2015 Fantasy Football Outlook for Oakland Raiders Stars

David Guidera@@DavidGuideraFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2015

2015 Fantasy Football Outlook for Oakland Raiders Stars

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    Many owners will enter the 2015 fantasy football season not realizing the Oakland Raiders even have stars. Oh, they’re there, you just might need a stronger telescope to see through the black hole.

    Derek Carr and Latavius Murray led the young offense, while James Jones provided the veteran stability. The trio was long on promise but short on results, landing the Raiders offense in the bottom two (ranked 31st) for the third time since Rich Gannon retired (2004).

    Oakland’s struggles cost first-time head coach Dennis Allen his job four games into his third season. The Raiders promoted offensive line coach Tony Sparano to head coach for the interim before parting ways with him after a 3-9 effort to finish 2014. 

    Sparano’s dismissal coincided with Jack Del Rio’s hiring. The former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator indirectly replaced Allen for a second time. The Broncos hired Del Rio in 2012 to fill the position vacated by Allen when he accepted the head-coaching job in Oakland.

    Del Rio replaced former offensive coordinator Greg Olson with Bill Musgrave, according to Michael Silver of NFL Network.

    I am told Bill Musgrave will be the Raiders' next offensive coordinator

    — Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) January 20, 2015

    Olson is interviewing for the offensive coordinator job in Jacksonville, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

    #Raiders OC Greg Olson set to fly to Jax today to interview for their OC job, source said. Impressed this season with Derek Carr development

    — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 14, 2015

    Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie opted for the experienced Del Rio to lead his cache of young talent entering the fourth year of his tenure as the only official GM in Raiders history. McKenzie is once again swimming in cash entering the 2015 free-agency period—ranked No. 2 with $56,192,366 in cap space, according to Over the Cap.

    He needs a better performance than 2014 or his might be the next position available.

Honorable Mention

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    Matt Schaub, QB

    Oakland committed yet another dubious quarterback trade by giving up a sixth-rounder to Houston for Matt Schaub. Schaub lost the starting job to Derek Carr in the preseason. He attempted 10 passes for five completions and two interceptions as a reserve. He will remain a reserve as long as Carr is healthy.

    Houston used pick No. 181 on running back Alfred Blue, who quickly developed into Arian Foster’s primary backup.

    Vincent Brown, WR

    Oakland signed Brown after the San Diego Chargers cut the fourth-year wideout due to injury issues. The former third-rounder out of San Diego State—Go Aztecs!—missed seven games for the Raiders in 2014.

    Brown is scheduled to become a free agent in March and might end up out of the NFL given his unfortunate injury history.

    Kenbrell Thompkins, WR

    Thompkins landed in Oakland after the New England Patriots released him early in 2014. His role as a backup-at-best will continue in 2015.

    Brice Butler, WR

    Butler finished third among Raiders wide receivers with 21 receptions despite not starting a single game. The second-year, seventh-rounder out of San Diego State will likely reprise his reserve performance in 2015.

    Denarius Moore, WR

    Moore shone sporadically during his four-year career in Oakland, but his immaturity overshadowed the talent. The Raiders used him sparingly after a critical drop led to a comeback-ending interception in Week 3 at New England.

    The Tennessee product is an unrestricted free agent unlikely to return to the silver and black next season.

    Marcel Reece, FB/RB

    Reece delivered another serviceable performance as Oakland’s all-purpose bruiser out of the backfield. He finished fourth on the team with 37 receptions.

    The two-time Pro Bowler—at fullback—will never have significant fantasy value, but man it’s fun watching a 240-pounder snag a quick slant for a touchdown.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB

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    Jones-Drew’s 2014 campaign was the epitome of the diminished returns from a workhorse running back approaching his 30th birthday.  His 54 touches marked a career low, including his injury-abbreviated 2012 season.

    The veteran All-Pro isn’t deterred by the worst performance in his otherwise brilliant nine-year career.

    #Raiders RB @Jones_Drew32: My body feels good and wish I played more. I want to stay in Oakland and turn this thing around.

    — SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) January 7, 2015

    Reggie McKenzie might ask Jones-Drew to renegotiate the remainder of his three-year deal in order to back up Latavius Murray in 2015.

Rod Streater, WR

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    Streater began his third NFL season as Oakland’s WR2 before a foot injury and the subsequent surgery eventually ended his season.

    The undrafted free agent out of Temple—Go Owls!—broke out in 2013, leading the team with 60 catches, 888 yards and four touchdowns.

    Oakland hasn’t tendered the restricted free agent a contract offer yet, but one is expected, according to Rotowire

    Streater appears poised to be Derek Carr’s WR2 or WR3, depending on what Oakland does in free agency and the draft.

Darren McFadden, RB

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    McFadden took a hefty pay cut to stick with the Raiders, a choice he’ll have to make again this offseason.

    Raiders re-signed RB Darren McFadden to a one-year, $4 million deal, per source.

    — Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2014

    The seven-year vet saw only $1.718 million of that deal thanks to missing out on $2.25 million in performance clauses

    Oakland and McFadden could agree to a similar arrangement for 2015, but there’s no doubt Latavius Murray will be the primary running back.

Andre Holmes, WR

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    Holmes led all Raiders with 693 receiving yards and 14.7 yards per catch. He started 13 games in place of the injured Rod Streater in his first full season of NFL action.

    The 6’4”, 210-pound wide receiver prototype entered the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings in 2011 as an unsigned free agent out of Hillsdale College—Go Chargers! He bounced around practice squads and training camps in Dallas and New England before landing in Oakland in 2013.

    Holmes began his Raiders career suspended after testing positive for amphetamines, but Oakland’s flier paid off such that Jerry Jones regrets not hanging on to the prospect.

    He’s expected to draw attention even as a restricted free agent, according to ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson. But Oakland has the financial firepower to keep Holmes on the roster to compete with Streater for WR2 in 2015.

Mychal Rivera, TE

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    Rivera emerged as Oakland’s top receiving-tight end threat in just his second season out of Tennessee. He wrapped up 2014 second on the team with 58 receptions and four touchdowns.

    The athletic pass-catcher eschewed the traditional tight end assignment, finishing dead last among his peers in pass-blocking, according to Pro Football Focus

    The Raiders' hiring of former Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice should help Rivera develop into a well-rounded tight end in 2015 and beyond.

    Nice score for the Raiders: Mike Tice coming over from Falcons to coach o line...

    — Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) January 16, 2015

James Jones, WR

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Derek Carr relied on Jones more than any other Raiders receiver in 2014. The free-agent addition from the Green Bay Packers led the team with 73 receptions and six receiving touchdowns.

    Jones increased Carr’s passer rating from 77.7 to 98.8 when Carr looked his way a team-leading 108 times, according to Pro Football Focus.

    But Jones performed less efficiently as a WR1 with Oakland (9.1 yards per catch) than his previous two seasons as the second or third option behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb in Green Bay (13.0 YPC). Plus, half of his six touchdowns came in garbage time when the opponent’s defense softened into prevent coverage.

    Oakland will have to either mold a true WR1 from within or find one in free agency or the draft. Otherwise, Jones continues to be a flex option at best in 2015.

Latavius Murray, RB

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    Murray stepped into the spotlight late in 2014 with a four-carry-for-112-yard-and-two-touchdown breakout performance against the Kansas City Chiefs Week 12 on Thursday night. He would have racked up even more had his night not been cut short by a concussion.

    The 2013 sixth-rounder out of Central Florida—Go Knights!—maintained a 3.8 yards-per-carry pace upon clearing concussion protocol to start the last four games. Murray also caught 11 balls for 108 yards (9.8 YPC) during that stretch, showing impressive athleticism for a 6’3”, 225-pound back.

    Murray spent his rookie season on injured reserve after ankle surgery and then had to wait his turn behind Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew in 2014.

    Interim head coach Tony Sparano wasn’t convinced Murray could handle the RB1 workload until late in the season, according to SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Bill Polian (h/t Kevin Patra of NFL.com).

    Bill Polian: Is Latavius Murray capable of being a #1 guy? Tony Sparano: It took us a while to realize but I think he is. @RAIDERS

    — SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) December 24, 2014

    Oakland needs to improve its third-worst run-blocking offensive line—according to Pro Football Focus—for Murray to reach fantasy-RB1 status in 2015. He deserves solid RB2 consideration based on a high ceiling even if nothing changes in front of him.

Derek Carr, QB

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    Carr epitomized the ups and downs of his rookie season in Weeks 13 and 14.

    Week 13 saw the Raiders travel to the St. Louis Rams well rested after defeating Kansas City the previous Thursday night. Carr ended that game benched on the wrong end of a 52-0 drubbing. He earned a season-low 50.5 passer rating and tossed two interceptions for the fourth time.  

    Carr bounced back in Week 14, leading Oakland to an eye-catching 24-13 upset of the San Francisco 49ers. His 140.2 passer rating ranked Oakland’s highest since Rich Gannon rated 141.9 in 2001, according to The Associated Press.

    The second-rounder out of Fresno State—Go Bulldogs!—started all 16 games and finished first among rookies in fantasy scoring at 178, according to ESPN.com. Teddy Bridgewater surpassed Carr in average points per start—13.4 to 11.1—but Carr’s results were admirable considering Oakland handed him the keys to a junker.

    The Bill Musgrave hire is interesting considering Del Rio fired him as the Jaguars OC (2003-04) in part for not successfully developing Byron Leftwich.

    Since then, Musgrave served as quarterbacks coach in Washington (2005), helping resurrect Mark Brunell, then Atlanta (2006-10), managing the unforeseen transition from Michael Vick to Matt Ryan, ending in Philadelphia (2014), tutoring both Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez.

    Musgrave’s third tour as an NFL offensive coordinator took place in Minnesota (2011-13). Christian Ponder’s failed development marred his stint as the Vikings dismissed Leslie Frazier and his staff after the 2013 season.

    Building on Carr’s rookie successes should be the key to Musgrave’s 2015 prospectus. But even if Carr progresses, he’s nothing more than a sleeper QB2 at this point.

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