For the first time since 2007, it actually feels like the Raiders have a chance to be competitive. Maybe not to make the playoffs or even finish above .500, but there is a sense of optimism.
That's because JaMarcus Russell is no longer with the team. The former No. 1 overall pick was released this offseason, taking with him a lowly 52 percent completion percentage and more interceptions than touchdowns.
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Campbell will improve all the weapons in Oakland, and he should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback. But his biggest asset this season will be giving the Raiders hope, and that's something they haven't had the past four years.
Sleeper ... Michael Bush, RB
Bush and Darren McFadden are going to share carries this year, but both running backs should get a boost in production from the previous two seasons. That's because Justin Fargas is no longer in Oakland.
The Raiders plan to use Bush and McFadden in tandem, and Bush has shown in limited carries he can be productive. He's only carried the ball 218 times for 1,010 yards and six touchdowns the past two years, but his 4.6 yards per carry is impressive. McFadden, by comparison, has 217 carries for 856 yards (3.9 yards) and five touchdowns over that same span. Where McFadden shines is as a receiver with 50 catches for 530 yards, and he will likely be used in passing situations.
Bush is more of a traditional rusher, and he should also be used near the goal line. We like Bush as a No. 3 Fantasy running back, and we would take him ahead of McFadden. We think Bush is worth a late-round pick in all leagues, and don't be surprised if he starts for you by the end of the season, especially in deeper formats.
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Breakout ... Zach Miller, TE
Miller finished with 66 catches for 805 yards and three touchdowns last year. His reception total was No. 9 among tight ends while his yardage total was No. 8. But Miller was only No. 12 in Fantasy production in 2009, which likely would have been lower had Owen Daniels, Jermichael Finley and Chris Cooley been healthy all year. This season, however, Miller should be a legitimate Top 12 option.
He's improved his receptions and yardage total in each of his three seasons in the NFL, but he's never had more than three touchdowns. But now he has a quality quarterback in Campbell, who likes using his tight end -- just ask Cooley and Fred Davis. Cooley averaged 75 catches for 818 yards and five touchdowns from 2007-08 with Campbell, and Davis had 48 catches for 509 yards and six touchdowns last year after he took over when Cooley broke his ankle.
Miller is worth drafting after all the elite tight ends are off the board, and we expect Miller to finally play like a standout Fantasy option.
Late-round flier ... Louis Murphy, WR
The Raiders were counting on a rookie wide receiver in 2009, but they expected it to be Darrius Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 overall selection, and not Murphy, who was drafted in Round 4. But it was Murphy who finished second on the team with 34 catches and 521 yards, and he led the Raiders with four touchdowns. Heyward-Bey had a dismal year with nine catches for 124 yards and one touchdown.
It should be more of the same this season with Murphy being the No. 2 option in the passing game after Miller. Chaz Schilens may never live up to his potential due to injuries, and he's still dealing with foot problems. And, despite a good offseason, Heyward-Bey has a long way to go before he should be considered Fantasy relevant.
Murphy is worth drafting with a late-round pick since Campbell will improve the passing game for the Raiders. Plan on using Murphy as a reserve option, and he could turn into a decent bye-week replacement during the year.
The Raiders offense could get off to a good start with a home game against the Rams in Week 2 and against the Texans without Brian Cushing (suspension) in Week 4. The Raiders have a long road trip at Jacksonville in Week 14, but they benefit from Miami making the cross-country trip the week before. They also get Indianapolis in Week 16, which could be a benefit if the Colts are resting starters like they did last year.
Training camp topics
Fantasy owners have been conditioned to avoid the Raiders based on their lack of offense, but this year should be different. You'll want to watch the Raiders during the preseason to see some of the changes.
Campbell gives Oakland its best quarterback since Rich Gannon, and the running backs should improve now that it's two heads instead of three with Fargas gone. Heyward-Bey might also show signs of life after a productive offseason where he was catching the ball instead of dropping it.
Oakland also has continuity in the coaching staff with Tom Cable, surprisingly, back for another season. The Raiders might be ready to turn the corner, and we'll find out in training camp if this new approach can lead to better Fantasy production across the board.
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