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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
Bills awarded waiver claim for QB Matt Simms
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) The quarterback situation in Buffalo has gotten a little more complicated on Friday. The Bills were awarded their waiver claim on QB Matt Simms, who was released by the Jets on Thursday, according to the team's official website. 

Simms has played just four games and has completed 19 of 39 passes for 195 yards, with a touchdown and an interception in his career.


Falcons waive LB Prince Shembo due to animal cruelty charges
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) The Falcons have decided to waive linebacker Prince Shembo on Friday after he was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, per nfl.com.

"We are aware of the charges that have been filed against Prince Shembo," the team said in a statement. "We are extremely disappointed that one of our players is involved in something like this. Accordingly, we have decided to waive Prince Shembo."

Shembo recorded 59 tackles in 16 games for the Falcons last season.


Rams RB Trey Watts suspended four games
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Rams running back Trey Watts has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, according to profootballtalk.com.

Watts, who made the team in 2014 as an undrafted free agent, played in 14 games last season and rushed for 30 yards on seven carries.

Watts is eligible to return for Week 5 against the Packers.


Falcons LB Prince Shembo charged with cruelty to animals
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Falcons linebacker Prince Shembo is being accused of killing his ex-girlfriend's dog and has been charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Police said Denicia Williams, Shembo's ex-girlfriend, reported on April 19 that Shembo had killed her Yorkie.

Williams took the dog to Shembo's residence and left them unattended at some point. When she returned, the dog was unresponsive.

Shembo recorded 59 tackles in 16 games for the Falcons last season.


Seahawks' Kam Chancellor: 'This is the strongest offseason I've had'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor feels good. He should, he's finally healthy.

Chancellor, who has become accustomed to rehabbing nagging injuries during the offseason, is practicing with the team during organized team activities for the first time in a while, per The News Tribune.

“I feel great. Back to football form. Feel fast. Feel strong. I just feel good out there," Chancellor said. "I think this is the strongest offseason I’ve had since I’ve been in the league. I’ve been actually able to train in the offseason instead of having surgeries.”

Chancellor recorded 78 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in 14 games last season.


Cardinals RB coach: David Johnson 'reminds me a lot of Matt Forte'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Cardinals rookie runningback David Johnson received a huge compliment from his position coach, per nfl.com.

Running backs coach Stump Mitchell said the third-round pick reminds him of a Pro Bowl running back.

"He reminds me a lot of Matt Forte," Mitchell said. "You can put him outside and use him as a receiver and he's a good runner."

Mitchell sees the comparison between the two when it comes to Johnson's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, something Forte has excelled at throughout his career.

"He has excellent hands and he's a bigger target to throw the ball to," Mitchell said. "He's going to be a big piece of the puzzle before this season is said and done."

Johnson rushed for 1,553 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior at Northern Iowa last year.


Patriots Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler absent at OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Patriots cornerback and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler was noticeably absent from organized team activities on Friday, per nesn.com. It's unclear why Butler was not at practice.

Butler recorded 15 tackles in 11 games last season, but most noticeably came up with a game-clinching interception in the waning moments of Super Bowl XLIX.


Cowboys excited and cautious with return of LB Sean Lee
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee tore his ACL during organized team activities last year. This year, he has been limited to individual drills during non-padded parctices, per The Dallas Morning News.

Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said the team is happy to have Lee back but that they will pace him along slowly.

"He's a ball of energy and excitement and that represents who we are," Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "He's moving well. We're just being smart as we get him ready to go. But he's got a lot of good quality work in."


Chiefs' Jeremy Maclin getting work in as a punt returner
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was the Chiefs' prized free-agent pickup this offseason, which makes it that much more intriguing that he lined up to return punts during practice on Thursday, per ESPN.com.

Maclin, who signed a five-year, $55 million deal with the Chiefs, was a premier punt returner in college and played the role sparingly -- with little success -- with the Eagles.

Coach Andy Reid said the team is preparing Maclin just in case he's needed to return punts or kicks because of injuries.

We just want to make sure he is ready,’’ Reid said. “You have limited numbers that you can dress on game day, so you don’t know what rotation you are going to have there with the receivers and returners. So it gives you an opportunity to keep him fresh. We don’t work him every day like the other guys. It’s kind of an every other day deal, so just to make sure that he’s okay and can still do that, but he’s not going to be the primary guy doing it right now.”


Eagles CB Byron Maxwell guarantees trip to Super Bowl 50
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell knows what it takes to make a Super Bowl run, he's appeared in two straight as a key member of the vaunted Seahawks defense.

Now, Maxwell is confident the Eagles will make a run to the big game and he will make his third consecutive appearance, per NFL.com.

"Because I've been there before," Maxwell said. "Knowing what it's like if we go that far. Because we're gonna go that far this year, meaning the playoffs and the Super Bowl. We're gonna go that far. Hopefully that experience I already had, I can help them."

The Eagles haven't made a Super Bowl since their 24-21 loss to the Patriots in 2004, but Maxwell didn't backtrack with his comments.

"You can take that as a guarantee," he said. "That's just me believing in my team and the product we're going to put out there on the field. I really do believe that. I have no choice but to think that way."

Maxwell, who signed a six-year, $60 million deal with the Eagles this offseason, recorded 39 tackles and two interceptions in 13 games last season.


 
 
 
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