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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
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians: 'It's really (Fitzgerald's) decision'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:33 am ET) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told reporters Friday he really wants to see wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald back in Arizona next season.

"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t," Arians said. "We definitely, desperately want him to stay. He knows that. It’s really his decision."

Fitzgerald has a salary cap hit of $23.6 million for 2015 and the team will work to get that number down in the offseason. Team president Michael Bidwill said this week contract talks won't start fully until after the Super Bowl.

"I’m hoping and praying every day that it does happen," Arians said. "I’ve expressed to him personally how much it means to us."

Fitzgerald has not reached 1,000 yards receiving in the past three seasons and totaled 784 in 2014 on 63 catches with two touchdowns.


Seahawks corner Byron Maxwell set to test free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:25 am ET) Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell is ready to hit the free-agent market during the upcoming offseason and feels the Super Bowl will be his last game in Seattle.

"I’m the prettiest girl at the dance right now," Maxwell said. "But yeah, it’s one of those things I’m excited about it. I would love to be here, but I’m ready to see what’s out there and see how things work out."

Maxwell, who was heavily targeted this year with the Seahawks secondary filled with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, grabbed two interceptions and defended 11 passes.

"Coming into the season I already knew teams were going to try me," Maxwell said. "But it was cool. I accept that. That’s more opportunities for me to get the rock and put my name out there."


Report: Titans S Bernard Pollard wants to be released
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) Titans safety Bernard Pollard has requested a release from his contract, The Tennessean reports. He is scheduled to make $3.1 million in the final season of his two-year deal in 2015.

Pollard submitted his request to general manager Ruston Webster at the end of the regular season, per the report. He is recovering from a ruptured Achilles and wants to play in 2015, but said on The Tennessean's Bernard Pollard Show earlier this month that he was unsure of his future with the Titans.

"I am not getting any younger, so I want to win, I really do. I want to win,'' Pollard said. "Looking at how things took place this year, looking at where (the Titans) need to be for next year, that is a tough, tough question, and I don't even know if they can give me the answer. I have one year on my deal, but it is going to take some time."

Pollard has been out of his walking boot for a month and is making progress in rehab. He suffered his Achilles injury in Week 5 and was placed on injured reserve.


Patriots fairly healthy heading into Super Bowl Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Patriots will be at nearly full strength for Sunday’s Super Bowl as the following players have been listed as probable: Tom Brady (ankle), Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), Chris Jones (elbow), Akeem Ayers (knee), Darrelle Revis (non-injury-related) and Sealver Siliga (foot).

All except Brady were limited participants in practice Friday. The only question mark is center Bryan Stork, who is questionable with a knee injury and was limited in practice Friday.

The Patriots are currently 1-point favorites against Seattle.


Seahawks unveil final injury report in preparation for Super Bowl
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Seahawks have listed the following players as probable for the Super Bowl on Sunday: J.R. Sweezy (ankle), Justin Britt (knee), Marshawn Lynch (back), Earl Thomas (shoulder), Richard Sherman (elbow) and Kam Chancellor (knee).

Chancellor was a late addition to the injury report, when he fell on the next-to-last play of practice and missed the last play. He was not limping on his way off. All other players were full participants in practice Friday.

The Seahawks are currently 1-point underdogs against New England.


Saints tight end Jimmy Graham to avoid surgery on shoulder
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he will avoid surgery on his shoulder after testing it at the Pro Bowl. 

"I’ve been doing rehab and I’m going to start back on my rehab Monday and really there’s going to be no surgery," Graham told SiriusXM radio. "I’m just going to do rehab, strengthen the area. That’s what’s best — not having to take six months off and try to heal up with a surgery, but now have those six months to work on all things I need to to try and hopefully get to a place like (the Super Bowl) next year."

Graham, who had 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014, fought off the injury for most of the season. He was still unsure about having surgery before the Pro Bowl last week.

"It was something that really needed some rest and unfortunately it wasn’t able to get that during the season," he said. "It happened early and then you have about 10 straight weeks of trying to make it to the game. Now after having about three or four weeks and last week kind of testing it at the Pro Bowl, it feels great."


Vikings' Greg Jennings: We all want Adrian Peterson back
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Vikings veteran wideout Greg Jennings said during a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview on Friday that embattled running back Adrian Peterson is wanted back by everyone in the organization, per ESPN.

"I don't know if he'll be back. I can't answer that question," Jennings said. "But what I do know is that if he does come back, he'd be accepted with open arms. As an organization from the Wilfs on down, we all want him back. So, I mean, it's a touchy subject and he's been the franchise player -- face of that team -- for eight years. So it will be a loss, a huge loss, if we can't get him back, and that's the nature of this business."

In November, Peterson was suspended by the league without pay for the rest of the season, making him ineligible for reinstatement until at least April 15. The move came after Peterson pleaded no contest to recklessly injuring his 4-year-old son last May. He is under contract with the Vikings for next season, and is set to earn $12.75 million.

It's unclear at this point if Jennings has talked to Zygi and Mark Wilf about the Peterson situation. What is clear is that the team is not allowed to communicate with Peterson during his suspension.


Eagles' Maclin believes contract will take care of itself
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin believes he will be back in Philadelphia in next season. His representatives and the Eagles are in the process of negotiating a new contract for the 27-year-old, who will become a free agent in March unless he is re-signed.

"I'm excited about what the future holds," Maclin said on Friday. "Once again, both sides have made it known what we want to do. I think it will take care of itself."

He could be franchise tagged if a deal is not signed. The tag number for wide receivers is yet to be determined.

Maclin had 85 catches in 2014 for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in Philadelphia.


Bears sign LB DeDe Lattimore to two-year contract extension
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Bears have signed linebacker DeDe Lattimore to a two-year contract extension. He appeared in 10 games as a rookie in 2014, recording five special teams tackles.

Jaguars' Khan 'very optimistic' about WR Blackmon being reinstated
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said Friday he is "very optimistic" about wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who missed the 2014 season after being suspended indefinitely for a third violation of the league's substance abuse policy, being reinstated to the NFL.

"I think he's paid his dues and I think he's got his life together," Khan said, per The Florida Times-Union.


 
 
 
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