKUP!

And so it went like that for basically the whole season. Moore had 195 yards over the final two games. Again, Allen might mean it when he says that there is no "number one" because all three of these guys (and as usual in Oakland, perhaps a mystery player) could have similar production.

2012 Projection: 40 catches, 850 yards, 5 TD

Juron Criner and Rod Streater

The rookies are wild cards that have impressed at times, but still too early to make any projections, especially with a solid depth chart at the top.

TE

Brandon Myers

The Raiders let Kevin Boss go and so they've got a huge gap at tight end without much in the way of experience or knowledge on these guys. Allen has said that Myers has the edge from a receiving standpoint. There's not going to be as much headed towards the TE in Oakland as there is around the rest of the league. But it's interesting to monitor.

Scott Chandler was an older TE last year without any career production, it's possible that Myers is this years Chandler.

2012 Projection: 25 catches for 350 yards, 3 TD

Richard Gordon, David Ausberry, and Tory Humphrey fight for position as well.

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