Fantasy Football Target Practice: The 2020 Las Vegas Raiders
The purpose of our Target Practice series is to dive into some of the more difficult to project pass-catching groups in the NFL. The Raiders head to their new Las Vegas home with arguably the most perplexing group of pass-catchers in the NFL. They added Jason Witten, Nelson Agholor, and Devontae Booker via free agency despite bringing back nearly every skill position player from 2019. They followed that up by spending three of their first four draft picks on Henry Ruggs, Lynn Bowden, and Bryan Edwards.
As mentioned above, the Raiders didn’t lose any significant skill position players from 2019 to 2020. Backup running back DeAndre Washington, who saw 41 targets last season, is the only departure that’s remotely worth mentioning. As a team, the Raiders will enter the season with only 68 vacated targets, the ninth fewest in the NFL. Either the new additions will have minimal impact in their first season on the team or, more likely, some of the incumbents will see a considerable drop in targets.
The Raiders only attempted 523 pass attempts in 2019, putting them at 21st in the league in the category. There’s no reason to believe that Jon Gruden is going to switch gears and transform this team into a top-ten passing offense. With so many mouths to feed and limited passes to go around, just how will the targets be distributed from Derek Carr (and/or Marcus Mariota) in 2020?
Henry Ruggs – Floor: 70 / Ceiling: 120
2020 is considered one of the strongest wide receiver draft classes in recent memory and the Raiders made Ruggs the first wideout from it to be selected with the twelfth overall pick. Ruggs is known for his speed, but as Matt Harmon pointed out in his pre-draft prospect article, he’s more than just a burner.
Given his draft capital and skill set, the Raiders are sure to manufacture ways to get the ball into Ruggs’ hands. I determined his target floor and ceiling by examining other recent wideouts with similar skill sets and draft capital. These players included DeSean Jackson, Will Fuller, Tyreek Hill, and Marquise Brown. Of that group, Brown had the lowest target total at 71 in just 14 games. Jackson had the highest, seeing 120 targets in his rookie season. Ruggs has good odds to see his first-year target total somewhere in this range and should be able to turn a handful of them into electric game-breaking plays.
Hunter Renfrow – Floor: 70 / Ceiling: 110
Renfrow had a quietly productive rookie year with the Raiders in 2019, seeing 71 targets in 13 games played. He settled in as the top slot receiver on the team and looks to retain that role in 2020. He has an outside shot to lead the team in targets given Derek Carr’s fondness for short high percentage throws.
Tyrell Williams – Floor: 50 / Ceiling: 80
The past year has been a wild ride for Williams. He’s gone from the projected complement to Antonio Brown, to his team’s top receiver, to an afterthought. He performed admirably early in the 2019 season, hauling in a touchdown in his first five games in the silver and black. That success was short-lived, however, as he only caught one more touchdown and topped 50 receiving yards just twice over the last ten games of the season. He finished with just 64 targets in 14 games.
With all of the new additions, Williams is the clear candidate to lose the most targets. The Raiders can move on from his contract relatively cheap after this season and will likely be inclined to give more opportunities to the younger players with a higher chance to impact the team in the long term.
Bryan Edwards – Floor: 50 / Ceiling: 90
The Raiders drafted Edwards with their second pick of the third round at number 81 overall. He probably wouldn’t have lasted so long most years, but 2020 was an extremely deep receiver class. In fact, the Raiders were rumored to have a first-round grade on him. He’ll likely spend the season battling Williams for snaps on the outside, giving them a nearly identical range of outcomes.
Nelson Agholor – Floor: 30 / Ceiling: 70
The former first-round pick comes to Vegas after an up-and-down career in Philadelphia. He’ll likely back up Renfrow in the slot and, barring injury, isn’t likely to have any significant fantasy relevance.
Darren Waller – Floor: 85 / Ceiling: 120
After years of struggling to hang on in the NFL, Waller was the breakout tight end of 2019. He led the Raiders with 117 targets on the season, third-most at the position behind only Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz. It’s completely feasible for Waller to lead the team in targets again in 2020, especially with the chemistry he’s built with Carr, but the path won’t be as clear given all the added target competition.
Jason Witten – Floor: 40 / Ceiling: 85
Fun fact: Other than his less-than-stellar season in the Monday Night Football booth, Jason Witten has finished as a top 12 tight end every year since 2003. That streak isn’t likely to continue, but he isn’t headed to Las Vegas to sit on the bench, especially since Gruden has spoken publicly about his desire to put three tight ends on the field at the same time.
Foster Moreau – Floor: 20 / Ceiling: 40
Moreau figures to be the third tight end that Gruden gets on the field. If there’s such a thing as a tight end touchdown vulture, he’s the guy. He reeled in five touchdowns in 2019, second only to the six caught by Tyrell Williams, and he did it on just 25 targets. Predicting them will be nearly impossible, but Moreau will likely snag a few more touchdowns in 2020.
Josh Jacobs – Floor: 25 / Ceiling: 60
Jacobs is coming off a strong rookie campaign where he finished as the RB18 on the season in just 13 games played. He accomplished the feat on the back of just 27 targets. The only running backs to finish in the top 24 with fewer targets were Derrick Henry (24), Raheem Mostert (22), and Marlon Mack (17).
Early in the offseason general manager Mike Mayock spoke of expanding Jacobs receiving role, something he excelled at in college, during his second season. However, every move the team has made since seems to contradict that sentiment. If Jacobs doesn’t see a target increase it will be difficult for him to break into the RB1 range.
Lynn Bowden – Floor: 30 / Ceiling: 75
Bowden, the Raiders’ other third-round pick, is a huge unknown. He was primarily a wide receiver during his first two-plus seasons in college at Kentucky. Then he went ahead and rushed for 1,468 yards and 13 touchdowns his third and final college season, most of which came in his final eight games as an option quarterback. The speculation headed into the draft was that he would go back to wide receiver in the NFL, but the Raiders are listing him as a running back and Mike Mayock was quoted saying Bowden would play the “Joker” role in Gruden’s offense. For what it’s worth, Gruden used “Joker” to describe David Johnson ahead of a matchup with Arizona in 2018.
Jalen Richard – Floor: 35 / Ceiling: 70
Richard has been a regular in the Raiders backfield on passing downs in recent years. He was set to be a free agent after the 2019 season, but the Raiders decided to bring him back on a new two-year deal, extinguishing any hopes of Josh Jacobs becoming a true three-down back.