Fantasy Football: Use Caution When Drafting the Oakland Raiders

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Back in January, the Oakland Raiders answered a question that many teams had asked over the last 10 years: How much money would it take to get Jon Gruden out of broadcasting? The answer: (Dr. Evil voice) $100 million.  The football world was set ablaze with speculation and excitement…but why? Sure, Gruden is an excellent personality but is he instantly going to make Oakland a contender?

For a number of reasons, I feel like the Raiders are primed to disappoint this season, especially in fantasy football. Between Gruden’s track record with certain positions, over-inflated ADP, and players passing their prime, I have no intentions of rostering a single Oakland Raider this season…and here’s why I don’t think you should either.

Quarterback

Derek Carr
2018 ADP – QB17 / 2017 Finish – QB20

It’s hard to say that Carr is being “over drafted” with an ADP of QB17, but for the most part, when drafting a 2nd QB, you’re doing so because you believe he has QB1 potential. One thing I’ll be addressing at every position is Gruden’s fantasy track record. While it was over 10 years ago, I explored Gruden’s 7 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002-2008. During that time, only one Gruden-led QB finished as a QB1, Brad Johnson in 2003. Derek Carr’s best fantasy finish was as the QB14 and that was 3 years ago. When we combine that with Carr’s inconsistency (QB1 in 3 of 15 games last season) and his porous 22 passing TDs, you have a player that even at QB17 may not play to his ADP.

Running Back

Marshawn Lynch
2018 ADP – RB28 / 2017 Finish – RB20
Doug Martin
2018 ADP – RB46 / 2017 Finish – RB60

The problem with the RBs in Oakland is two-fold:

  1. We don’t who will be “the guy” or if anyone will be at all.
  2. Gruden’s track record with fantasy RBs is spotty at best.

Marshawn Lynch played well enough in 2017. He finished with almost 900 yards and 7 TDs, and while it was by no means pretty, it was good for an RB2 finish. He’s entering the last year of his contract and likely the last of his career (for real this time). The Raiders went out and added Doug Martin from Tampa Bay in the offseason. With Lynch’s age, Martin was likely brought in to take a good chunk of the workload. Last season, Lynch took 62% of the team’s carries and at 32 years old, that can’t be the plan again. Expect more of a 50/50 split this season with Martin in the fold.

At Lynch’s current ADP, he’s untouchable. It’s unlikely he outperforms his 2017 and he is priced past his own ceiling since Gruden RBs only cracked the RB1/2 ranks about 50% of the time in Tampa. Martin is far more affordable but coming off of a disastrous 2017 so it’s impossible to know what you’re getting. He’s not really a 3rd down type, so he’s probably looking at 50% of the 1st and 2nd down carries, and that workload doesn’t leave much room for upside. You’re likely getting what you pay for: an RB4.

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Lachlan Cunningham / Contributor

Wide Receiver

Amari Cooper
2018 ADP – WR16 / 2017 Finish – WR33
Jordy Nelson
2018 ADP – WR31 / 2017 Finish – WR47
Martavis Bryant
2018 ADP – WR50 / 2017 Finish – WR50

This may be the hardest position for me to talk you out of. Each of these WRs has a pretty manageable ADP but if your goal is minimizing risk, these are not the WRs you’re looking for. Let’s start with Gruden. Over his time in Tampa, he only produced WR1 twice but he had at least a WR2 every season with the Bucs. His track record says that one of these guys is going to pay off in 2018…but only one. This is the ultimate shell game. From ’02-’08, no two Buccaneers WRs ever cracked the top 36 in the same season. So who will be the guy?

The Raiders have the most invested in Amari Cooper. He is surely the most talented of the group, but he was a huge disappointment last season. Cooper only reeled in 48 of 96 targets for 680 yards and 7 TDs. He did only play 14 games so his raw numbers are skewed, but even looking at his fantasy PPG he actually finished a spot worse than his raw numbers at the WR34. Carr insists that Cooper was playing hurt, but his best career finish to this point is as the WR14, so you are paying for his ceiling right now.

If the Raiders have landed 2016 Jordy Nelson, when he finished as the overall WR1, then he is clearly the WR to own on this team. But at 33 years old, coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, and no longer having Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, how likely it is that he is going to produce at that level again? He’s going to need TDs to be the lottery ticket we hope he is. While the game was a lot different 10 years ago, only one Gruden-led WR managed 10+ TDs during his time in Tampa.

Martavis Bryant is the most interesting of the 3. He has a suspension hanging over his head that we don’t know much about, but Gruden went out of his way to acquire him and his ADP is the most manageable of the Oakland wideouts. He’s probably going to end up in a similar situation as the one he left, playing second fiddle to a more talented counterpart but having flash weeks where he makes himself look rosterable.  Even at the discounted ADP, with the suspension lingering and his boom or bust history…no, thank you.

Tight End

Jared Cook
2018 ADP – NA / 2017 Finish – TE12

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I don’t trust Gruden’s offense for fantasy football purposes so I’ll keep this short and sweet. Nobody is drafting Cook anyway, hence his non-existent ADP, and Gruden never produced a TE1 in 7 seasons in Tampa. Keep up the good work fantasy drafters.

You can find the Consistency Charts I got Derek Carr’s stats from and just about every other piece of data you need to help make this decision in the Ultimate Draft Kit. But with what we know of Gruden, and even more so, what we DON’T know about how he will produce in today’s NFL, the Raiders are the definition of high risk in 2018. Unless those ADPs start dropping, the risk is not worth the reward when hunting for a #FootClanTitle.

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