2019 Stats (Rank)
Total Offense: 5,819 (11th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 35 (22nd)
Offensive Plays: 989 (24th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 552 (23rd)
Rush Attempts: 437 (11th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 68 (24th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 115 (10th)
Raiders improved from 25th in Football Outsiders’ Offense DVOA in Jon Gruden's first year to 11th in '19, running the ball at the seventh-highest rate (46%) in neutral game script. The devil in the details still show an anemic attack that welcomed opponents with open arms since Gruden’s offense has failed to finish any higher than 24th in points per game and 22nd in red zone scoring percentage in back-to-back seasons. Las Vegas GM Mike Mayock went out of his way to sink a combined $81.5 million into prized free agents Cory Littleton (three-year, $35.25 million), DE Carl Nassib (three-year, $25.25 million) and former Bears ILB Nick Kwiatkoski, inevitably keeping the team’s hard-nosed dream of staying the third-sluggish offense alive.
Derek Carr’s sophomore campaign under Gruden, which resulted in career-highs in completion rate (70.4%) and yards per attempt (7.9), highlights the difference between efficiency and timidity. Behind the box score, Carr’s 6.6 average depth of target and 48 heaves 20-plus yards downfield ultimately made for new career-lows for the second straight year, allowing the 29-year-old to hide behind the league’s second-highest expected completion percentage (67.9%) as he limited Las Vegas’ explosiveness with a dink-and-dunk mindset and the NFL’s second-lowest target rate to wide receivers (43%). Finishing 24th at his position behind an unprecedented three-year high in fantasy points per game (15.3), there’s no reason to value Carr as anything more than waiver wire fodder in 2-QB or SuperFlex leagues.
Comparing any renaissance for Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill’s resurgence is low-hanging fruit, but the shoe admittedly fits: Mayock, who infamously ranked Mariota as his No. 5 overall player (and QB1) in the 2015 draft, made it a point to lure Tennessee’s former signal-caller to Las Vegas with a lucrative two-year, $17.6 million contract (aka the league’s highest-paid deal among backup quarterbacks). Although it would clearly take a handful of losses or embarrassing production on offense for Carr to be benched mid-year, the Raiders' fourth-hardest schedule based on Season Win Totals and the toughest projected slate of opposing pass defenses through their first five games sets up well for Mariota to steal the spotlight following the team’s Week 6 bye. If Carr’s starts were listed at 9.5 (-110), I would take the under.
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The Raiders unsurprisingly prioritized speed in the draft, making 21-year-old Henry Ruggs (5'11/188) the No. 12 overall pick and first receiver to have his name called on day one. Whereas opposing defenses didn’t have to respect any of Las Vegas’ receivers underneath last year, Ruggs’ rare burst (1.43-second 10-yard split), 99th-percentile Adjusted SPARQ score, and 4.27 jets after the catch will demand attention immediately, particularly when schemed on slants and shallow crossers. His volume is concerning (as is the unknown seriousness of his thigh injury), but I have him slotted as my WR50 for Best-Ball leagues and the third-highest rookie wideout for dynasty behind CeeDee Lamb (WR38) and Jalen Reagor (WR46).
Arguably the only Raiders receiver with any value heading into last year, Tyrell Williams’ monopoly is suddenly in doubt due to the surprising development of Hunter Renfrow, who quietly finished 11th-overall in yards per route run (2.09) as a rookie, and addition of No. 81 overall pick Bryan Edwards (6’3/212), who notched the third-most receptions (324) and fourth-most receiving yards (3,045) in SEC history as a four-year alpha at South Carolina. Edwards' injury timeline (broken foot in February, a meniscus tear suffered last November, and sports hernia surgery and a concussion in 2017) is a red flag, but he is the 11th-youngest receiver (21.7) in this class and continues being hedged just four slots (18.7) behind Williams (18.3) in high-stakes leagues; Renfrow is currently being valued two rounds (16.5) ahead of both. With a majority of his production stemming from an all-too-efficient six receiving scores on eight red zone targets, Williams projects as the the odd man out and name worth fading altogether in re-draft leagues. I have them ranked Renfrow > Edwards > Williams if expecting Carr to make double-digit starts, and Edwards > Renfrow > Williams if predicting Mariota to take the reigns by Week 7.
Raved about in every summer interview ahead of the regular season, Darren Waller exploded for top-five marks in yards per route run (2.42) and fantasy points per game (13.8) at his position due in part to a team-high 22.4% target share in his first year as Gruden’s every-down starter. Unlike last season, however, Waller is no longer coming off draft boards in the 11th-round, being nabbed at a premium (TE5, 5.1 FFPC ADP) despite Las Vegas’ addition of 38-year-old Jason Witten, who most recently logged 75% of Dallas’ snaps off the streets, and the continued presence of second-year goal line threat Foster Moreau. Witten continues to find his way onto rosters for his above-average blocking and reliable hands on money downs and that won’t change under Gruden. Waller, who already out-performed expectations with three touchdowns on four targets inside the 10-yard line, is thus being overvalued for last year’s production. Note that his weekly opportunity plunged from 8.3 targets per game in the Raiders’ first seven contests to 6.0 per game over their last seven with Hunter Renfrow thrust into the starting lineup from Week 9 on. Waller was also voted the No. 7 fade among high-stakes players when polled in May.
Raiders had all five of their starting hog mollies available for only four games last year and still finished sixth-overall in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards (4.63) and Sack Rate (5.9%), slingshotting Josh Jacobs into above-average marks in Success Rate — a common metric that measures a play successful when it gains at least 40% of yards-to-go on first down, 60% of yards-to-go on second down, and 100% of yards-to-go on third or fourth down — whenever he rushed behind LT Kolton Miller (10% above league average), LG Richie Incognito (+3%), C Rodney Hudson (+2%), and All-Pro RT Trent Brown (+3%). One of only seven units to return all five starters from last year, Las Vegas’ trenches, glued together by a league-high $58 million in combined cap space, are logically prepped to maul Jacobs into the discussion as a low-end RB1 as long as he keeps a stranglehold of 65.9% (31-of-47) of the team’s backfield carries inside the 10. Any whimsical increase to his barely-there passing game usage (12 routes per game) is just pie in the sky after Mayock openly negotiated with LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore after the team had already re-signed Jalen Richard and added Devontae Booker in free agency.
Richard, re-upped to a two-year, $7 million extension this offseason, played in three games without Jacobs last year and averaged 7.6 touches behind since-departed Chiefs RB DeAndre Washington’s 23.3 — a clear sign the former has been pigeon-holed to a singular role. Any darts thrown among this backfield should instead be reserved for third-round Swiss-army knife Lynn Bowden (5’11/204), who legendary football executive Gil Brandt ranked as the No. 44 overall player (and WR7) among this year’s class; for what it’s worth, Las Vegas declared Bowden as a hybrid running back/receiver on draft night. Guaranteed to consistently sponge a sprinkling of carries and handful of receptions from both Jacobs and Richard, Bowden is appropriately being valued as a shoot-your-shot flier in the 16th-round of high-stakes leagues.
A 7-9 record suggests Las Vegas was close to figuring it out, but the Raiders finished with the seventh-lowest scoring margin (-106) last year, being outscored by an average 6.6 points per game by their opponents. Per Warren Sharp’s Season Preview, three of those wins fortuitously came against backup options Jacoby Brissett, Chase Daniel, and Ryan Finley, and all seven victories were determined by a one-score margin. In fact, the Raiders have only won one game by more than a touchdown since Gruden first became head coach. For all the reasons listed, I have no issue locking in Las Vegas under their 7.5 Season Win Total all the way to 6.5.