As we take a short flight to the bay area from Los Angeles, we remember that we must enjoy our time in Oaktown, as this will be (most likely) the last time the Raiders play there before they move to Sin City. After a season of turmoil in 2018, and an off-season of promising moves, what can Jon Gruden and the Raiders do to help us with our fantasy season in 2019? Let's dive in, and in the event of heavy excitement, an oxygen mask will appear in front of you. Please make sure to secure it firmly, and breathe normally while reading the rest of this article.
Sorry To Bother You, but what an odd few years it has been for Derek Carr. In 2016, he was a MVP candidate, but broke his leg at the end of the season. In 2017, his head coach and offensive line coach started a campaign to get the then current offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave, fired in favor for QB Coach Todd Downing. They succeeded, and Downing proved to be terrible at his job. Carr also ended up fracturing his back early in 2017. Jack Del Rio was fired because of incompetence, but more so because Mark Davis wanted to bring Jon Gruden back. Gruden returned, and with him came one of the most complex offenses in the NFL. Tough three years.
But, for just the second time in his career, Carr has the same offensive system in back to back years (previously Musgrave was his OC in 2015 and 2016, and we saw what Carr did in 2016). Can Carr return to MVP form? If you look at most of the Next Gen Stats from 2018, you'll notice that Derek Carr is near the bottom of almost every category. A simple explanation for this could be that after the Raiders traded Amari Cooper, his receivers were Marcell Ateman, Jordy Nelson, Seth Roberts and Tight End, Jared Cook. Much left to be desired. There were some shining nuggets in there, like Carr is 3rd for most accurate passer over 30 yards down the field, finished 2018 with the 12th most passing yards, had the 6th best overall completion percentage in 2018 and had a TD Percentage well below league average of 3.4%.
Wait, why would having such a low TD Percentage be a good thing? If you remember what I said about Russell Wilson and his absurdly high TD Percentage, the same and opposite must be true for Derek Carr. Carr threw for a career high in Yards, Completions, Completion Percentage and Y/A. The only thing missing was the touchdowns. They will come, and with them will come more fantasy points. Also, having Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams should help.
So how do I see Derek Carr stacking up in 2019? I have his projected stat line as 378/585/4345/27/12 passing and 34/82/0 rushing. That is only good enough for my QB21 on the season. For reference, the point differential between Carr at QB21 and Russell Wilson at QB12 is only 1.31 points per game. Is Carr a must draft? No. Is the QB position stacked again this year? Yes. Will Carr have stream worthy weeks? Very much yes. As always, unless you get good value for Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes, wait on drafting a QB this year.
One of the glaring issues for the Raiders last season was that Marshawn Lynch couldn't handle more than 15 carries per game, and there wasn't much depth behind him after he got injured. Doug Martin was serviceable, and Jalen Richard did okay in PPR formats, but none of these guys provided much hope for your fantasy team or for the Raiders. Makes a lot of sense why Gruden used one of his three first round picks on a running back many considered the best in the draft.
The Raiders re-tooled their offensive line with the additions of Trent Brown and Richie Incognito, and one of the biggest benefactors will be The Rookie, Josh Jacobs. So what do we know about this dual threat running back? The first thing I noticed was how fresh Jacobs will be coming to the pros. In his entire college career, Jacobs had 251 carries. That's really low. Saquon Barkley had 671, Leonard Fournette had 616 and Ezekiel Elliott had 592. Jacobs hasn't had the wear and tear that most running backs had coming out of college. Some might say his lack of usage could be a red flag, but Alabama has a Platoon of great running backs. Also, another running back that didn't get a ton of usage in college is named Alvin Kamara with 210 rushes. I think he's done pretty good in the NFL so far.
Jacobs had a juicy 5.9 YPC for his college career. Again, for comparison, Barkley's was 5.7, Fournette's 6.2, Elliott's 6.7, and Kamara 6.2. Jacobs also had 12.4 Yards Per Reception his final year in college, higher than all four of the previously mentioned running backs.
Also, here's a fun little trend: rookie running backs tend to finish in the top 12. Since 2012 (that's as far back as I can go with FantasyPros), here are the rookie running backs that finished as RB1s:
2012: Doug Martin (RB2), Alfred Morris (RB5) Trent Richardson (RB9)
2013: Eddie Lacy (RB6), Le'Veon Bell (RB7 weeks 4-17, injured weeks 1-3)
2014: Jeremy Hill (RB10)
2015: Todd Gurley (RB5), David Johnson (RB7)
2016: Ezekiel Elliott (RB2), Jordan Howard (RB9)
2017: Kareem Hunt (RB3), Alvin Kamara (RB4), Leonard Fournette (RB8)
2018: Saquon Barkley (RB2), Phillip Lindsay (RB12)
Some notes on these rookies: Bell missed the first three weeks of the season. Hill was stuck behind Bernard until week 9. Gurley missed 3 games. DJ didn't start until week 13. Howard didn't start until week 4. Kamara didn't breakout until week 6, after Adrian Peterson got traded. Fournette missed 3 games. Lindsay was in a time share until week 7, and missed week 17. Jacobs is walking into a bell cow role, is healthy and is a dual threat.
As of today, Josh Jacobs' ADP is in the third round, being drafted as RB18. Come August, his ADP is going to skyrocket. It should at least. Before I give you my initial projections for Jacobs, I want you to know I love rookie running backs. In 2013 I drafted Bell, 2015 I drafted DJ, 2016 I drafted Zeke, 2017 I drafted Fournette and Kamara, and last year I would have drafted Barkley, but wasn't in position to do so. I'm going to scare a lot of you, but here it is: I have Josh Jacobs as the RB3 with a projected line of 296/1296/12 rushing and 80/64/528/3 receiving. I'm a believer. Jacobs is going to turn a lot of heads this fall. Also, having Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, so defenses can't stack the box, should help.
I've taken a lot of time talking about Carr and Jacobs, so I'll be fairly short about Antonio Brown. In short, he's still a Wide Receiver 1. He is the clear number one on the team, and Carr has been giving him a lot of attention during OTAs. The Raiders have a new receiving corp that defenses should respect, and Josh Jacobs will be there to help as well.
From a skill stand point, AB is still one of the best, if not the best, receiver in the game. Don't overthink it. Yes, the Raiders will be a little more balanced, in terms of run vs pass, than the Steelers have been, but remember the Derek Carr stat I shared earlier. Carr is very accurate with the deep ball. AB has no issues getting open, and is incredibly shifty. They'll be able to connect early and often.
It's A Wonderful Life if you draft Brown, as I have AB as my WR5, with a projected stat line of 152/96/1432/10. Currently, he's being drafted in the second round as WR8. Again, don't overthink Antonio Brown. He'll score you fantasy points in bunches.
Thanks again for flying with Fantasy Pilots. Follow us on Twiiter @FF_Pilots, and you can always reach out to me @MichaelVoyu.