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
|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%|
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.
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.
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.