2022 AFC West Preview: Fantasy Football Outlook, Sleepers, and Busts

Adam Sloate breaks down the AFC West from a fantasy football perspective.

2021 Review


Points per Game 22.0 18th
Offensive Snaps 1082 13th
2021 Record 10-7 10th
2022 Vegas Win Projection 8.5 T-7th



The Las Vegas Raiders, in their second season at Allegiant Stadium, slipped into the playoffs thanks to some creative game management from Brandon Staley and the LA Chargers in the final game of the regular season. The Raiders fell to the eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals in a contentious battle in one of the AFC Wild Card games. Remember this tomfoolery?



And then the Raiders just couldn’t convert in the red zone in the fourth quarter:




The Raiders had significant offseason turnover, from coaching staff to key players. Former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was hired to be the Raiders’ new head coach, replacing interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, who replaced head coach Jon Gruden after his midseason firing. It’s a shame the Raiders lost Bisaccia, who admirably kept the team functioning after Gruden’s departure; he is now the special teams coordinator in Green Bay. We can only hope the McDaniels experiment goes a lot better than the Matt Patricia debacle.

McDaniels brought his own staff to Las Vegas, installing Mick Lombardi as offensive coordinator (continuing a longstanding NFL tradition of hiring children of NFL executives, as Lombardi is the son of former Browns GM Michael Lombardi) and Patrick Graham as defensive coordinator. Lombardi is in his first season as an offensive coordinator while Graham was the defensive coordinator for the Giants from 2020-21 and the Dolphins in 2019.

Oh, and the Raiders sent GM Mike Mayock packing, replacing him with Dave Ziegler. Like McDaniels, Ziegler is another longtime Patriots guy, having worked within New England’s scouting department since 2013.


On-Field Personnel:

The Raiders also made plenty of changes to their personnel on both sides of the ball. They made some significant acquisitions through the trade market, as the Raiders were able to lure talented wideout (and Derek Carr’s best friend, apparently) Davante Adams out of Green Bay for a pair of picks. Adams instantly slots in as Vegas’ top receiving option and adds another quality target for Derek Carr. Carr now has Adams, elite fantasy wideout Hunter Renfrow, and former Chief Demarcus Robinson as his top 3 wideouts. Favorite sleeper pick Bryan Edwards was sent to Atlanta for picks, so fantasy investors will no longer have to wonder whether Edwards will become Carr’s new favorite target.

Las Vegas also made an intriguing trade with Indianapolis back in March, swapping DE Yannick Ngakoue for CB Rock Ya-Sin. Ya-Sin had limited playing time in Indianapolis but was a strong contributor for the Colts, while Ngakoue’s cap hit became too much for the Raiders to sustain after signing the talented LB Chandler Jones. Ngakoue has been a productive pass rusher when on the field, but he’s also on his fifth team since training camp in 2020, so he’s likely still looking for the right fit with a team.

The Raiders were aggressive in free agency, bringing in LB Chandler Jones, CB Anthony Averett, LB Jayon Brown, and CB Cre’Von LeBlanc. Jones is the headliner, as he racked up the sacks (10.5, 14th-best in the NFL), pressures (36, 16th-best), and forced fumbles (6, 3rd-best) in Arizona last season. Jones will be an excellent addition to Vegas’ pass rush, as they hope to replace the work of Ngakoue (10.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) and DE Carl Nassib (1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble). Brown, Averett, and LeBlanc will be nice depth pieces; Averett recorded two interceptions in 15 games last season, while LeBlanc was a serviceable — albeit unexciting — option for the Eagles in 2019 and 2020. Brown is a solid LB as well, recording an interception and two passes defended in ten games last season with the Titans.

Through the draft, Las Vegas brought in RB Zamir White, who will take some of the load off of Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake in the running game. White should be Jacobs’ successor at the RB position, as the Raiders declined to exercise Jacobs’ $8 million fifth-year option; understandably, the Raiders’ decision raises questions about Jacobs’ future with the team. The Silver and Black also brought in OG Dylan Parham, who may sit on the bench initially but might be the “next man up” for the offensive line.


Passing Game


Passing Yards per Game 268.6 6th
Passing Touchdowns per Game 1.35 18th
Pass Attempts per Game 37.9 6th


The Raiders come into 2022 deeper than ever in the passing game. They threw the ball a whole bunch in 2021 and that should continue in 2022 with better receiving options and hopefully better health. They return all key contributors from last season, including WR Hunter Renfrow and TE Darren Waller, and then added Davante Adams and Demarcus Robinson to “replace” Zay Jones and Bryan Edwards. Jones commanded 70 targets from Carr last season, while Edwards drew 59. Adams alone garnered 169 targets last season, while Robinson (41 targets) was underutilized in the Chiefs’ WR-by-committee passing game last season. Adams and Robinson will eat into Renfrow’s (128) and Waller’s (93 across eleven games) target shares, as opposed to merely replacing Jones and Edwards’ numbers.

Quarterback Derek Carr had a fairly good year, completing 68.4% of his 626 passing attempts. It’s unclear whether Carr will continue to throw so often, considering the Raiders have a brand new offensive coordinator — and a rookie OC, at that. However, the Raiders have too much receiving talent for Carr not to throw the ball 38 times per game. The most concerning aspect of the Raiders’ passing attack last season, apart from the leaky offensive line, is Vegas’ inability to score touchdowns. They racked up passing yards and threw the ball a lot, but only converted Red Zone opportunities into TDs in just 49.23% of their opportunities, placing them 29th in the NFL. That’s criminally low for a team employing matchup nightmare Darren Waller and a better version of Kirk Cousins. With Vegas’ collection of talent, a Red Zone TD conversion rate this low is downright unacceptable.

Overall it’s a high-powered offense, with the potential to get even better thanks to Vegas’ new additions. Fantasy expectations need to be tempered, however, with so many talented mouths to feed on offense.


Running Game


Rushing Yard per Game 95.6 28th
Rushing Touchdowns per Game 0.8 T-20th
Rushing Plays per Game 23.8 28th


With the Raiders throwing the ball so often, there wasn’t a pressing need to run the football. And, even when they did run the football, Vegas’ runners were often heading into a wall of defenders. Their offensive line ranked 17th in Adjusted Line Yards, meaning that Raiders running backs were not given a whole lot of running room right off the snap. Even when they got past the line of scrimmage, the RBs weren’t generating a lot of extra yardage (25th in second-level yards and 23rd in open-field yards), turning carries into mechanical, 3- and 4-yard gains instead of ripping off long gains that kept the defense on their toes. For example, Derrick Henry is almost certain to run for 10+ yards on a handful of carries per game.

It looks like the running game is destined for something similar this season, with the Raiders making minimal changes to the offensive line in the offseason. They ranked 28th in PFF’s final Offensive Line Rankings of 2021 and are ranked 29th in PFF’s first Offensive Line Rankings for 2022. In fact, PFF labels the Raiders’ line as “Problematic.” Perhaps adding Zamir White to the running back room and OT Alex Leatherwood‘s continued development will raise the line’s profile as a whole.




Demarcus Robinson, WR

Folks, I’m going to be honest with you: it’s slim pickings on offense in terms of sleepers. Adams, Renfrow, Waller, and Jacobs are all well-established players and none of them are poised to produce significantly more this year. So, I had to go with the only true “Sleeper” option I thought had a chance of success. Robinson was underutilized in the Chiefs’ offense last year, sitting a distant fifth in targets among Kansas City receivers. He also has good speed and athleticism, which the Raiders could use as a downfield threat in the same way they used Zay Jones last season (11 yards per reception).


Deep Sleeper


Zamir White, RB

Zamir White might be the fresh legs the running back room needs. Jacobs and Drake didn’t get the job done in 2021, due in part to an offensive line that couldn’t provide a ton of space for them. Sometimes, though, fresh running backs can provide an extra bit of energy that lifts the offensive line’s performance at the same time. Could White be that guy?

It seems like the Raiders took “Josh Jacobs’ replacement” literally because White is a very similar player to Jacobs. Like Jacobs, White is seen as a tough runner that can get the difficult yards when needed. Also, like Jacobs, he’s seen as “limited in the passing game and as a pass protector.” But, Jacobs had a ton of success with the Raiders initially. He posted consecutive thousand-yard seasons in 2019 and 2020 and fell a little short of 1,000 yards this year. White might be able to do the same, with just a little opportunity.

Of course, Jacobs is only 24. It’s not like he’s some old, downtrodden runner just waiting to be replaced. Jacobs could have another strong season, with opposing defenses needing to respect the passing game and possibly lightening up their run defense. And he might even have some extra motivation after the Raiders declined his fifth-year option for 2023.


Bust Candidate


Hunter Renfrow, WR

Poor Hunter Renfrow doesn’t deserve to be in consideration for the “bust” label, but there are only so many options to choose from in this offense. Renfrow will have to contend for targets with Derek Carr’s best friend and former Fresno State teammate Davante Adams, who is accustomed to seeing a million balls in Green Bay. Additionally, a fully healthy Darren Waller, who only played in 11 games last season, should take away targets from Renfrow as well. Assuming everyone is healthy, one of the top receivers is bound to lose out on some work, and I’m willing to bet it’ll be Renfrow, who has a shorter track record of success than Adams or Waller. Renfrow will be a “bust” in that he won’t be WR11 again, but he won’t be a painful bust.



Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Dustin Bradford, Cliff Welch, Robin Alam + Jeffrey Brown
/ Icon Sportswire

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