2020 Fantasy Preview: Las Vegas Raiders

Ben Brown and Matthew Bevins team up to continue the 2020 Team Preview series with a fantasy-focused look at the Las Vegas Raiders.

Las Vegas Raiders

 

The “Raidahs” have been a laughingstock of the NFL for many, many years.  Fantasy production has been slim in the past, as you more than likely remember their name bellowed by Chris Berman than you heard it repeated by anyone in the discussion of their fantasy squads. Things have finally changed in 2020, however, and you’re beginning to see some incredibly intriguing fantasy options here in Josh Jacobs, Henry Ruggs III, and Darren Waller. Will those intriguing options help create a resurgence for Derek Carr? Or will we see a little too much of Hunter Renfrow or Jason Witten?

 

Quarterback

 

Derek Carr

ADP: 207, QB28

Just five seasons into his NFL career, and sadly the plateau of Derek Carr has already been reached. Likely at best, you’re looking at a quarterback who is going to spend his time as a bye week fill in, or a last-minute injury replacement (which sadly could be a situation we see in 2020). Coming into this write up totally anticipating that I would outright gag at Carr’s portfolio, I find myself somewhat perplexed. Not likely a fantasy quarterback you’re going to love starting, Carr ended last season with the highest completion percentage in his career. Alongside that, it came with him throwing the least amount of passes in a single season yet, finally attached to a workhorse running back in Jacobs and not forced to throw a large number of passes into coverage. Carr, however, will not do much more than being a fill-in for your squads. He doesn’t add much on the ground with his feet (he’s eclipsed 100 yards rushing just once in his six-year career) and has only averaged a half a rushing touchdown per season. And if you’re looking for him to punch in a large amount of scoring passes with laser-like precision, he, unfortunately, won’t do much of that either ( 22 touchdowns in 2017, 19 in 2018, 21 in 2019). Lamar Jackson was five touchdowns short of doubling that.

In short, the Raiders will look to Carr as a reliable, professional quarterback who won’t make many mistakes, however, they don’t gameplan him or anticipate him to be an “en Fuego” option who will make you laugh at the rest of your league while you wait for him at the end of the draft. For reference, the Raiders didn’t even eclipse the 31 point total in all of 2019.  Is there some value here? Sure. Maybe. He has a second year with Waller back as a force of a tight end. They’ve got Jacobs causing defensive squads to push up close to the line and try to box out a legit stud rusher. And they’ve added premiere speedster and Flash replica in Ruggs, so, there are ultimately chances to succeed. Just don’t feel right about anything other than waiting, and making him the last player on your squad. Maybe latches on to an upstart offense looking poised to breakout as a unit.

 

Best-Case Scenario

Carr finds himself locked into an offense he has desperately been seeking out since his career started, and he connects on some deep routes with Ruggs, some jump balls with Waller, and Jacobs continues to bloom. Carr finally sees his value hover closer to a low-end QB1 in your draft pool, as opposed to an afterthought, and pushes into a more reasonable 2021 season.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

The team built around Carr is not the issue with Carr’s production and Carr is exposed as an average NFL quarterback. The team heads into 2021 looking at a juicy group of high profile college quarterbacks.

 

2020 Projections: 535 passing attempts, 372 completions, 4,200 passing yards, 24 Passing Touchdowns, 10 Interceptions; 25 rushes, 52 yards

 

Running Back

 

Josh Jacobs

ADP: 12, RB9

Josh Jacobs is the anticipated centerpiece to the Las Vegas Raiders squad. Coming out of Alabama, the running back is seen as an “Angry Back.” He may not outrun you off the line, but he will run into you, into anyone, and gives zero care if it’s putting you on your giant, lineman heinie. Jacobs came out of college lacking a high-end 40-yard dash (a little bit above 4.5 seconds), but we saw him produce as obviously the best back to come out of college for the year, if not the past few years.

Jacobs does not do any particular thing well that jumps off the page, but if anything, doesn’t do much wrong. And that’s the true allure of Jacobs to me. He doesn’t avoid contact, in fact, he revels in it. He swims into the waves and likely stirs them back if anything. His motion upon contact is often impressive, and he’s tough to stir from his center of gravity. Just check out this (go to roughly 27 seconds, and watch as he spins out of a good tackle). That’s football porn. Jacobs will be the cause of many teams’ defensive scheming and will help Carr as much as anyone. Still, there’s nothing to show that Jacobs can’t find a way to get better, as he’s a year developed into a playbook and sees teammates enter into the fray such as Ruggs. The latter played directly with Jacobs in Alabama for a short time. Jacobs finished his first season up with the third-most rushing yards per game, even eclipsing unanimous number one back Christian McCaffrey. Jacobs is an absolute delight to watch play and reminds me of someone like Bo Jackson in terms of appreciating and enjoying being hit in his tackles, while also showcasing some flash when able to hit the open field. Jacobs is a steal at the end of the first round. Point blank.

 

Best-Case Scenario: Jacobs gets better. That’s the long and short of it. On a Raiders team beginning to add some talent around him, finally, Jacobs thrives and becomes one of the five best rushers in the league. He opens up as an elite pass-catching option at running back and goes into 2021 at the top half of round one.

 

Worst-Case Scenario: The Raiders either have a coaching issue, a quarterback issue, or a game-planning issue, and Jacobs cannot vault himself up the charts and showcase what he’s able to do.

 

2020 Projections: 269 rushing attempts, 1425 yards, 10 touchdowns; 48 targets, 40 receptions, 388 yards, 1 touchdown

 

-Matthew Bevins (@MattQbList)

 

Wide Receiver

 

Tyrell Williams

ADP: 180, WR70

Tyrell Williams is coming off a season that started off strong but was heavily impacted by a nagging plantar fasciitis injury that he sustained in Week 4. He started the year with a touchdown in each of his first four games prior to the injury, then scored again when he returned to the lineup in Week 8. Lining up as the number one outside receiver against the defense’s best cornerback week in and week out is tough enough, but trying to get separation and go up for jump balls with a foot injury that just won’t go away is not an easy task. To his credit, he finished with a line of 42-651-6 on 64 targets and finished in the top 20 in air yards per target among all receivers. As Jon Gruden would probably say, “That dude gets down the field and balls-out, man”.

Plantar fasciitis is a tough injury to come back from because the only treatment that really works is rest. In this crazy offseason, rest was abundant for Williams, and coming into training camp he feels 100% healthy. This is huge news for a 28-year-old guy who is entering the second year of a four-year $44 million contract, not to mention the stiff competition he now faces in the wide receiver room. That last part could work in his favor now that he doesn’t have to be the go-to guy on every down. For the first time in a while, the Raiders have a group of weapons in the passing game that should strike fear in opposing defenses. Unlike last year, Williams is no longer the only deep threat receiver that defenses need to worry about. The additions of rookies Ruggs and Bryan Edwards should allow for more opportunities for Williams to get open downfield when they are on the field. Like Williams, Edwards is projected to line up as an X receiver so he could cut into Williams’ playing time down the line if he breaks out like many are projecting, but Williams has the edge in that he already has a year of chemistry under his belt with Carr. That could be a difference-maker for Williams’ fantasy stock in 2020 when many are overlooking him. He clearly has the talent and showed a rapport with Carr last season, which can’t be overlooked.

Williams’ ADP of 180 is surprisingly low, and I would much rather draft him than some of the guys going ahead of him, including Alshon Jeffrey, Justin Jefferson, and Sammy Watkins. Whether you agree on that note or not he is definitely worth looking at as a late-round flier.

 

Best-Case Scenario

The additional weapons in Las Vegas help take the pressure off Williams, allowing him to exploit more holes in the defense for long gains.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

The foot injury rears it’s ugly head again, or Bryan Edwards becomes a breakout star and takes a majority of snaps away from Williams.

 

2020 Projections: 74 targets, 47 receptions, 743 yards, 5 TD

 

 

Henry Ruggs III

ADP: 103, WR41

Speed, speed, speed. Those are the three words (well one, really) that come to mind whenever Henry Ruggs III’ name comes up. Las Vegas shocked the football world when they took Ruggs ahead of Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb in April’s draft, but their strategy appears to make sense when you think about it. With their $44 million commitment to Tyrell Williams, why invest high draft capital in a player that projects as another X receiver like both Jeudy and Lamb do? Ruggs projects to begin the year as the starting Z receiver in Las Vegas’ offense, allowing him to go in motion pre-snap and exploit matchups using his speed. That should help complement Williams, and Ruggs has been compared to Tyreek Hill, which is quite the lofty comparison for a rookie receiver, and that’s exactly the type of player that Jon Gruden would love to be able to utilize on a weekly basis. If Ruggs does end up being a matchup nightmare a la Hill, it should open up wide swaths of the field for Carr to dump it off to his backs and tight ends underneath.

And that is the main difference between Hill and Ruggs. Hill has the pleasure of playing with future hall of famer Patrick Mahomes, while Ruggs will be playing alongside Carr. Carr is nowhere near the talent Mahomes is and never will be. Mahomes is a playmaker and Hill is often the recipient of a long completion after Mahomes uses his feet to extend a play, Carr isn’t capable of doing that. While Ruggs’ measurables may be comparable to Hill, his situation certainly isn’t and that will cap his potential production significantly lower. Not to mention the fact that rookie WRs typically don’t fare well in their rookie season, and this will be a rookie season like no other.

Ruggs is currently being taken around the 9th round of fantasy drafts, which seems appropriate for a guy with his talent and potential in this offense. In PPR he’s going right around the same time as Jeudy, Lamb, and Reagor, so pick your poison really. Though, in the case of those four, that poison could end up being mighty tasty once the season starts.

 

Best-Case Scenario

Ruggs picks up the offense quickly and makes an immediate impact as a game-changer. He’s highly utilized in the offense and immediately becomes one of the most feared receivers in the AFC West, if not the league.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

He either doesn’t click with Derek Carr or simply doesn’t pick up the offense until late in the season.

 

2020 Projections: 67 targets, 46 receptions, 687 yards, 3 TD

 

 

Hunter Renfrow

ADP: 178, WR69

Hunter Renfrow really grew into a dependable slot receiver near the tail end of his rookie season, gathering in 13 receptions on 18 targets for 209 yards and two touchdowns in the final two games of the season. He’s not the most athletic guy in the world but his grit and determination are evident as he fights to get open in the middle of the field. He had a phenomenal career at Clemson where he learned how to win, and that experience should help him and the Raiders as they embark on their journey to relevance in 2020.

Despite adding so many new pieces on offense, including former Eagles’ slot receiver Nelson Agholor, Renfrow still projects as the starter in the slot. Honestly, Agholor doesn’t pose a threat to Renfrow’s job so there’s nothing to worry about there. Renfrow is firmly entrenched as the starter and should benefit from lots of open space as defenses attempt to cover Waller, Williams, and Ruggs on passing downs, while also serving as Carr’s safety net on key third downs. Renfrow should be a fantastic late-round option for those looking for some stability in PPR formats.

 

Best-Case Scenario

With all the added focus on stopping everyone else in the offense, defenses forget about Renfrow and his target share explodes as Carr’s safety net.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

Ruggs’ targets come at the expense of Renfrow’s and he takes a giant step back in 2020.

 

2020 Projections: 79 targets, 54 receptions, 726 yards, 2 TD

 

 

Bryan Edwards

ADP: 209, WR92

Bryan Edwards has been compared to Davante Adams, AJ Green, and the Chargers’ Mike Williams, all in the last month. He has rocketed up draft boards and for good reason. He’s a physical freak at 6 foot 3, 212 lbs while running a 4.5 40 yard dash. He caught a ball in every game he played at South Carolina, setting the school record for most consecutive games with a reception (48). He’s got good hands and has a thick build, so he can catch a ball in coverage and break a tackle for some additional YAC. He projects to line up as the backup X receiver and was a third-round pick, which sounds like a bargain and makes Las Vegas’ choice to take Ruggs over Jeudy and Lamb look smart.

Edwards won’t have to come in and be the #1 receiver like those other big names. He also doesn’t have to worry about starting Week 1, which may not be what fantasy players want to hear but should bode well for his long term stock. As a fantasy asset for 2020, I understand the hype but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t live up to expectations right away. I would feel much more confident if he had the starting gig, but until Williams gives the coaching staff a reason not to continue playing him I don’t see Edwards fully breaking out. That doesn’t mean he’s not worth a late-round flier, but if his draft-day price continues to creep up I would start to look elsewhere instead.

 

Best-Case Scenario

At some point in the season, it becomes clear he is the alpha dog X receiver, overtaking Williams’ starting gig and putting up WR2 numbers as a late-round flier in fantasy.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

He doesn’t live up to the hype or simply isn’t utilized enough, finishing the season with a mediocre 20-30 catches.

 

2020 Projections: 51 targets, 39 catches, 507 yards, 2 TD

 

 

Nelson Agholor

ADP: 308, WR144

What more is there to say about Nelson Agholor? He had plenty of opportunities to break out in Philadelphia and didn’t capitalize on them once. It should be no surprise that, despite being desperate for WR help in the offseason, the Eagles let him walk away without shedding a tear. He’s since landed in Las Vegas as the backup slot receiver behind Renfrow and shouldn’t see much time on the field unless there are a number of significant injuries. Even then, as Agholor has shown in the past, he’s a better meme than he is a receiver and there are much better upside options out there than him.

 

Best-Case Scenario

Agholor carves out a role as the second option in the slot, gets a decent number of looks and turns a few of them into TDs.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

He’s the forgotten member of a revitalized offense and is relegated to mop-up duty or injury replacement.

 

2020 Projections: 45 targets, 25 receptions, 270 yards, 1 TD

 

Tight End

 

Darren Waller

ADP: 61, TE5

Darren Waller exploded onto the scene in 2019, living up to the preseason hype that surrounded him after the team’s appearance on Hard Knocks. He was the 18th TE off the board as a late-round sleeper for many, and those who took a shot on him were rewarded with a top 5 season that likely helped win many leagues. His 90 receptions and 1145 receiving yards were second-most in the league among tight ends, and his 117 targets were third. Despite those gaudy numbers he only scored three touchdowns all year, good for 18th in the league among tight ends. That number is due to increase this season, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he receives fewer targets with the additional weapons around him. He’s capable of taking the next step and joining George Kittle and Travis Kelce as one of the premier tight ends in the NFL, but I think Carr will spread it around a bit more this year which will hurt Waller’s final volume numbers. They’ll still be TE1 worthy, just not quite as good as last year’s version.

 

Best-Case Scenario

Waller experiences positive touchdown regression and evolves into his third form – a monster fantasy tight end in the same tier as Kittle and Kelce.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

Waller regresses with all of the added competition for targets in Las Vegas and disappoints by finishing the season as a low TE1/high TE2.

 

2020 Projections: 101 targets, 78 receptions, 989 yards, 7 TD

 

 

Jason Witten

ADP: 357, TE39

Jason Witten is leaving Dallas for the first time in his career and will no longer be asked to shoulder the load as TE1 on the depth chart. Those days may be long past him, but in a Jon Gruden run offense that favors heavy personnel sets, Witten’s still-elite run-blocking skillset will be utilized often. This may be the main reason why he was signed in the first place, as well as the fact that he still can fill in as the lead dog at times if necessary. If Waller were to go down, Witten would be the guy over Clive Walford, but don’t expect Waller-type numbers if that were to happen. Witten is a complimentary piece these days and should be treated as such for fantasy purposes. He’s more of a shot-in-the-dark DFS option than a year-long consideration, and his ADP reflects that. He’s still a solid contributor to a real football team but forget about drafting him for your fake one.

 

Best-Case Scenario

Witten carves out a role as a red-zone threat and can be used as a cheap, sporadic DFS filler.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

He fades into fantasy irrelevance as a run-blocking TE on a run-heavy team.

 

2020 Projections: 35 targets, 25 receptions, 224 yards, 2 TD

 

 

Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

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