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Fantasy Football Offensive Evaluation: Oakland Raiders

Oh, the Raiders.

The league's biggest joke? No offense to Raiders fans, but we know where to place the blame. On that skeleton in the sky making the wonkiest decisions one could ever dream up. It became a place where fantasy went to die.

You have to wipe away a very thick, disgusting layer of awful in order to see or remember that this was a top 5 offense from 2000-2002, leading into a Super Bowl appearance that was actually "Raiders offense versus Bucs defense" At the time, it sounded fine. Today saying "Raiders offense" is like saying "Lance Armstrongs muffintop"

It makes no sense. Lance Armstrong doesn't have a muffintop, and the Raiders don't have an offense. At least, it still feels that way. From 2003-2009 the Raiders scoring offense finished in the bottom third in the league all but once, and they topped out at 18th way back in '04. Then out of nowhere head coach Tom Cable improved his team from 31st in 09 to 6th(!) last season.

The Raiders outscored their opponents for the first time in 7 years, finished 8-8, and were generally one of the hottest teams in the league on offense after week 4. So what was the reasonable thing to do? Fire Cable of course.

Will the offense suffer because of it? Well, they promoted offensive coordinate Hue Jackson to replace Cable, and then Jackson replaced himself with experienced offensive coordinator and former head coach Al Saunders. They've had some important losses on offense over the season on the o-line and TE, they didn't do anything to improve their QB situation, so what will the Oakland offense look like this year? Let's see....

Quarterback

Jason Campbell

Since 2002, the Raiders have had 12 quarterbacks start a game. Star names like Andrew Walter, Charlie Frye, and Rick Mirer combined for 20 starts just on their own. So Jason Campbell, former franchise savior in Washington, was going to save the day right? Campbell might be a slightly better version of former Saints and Raiders quarterback Aaron Brooks, but that's not saying very much. He completed 59% of his passes last year, 13 TD/8 INT, 84.5 rating in 12 starts.

In 2005 the Raiders were in need of a quarterback and opted to draft Andrew Walter in the 3rd round. In the first round, they drafted Fabian Washington.... one pick ahead of Aaron Rodgers to Green Bay. (Jason Campbell was the next pick)

The Raiders have some very interesting players around Campbell, but who can trust him to take advantage of that when he completes less of 60% of his passes, can't get it down field, and makes poor decisions? I would list him as a QB3, whatever that is.

Trent Edwards

I admit to being a fan of Edwards after 2008, when he completed 65% of his passes in 14 starts for almost 200 yards a game, 11 TD/10 INT, in Buffalo, at age 25. I was impressed. He proved his doubters right and in just 2 short years he's gone from promising to not being good enough to start for the Raiders. Edwards was 10 of 19 in the first preseason game for 140 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INT. The Raiders haven't had 1 QB make all 16 starts since 2002, so there's a decent chance Edwards could see some game action. Whoopee?

Kyle Boller

Hey Kyle Boller has a pretty face, is fit, and makes 6 figures to run practice drills and such for an NFL football team. Don't feel bad for Kyle Boller, he has it better than 99% of the population. In fact, screw you Kyle Boller.

Running Back

Darren McFadden

So. Many. Bad. Draft. Picks.

That seems to be the motto of the Raiders, who had so many high picks and did so little with it. Raiders fans had to pray that somehow the guy with the fasted 40 time in the combine would also be the best player available for their first round selection, and it just rarely works that way. I'm sure countless people have told that to Al Davis, but I'm sure he just nods and laughs it off like an old-man would. "Crazy kids"

However, there was reason for optimism with McFadden. He really was considered to be one of the best players in college football, if not the best. He was incredibly physically gifted, but also had a brain to go with it. Many teams would have selected McFadden where the Raiders did, which makes it so surprising that they didn't select Usain Bolt or Carl Lewis. Yet it still didn't seem to be working with McFadden. It seemed the Raiders had ruined him and he rushed for 856 yards and 5 TDs in his first 2 seasons combined. Then last season McFadden became one of the big steals of the draft. He rushed for 1157 yards on 5.2 yards per carry with 7 TDs, and caught 47 passes for 507 yards and 3 more scores. McFadden had a couple of disappointing games but for the most part was consistent, rushing for 95 yards or more in 8 of his 13 games.

McFadden will go late 1st, early 2nd, and I think anything in the 2nd round is a steal. He's young, talented as hell, and has opportunity. I'm thinking a healthy McFadden can top 1,400 yards, grab 50 catches, and score 10-15 TDs.

Michael Bush

There's some Frank Gore like upside in Michael Bush. At Louisville, he became a star running back his junior year, rushing for 23 TDs and he probably would have been a top pick for some team but he decided to go back for his senior season. In the first game of the year he rushed for 128 yards and 3 TDs against Kentucky... and he also broke his leg so badly that he wouldn't play football again for 2 more years.

The Raiders drafted Bush in the 4th round in 2007 based on his potential, knowing he wouldn't play that year. He's now had 3 healthy years in the NFL and there's no reason to believe he can't regain the potential he once had. Bush ran for 137 yards and a score in the season finale against Kansas City, and 104 yards and a score in week 5 against San Diego. If anything happens to McFadden, Bush is a must-own. He may be worth drafting anyway, and especially if you own McFadden. I have a gut feeling that somewhere down the line, whether its in Oakland or another city, Bush will be a top 10-15 running back in fantasy for at least a year or two.

I won't go into much more, but because McFadden is banged up right now (broken orbital bone, expected back soon) and Bush's injury history, the other names you need to know are Michael Bennett and 4th round rookie Taiwan Jones (4.33 40 time) but if it gets to that point, I'd be worried.

Wide Receiver

Jacoby Ford

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Oakland Raider drafts player with fasted 40 at the combine. Surprise! Ford is a former track star at Clemson and busted a 4.28 time at the NFL combine last year. Here's the real surprise, Jacoby Ford is actually a pretty good football player. He returned 3 kicks for TDs last season, and scored 4 TD's on offense, making him one of the sneakier fantasy plays in 2010. Ford didn't really get integrated into the offense until the 2nd half of the season and in the final 8 games of the year he caught 21 passes for 433 yards and 2 TDs. He also ran for 2 touchdowns. When the Raiders offense started to go off last year, Jacoby was a big part of that and though he doesn't look like a classic "#1 WR" neither did Steve Smith once upon a time. I'm targeting him big time in the draft this year. He's out with a broken hand right now, but expected to return before the season starts.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

Ford is an example of how you can get it right with a speedy wide receiver. Heyward-Bey is an example of where it goes wrong. He's one of the fastest players in college or NFL history, running a 4.23 40 while at Maryland. Oakland mostly ignored the fact that he didn't have outstanding (but good) numbers at Maryland and took him 7th overall in 2009. He has 35 catches for 490 yards in his 2 year career. Last season against Seattle, one of the worst secondaries in the NFL, he had 5 catches for 105 yards. That is his career highlight. He could be relegated to being the #3 WR in Oakland, and that might be lucky, but what if he did "figure it out"? I admit that his speed makes him very interesting, but he's got to learn how to play in the NFL.

Denarius Moore

If a 5th round rookie starts getting talked about as your #1 WR, is that a reflection on him or a reflection on your team? Probably a case of both in Oakland. Moore is shooting up draft boards because he's been perhaps the most exciting and best player in their camp, taking advantage of injuries to Oaklands other receivers. He caught 3 passes for 37 yards in the first preseason game and some are saying that he'll be the most targeted player in Oakland this season. So, how should that affect his value? I think some or over-valuing Moore because they hear things like that, but forget that A.) He's a 5th round rookie and B.) Louis Murphy led WRs last season with 41 catches and 609 yards. Moore is a sleeper pick, not one to be overdrafted. There's still competition in Oakland, Ford and Murphy will still get a lot of targets, and Jason Campbell is still the QB. If he gets 600 yards, that's a great accomplishment for him, but still makes him a WR4 at best.

Louis Murphy

As stated, Murphy led Oakland WRs last year. But he's suffered a number of injuries already and is ruled out for week 1. He started 2010 off hot, catching 15 passes for 238 yards in the first 3 games, but cooled off considerably, and is now probably 3rd on the depth chart.

Tight End

Kevin Boss

The Zach Miller era is over in Oakland. He led the team in receiving yards in each of the last 3 seasons, leaving a big hole to fill at the tight end spot. That hole has been filled like a Boss. I'm a Kevin Boss fan, I think he's a steady option even if he's not spectacular. But he might be in a slightly better situation now if he can fully replicate what Miller was doing and I think he can come close. He had 35 catches for 531 yards last year, making his 15 yards per catch one of the best in the NFL for tight ends. He's a late sleeper in drafts, and a good option to plug in there if you have an injury to your starter.

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