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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Oakland Raiders

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Raiders were at times a good Fantasy team in 2013 and at times maddening. Will things change in 2014? The team definitely upgraded at some key spots.

Go back to last year when Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden looked like starting Fantasy options to open the season. It didn't end that way, as Pryor lost his job and McFadden -- surprise -- got hurt.

Rashad Jennings ended the year as a quality Fantasy option, but he's now gone as a free agent to the Giants. And we had a few moments from Rod Streater, but there are several new faces headed to the Black Hole in 2014.

Matt Schaub and rookie Derek Carr will upgrade the quarterback spot, with Schaub the starter barring another string of pick-six interceptions like we saw in Houston last year. Maurice Jones-Drew will replace the departed Jennings, and James Jones was signed as a free agent to be the No. 1 receiver.

I'm not sold on any of the Raiders as a starting Fantasy option this year -- Jones-Drew is a flex at best and Streater is actually my favorite receiver on the team -- but at least there's hope. Maybe we'll finally see more consistent production from the Raiders this fall.

Won't be the same ... James Jones

Jones has shown flashes of being a solid Fantasy receiver the past two years, including a breakout performance in 2012 with 64 catches for 784 yards and 14 touchdowns. But that was with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.

Newsflash, but Schaub and Carr don't live in the same neighborhood as Rodgers. And because of that, Jones is no longer a Fantasy option to covet. He's an easy bust candidate.

Rodgers missed seven games last season with a shoulder injury, and Jones finished with 59 catches for 817 yards and three touchdowns. He had three games with double digits in Fantasy points, but only one without Rodgers.

He struggled when he didn't have an elite quarterback. Now, you can argue that he goes from the third option with the Packers behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to arguably the No. 1 option with the Raiders. But, based on talent, is he superior to Streater or even Denarius Moore? I'm not so sure.

Jones was a product of the Green Bay offense and Rodgers. He has never had more than 820 receiving yards over seven seasons or caught 65 passes in a year. He needs touchdowns to be productive, but Oakland's receivers combined for 10 touchdowns last season (Moore had five, Streater had four and Andre Holmes had one). The upgrade with Schaub should change that, but Jones isn't going to blow you away with his production.

I would only draft him with a late-round pick in deep leagues. Otherwise, leave him on waivers until he proves himself in his new environment.

Near the end ... Maurice Jones-Drew

Jones-Drew has been about as dependable as they come for Fantasy owners. In his eight-year career, he was a Top 20 Fantasy running back seven times, including last season when he looked sluggish and slow.

He averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry and finished with 234 carries for 803 yards and five touchdowns and 43 catches for 314 yards. He had seven games with double digits in Fantasy points despite one game -- Week 14 against Houston -- with 100 rushing yards.

We hope he's not done at 29, but he might not be the featured running back in a shared role with McFadden. He's not going to run away from defenders any more, and if McFadden stays healthy his receiving stats should dwindle.

He's worth the risk as a flex option in the Round 5 or 6 range, but he's someone to settle for on Draft Day, not target. His best days are behind him, and we could be witnessing the end of his career in 2014.

Sneaky sleeper ... Rod Streater

2013 Touches Leaders
735 total touches
Rashad Jennings 199 (163 car., 36 rec.) 27.1%
Darren McFadden 131 (114 car., 17 rec.) 17.8%
Marcel Reece 78 (46 car., 32 rec.) 10.6%
Rod Streater 62 (2 car., 60 rec. 8.4%
Denarius Moore 46 rec. 6.3%
All Others 219 29.8%

Streater isn't someone you're going to be excited about on Draft Day, and he might go undrafted in most standard leagues. But keep him on your radar because this could be a breakout year.

He's entering his third season in the NFL, which is typically when receivers take the next step in their production. And Streater is headed in the right direction with increases in catches and yards in his first two years, including 60 receptions for 888 yards and four touchdowns in 2013.

The quarterback change to Schaub should help, and Streater has more upside than Jones or Moore. He might open the season No. 3 on the depth chart behind Jones and Moore, but Streater is the only Raiders receiver I'd even consider drafting in any format.

Schedule analysis

The Raiders are going to be early risers a lot in 2014 with five 1 p.m. ET kickoffs, including three of their first four outings at the Jets in Week 1, at New England in Week 3 and vs. Miami in Week 4 in London. Oakland faces the NFC West this season, which means four tough matchups against Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona and St. Louis, including the Seahawks on the road. There aren't a lot of easy matchups on the docket, which will make trusting any of the Raiders even harder this year.

Training camp battles

Who's the starting running back? McFadden is the incumbent, but Jones-Drew is the free-agent signee with the better pedigree. No matter who starts, the likely scenario is Jones-Drew playing on rushing downs and McFadden being the change-of-pace option and receiver out of the backfield. We wish Latavius Murray would get a shot for extended playing time, but it will likely take an injury for him to get increased touches.

What's the pecking order at receiver? Jones is the only guaranteed starter, but the Raiders don't have a true No. 1 receiver. Outside of Jones, the other starter should be Streater, but Moore and Holmes will compete for that role. We know all four will play, as well as Greg Little competing to be in the mix. For Fantasy owners, you should go into the year with this order: Streater, Jones, Moore, Holmes and Little. I might even move Moore ahead of Jones, but it's hard to count on either player. Little was a good pickup for the Raiders because he's a low-salary option with talent, but he's struggled with drops and inconsistent play. Maybe the change of scenery will help. And Holmes has upside but still has to prove himself.

Does Derek Carr have a chance to start? The Raiders are hoping Schaub starts all 16 games this season, giving Carr the chance to learn from the bench. But we saw Schaub struggle in Houston in 2013, and if the Raiders are out of contention by November, Carr could get some starts down the stretch. We don't recommend drafting Carr in any standard leagues, but he could be a waiver-wire addition if he gets on the field and possibly plays well. Schaub is just a late-round flier in deep two-quarterback leagues.

Bold prediction

Stop me if you heard this before -- possibly from me the past few years -- but McFadden has the talent to be an elite Fantasy running back. He just can't stay healthy. He opened 2013 with three games with double digits in Fantasy points and finished the year with four. That's only three less than Jones-Drew, and they scored the same amount of touchdowns despite McFadden playing in six fewer games. McFadden is two years younger than Jones-Drew, and all it could take is McFadden staying healthy for him to be the best Raiders running back. You're not going to draft McFadden as anything more than a late-round flier, but don't be surprised when he finishes with more Fantasy points than Jones-Drew in all formats.

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Player News
Texans' O'Brien: WR DeAndre Hopkins can 'be one of the best'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is very encouraged by the performance of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last season, per ESPN. O'Brien went as far as to say that Hopkins can be one of the best.

"He had a really productive year," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "The thing that we really like about Hop and that we want him to continue to do is his work ethic. He’s a hungry player. He works every single day. He came into the spring a year ago and he was learning the offense and thinking out there, then all of a sudden you could see all the work he put in and learning, he just took off."

Due to the departure of wide receiver Andre Johnson, the progression of Hopkins will be under the microscope as he is now the focal point of the passing offense.

"We just want to see him continue and progress," O'Brien said. "We think he can be one of the best, we think he is one of the best. We have a lot of confidence in him and we’re looking forward to seeing him progress when the offseason program starts."

In two years with the Texans, Hopkins has reeled in 128 receptions for 2012 yards and eight touchdowns.


Giants won't rush WR Victor Cruz back to the field
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Although Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is hopeful that wide receiver Victor Cruz will be ready by training camp, the team will not rush him back, reports ESPN.

"I shouldn't say this, because medically I really don't have a definite answer, but by training camp hopefully, even if it's just to bring him," Coughlin said. "We're not going to just throw him to the wind. He'll work his way through. But I hope that would be the target."

Cruz tore his patellar tendon in week six of the 2014 season, causing him to miss the rest of the year. Coughlin is hopeful that he'll return to be the player that he was before the injury.

"I think he'll be the player that he was, and hopefully better," Coughlin said of Cruz. "But as far as when, I would be careful of what I would say there. Hopefully it's the first game. But if it isn't, you know we've done that one before. We just went through it. But I'm hoping it would be."

The former undrafted free agent has tallied 264 receptions for 3,963 yards and 24 touchdowns.


Lions QB Matthew Stafford to take more chances through the air
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's system for the first time last season. The team plans on taking more chances down the field in Stafford's second season in the new offense, Lombardi said, according to the team's official website.

“In his second year (in the offense) he’s going to be that much more comfortable,” Lombardi said.

“We’ll be able to tailor the offense a little bit more to what he likes and what he’s good at. I thought he played smart football and sometimes to a fault. We’ll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football.”

Although Stafford didn't take many shots down the field, he did throw a career-low 12 interceptions in 2014. 

The former first overall draft pick has thrown for 21,714 yards with 131 touchdowns and 85 interceptions during his six-year career.


Colts OLB Robert Mathis plans to be ready for training camp
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is not ready to run yet, he told Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL. Mathis added that he plans to be ready for the start of training camp.

“It’s not going as fast as I would like to, but we are getting well and we should be clicking in camp,” Mathis told Sirius.

Mathis was suspended for the first four games of last season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. He then suffered a torn achilles, forcing him to miss all 16 games of the 2014 season.

During his 11-year career with the Colts, Mathis has collected 487 total tackles, 111.0 sacks, 15 passes defensed and 48 forced fumbles.


Lions TE Eric Ebron has been working out with Matthew Stafford
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said that tight end Eric Ebron has been working out with quarterback Matthew Stafford in Atlanta this offseason, reports the Detroit News. Lombardi also said that the plan is to have Ebron be the No. 3 weapon in the passing game this year.

Ebron, 21, finished his rookie season with 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. 


Cowboys' Tony Romo: DeMarco Murray asked me to take a pay cut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Eagles running back DeMarco Murray was really hoping to remain with the Cowboys this offseason. So much so, he asked quarterback Tony Romo to take a pay cut to remain with the team, Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, per the Dallas Morning News.

"DeMarco ended up asking me, 'Why don't you take a pay cut?' I said, 'I will. I would take a pay cut to go do this,'" Romo said. "I was like, 'They're going to restructure me.' That's the same thing in some ways, just for the salary cap purposes. He was like, 'OK, now we're back to being friends again.' I would take $5 million less if meant getting him back.

"He knew that. It was just funny how he was literally worried about that part of it for a week. I'm like, 'That's not the reason.' I'm like, 'Obviously I'll restructure. I would even take a pay cut.' He was like, 'OK, we can be friends again.' It's amazing what you think about in those moments."


Giants QB Eli Manning wants to take offense 'to another level'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Giants quarterback Eli Manning is entering the second year in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system. Manning is ready to take the next step now that he is familiar with the system, reports the NY Daily News.

““This year will be a much easier transition, knowing that we have been through so much of it already,” said Manning, who recently had been working out at Ole Miss with some of their receivers and alumni. “It’s definitely a different starting point. I feel good about it. I feel that I have a good understanding of it.

“But there is still room to grow and that is why I try to keep it as fresh in my mind as possible. Looking at old game-plan sheets and calling plays in my head – throwing routes with receivers trying to call out plays to myself, so you don’t let it slip away. It was new last year and it wasn’t something I have been doing for 10 years, so you want to keep it fresh and go through your reminders and all your checks. So when we come back I haven’t taken a step backwards and have to re-learn things. It is still all there. There will be new stuff and we will be taking it to another level.”

Manning has started all 16 games in each season since 2005, throwing for 39,755 yards with 259 touchdowns and 185 interceptions.


Saints TE Josh Hill wants to grow into new role
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) After trading trading Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks, tight end Josh Hill is ready to step into his new role with the Saints, according to the team's offical website.

“I think it might open a few opportunities for me as I continue to grow in my role and just do everything they ask me to do,” Hill said when asked about the trade of Graham to the Seahawks.

Hill recognized that Graham helped him transition from college to the professional level.

“It’s a big difference, especially coming from a smaller school and a smaller city," Hill said. "He was always there for me. We became pretty good friends over the past few years so it will definitely be different without him.”

Head coach Sean Payton believes that Hill is ready to step up.

“Josh Hill is a player that we value a lot," Payton said last week at the NFL annual meeting. "He’s not on anyone’s fantasy first three rounds, I promise you, but he’s a real good tight end. He’s versatile in the running game, in the pass receiving game, a special teams player.”

Hill, heading into his third year in the NFL, has recorded 20 receptions for 220 yards and six touchdowns. 


Cowboys QB Tony Romo excited about this offseason
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is excited about what the offseason holds for him, according to ESPN.

“This is the first offseason where I’ve been able to kind of get after it this early and be able to kind of improve in a lot of different areas that I think you aren’t able to until you get healthy enough to attack it,” Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday. “I’m just excited about that, really.”

Romo, 34, is encouraged by the fact that he is able to do a lot of different things during the offseason process while working out.

“Now I’m able to do that while actually doing functional strength training through different versions of squats,” Romo said. “I’m not putting anything on my back and doing stuff like that but you are doing a lot of single-leg stuff and different things that I started getting into during the season that helped a lot. Now it’s nice to be able to do that in the offseason.”

Romo has thrown for 33,270 yards with 242 touchdowns and 110 interceptions in his 12-year career. 


WR Dwayne Bowe looks to revitalize himself with Browns
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is looking to revitalize his career now that he has joined the Browns, reports ESPN. Bowe was cut by the Chiefs in the middle of March.

"I have a chance to revitalize myself," Bowe, 30, told ESPN.com via telephone Tuesday. "Just sit back and watch."

Browns general manager Ray Farmer has familiarity with Bowe from their time with the Chiefs. The two sat down and watched tape from the 2010 season when he racked up 15 touchdown receptions.

"Him knowing what I can do, seeing me in practice, making crazy plays, splitting the safeties, he knows I still can do that," Bowe said. "I couldn't showcase that last year. He was pulling up old plays, saying, 'We are going to use you just like that.' Moving around, going on motion, trying to hit the deep ball, trying to break plays."

The 30-year-old wideout appreciated his time with the Chiefs and he has no regrets.

"It's been up and down, but it's been fun," Bowe said. "I don't regret nothing. People can talk about the NFL and playing wide receiver -- I feel I still have a good four more years in me."

Over his eight-year career, he has totaled 532 receptions for 7,155 yards and 44 touchdowns.


 
 
 
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