Let me introduce myself; I’m James Wilk, a new writer on the staff at Major League Fantasy Sports. I’ll be writing previews of the AFC West for the upcoming football season, and then once we get closer to the season I’ll be focusing on IDP Fantasy Football.
|2015 Record: 7-9|
|Passing Offense: 244.4 YPG (16th)||Passing Defense: 258.8 YPG (26th)|
|Rushing Offense: 91.1 YPG (28th)||Rushing Defense: 104.9 YPG (13th)|
|Points Per Game: 22.4 (17th)||Total Defense: 363.6 YPG (22nd)|
In 2015 the Oakland Raiders improved their win total by four games. Derek Carr took a big step forward in his second year. They drafted Amari Cooper, and signed Michael Crabtree as a free agent, and the two teamed together to be one of the better starting receiver duos in the league. Khalil Mack improved markedly, going from 4 sacks in his rookie year to 15 sacks in 2015. Their front seven improved against the run, while the team as a whole still struggled against the pass. I look for them to continue to improve in 2016.
The biggest off-season addition to the Raiders offense for 2016 is free agent Kelechi Osemele. In Oakland he’ll play guard, but he is also capable at either tackle position. He put in some time at left tackle in Baltimore after injuries to Eugene Monroe. At guard he is one of the best in the league, and Latavius Murray should love running behind Donald Penn and Kelechi Osemele on the left side of the line. Their other additions via the draft are, John Gruden’s favorite quarterback, Connor Cook from Michigan State, and running back DeAndre Washington from Texas Tech. Cook should compete with current backup Matt McGloin for the backup quarterback duties. Washington should also have a role in this offense, possibly as the third down back as the team seems to be moving on from Roy Helu.
On defense Oakland added three free agents who should start right away. Bruce Irvin, from Seattle, will play opposite of Khalil Mack at OLB. Sean Smith, from Kansas City, will occupy one of the corner spots along with David Amerson. Finally, Reggie Nelson, last seen tangled up with the Pittsburgh coaching staff while playing for Cincinnati, will step in at free safety. In addition, first round pick, Karl Joseph, is slated to be the starting strong safety.
Derek Carr will lead the Oakland offense. He is coming off a season where he threw 32 TD’s against only 13 interceptions and completed 61% of his passes. If he can have similar performances over the next couple of years he will definitely be in the conversation of NFL’s best quarterbacks. Look for him to increase his accuracy this year playing behind the improved offensive line.
Latavius Murray will again be the primary running back. He’s received mixed reviews after his first season as the full time starter. The team has said that they would like to lessen his workload. He rushed for over 1,000 yards, averaging 4.0 yards per carry, but had only two 100 yard games all year, and we did not see the explosiveness and elusiveness he displayed during his short time as the starter in 2014. The likely beneficiary of fewer carries for Murray is rookie DeAndre Washington. Washington, despite his short stature, runs hard and is quick through the hole. He should also be an asset in the passing game as he was his senior season at Texas Tech (41/385/2). Dependable full back, Marcel Reece, will miss the first 3 games of the season due to his suspension for violating the league’s policy against performance enhancing substances.
The receiving core is led by second year player, Amari Cooper, who became the first Raider rookie to break the 1,000 yard barrier. As advertised, he came out of Alabama stepped right into the number one receiver role. Cooper occasionally disappeared against the better defenses such as Denver, and against Darrelle Revis and the New York Jets. But that is to be expected for most rookie wide receivers. In fact most receivers playing against Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib and Darrelle Revis last year had less than ordinary numbers. During OTA’s this year his teammates have commented that Cooper looks much more comfortable in the offense. Michael Crabtree is the second starting receiver, and he nearly had 1,000 yards as well, while leading the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns. He looks to have regained his the form he had prior to suffering an Achilles injury during OTA’s in 2013. Seth Roberts is the third receiver, and spent the majority of his time in the slot. At 6’2” he would be the likely replacement if Cooper or Crabtree should go down. Andre Holmes will also be on the field in 4 WR Sets, and in the Red Zone to take advantage of his 6’4″ height.
The Tight End position was a work in progress for most of 2015. The team is hoping that 2015 third round draft pick Clive Walford can make a leap forward this season. The Raiders plan to expand his role, and have him more involved in the offense. Walford is a good blocker as well as receiver who should see the field a lot more this season. Mychal Rivera should continue to be the TE2.
On defense, the additions of Sean Smith, Bruce Irvin, Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph to pair with the likes of Khalil Mack, Malcolm Smith, Mario Edwards Jr., and Aldon Smith who is eligible to return for the stretch run, should mean the Raiders defense will easily improve their ranking as the 26th best defense in the league and could even have them knocking on the door of the top 10 defenses. The combination of Mack, who is gaining J.J. Watt like status, with the added pass rush of Bruce Irvin should only help the secondary. . Defensive Coordinator, Ken Norton Jr., runs a base 4-3 defense, with Khalil Mack spending time at both the DE and OLB positions. Inside LB Malcolm Smith, will continue to have plenty of opportunities for tackles. The Raiders lose future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson, but his likely replacement, Karl Joseph, was drafted in the first round.
Kicker, Sebastian Janikowski is signed through 2018 and is still very reliable. He connected on 38 of 39 Point After Attempts, and 21 of 26 FG Attempts. His biggest struggle was on FG Attempts from 40-49 yards, hitting on only 5 of 8, but on FG Attempts of over 50 yards he was very accurate, hitting 4 of 5.
The Kick Off and Punt Return jobs should be wide open. Jeremy Ross has moved on to the New York Jets. Other players like Taiwan Jones and T.J. Carrie have handled these duties at times, but look for DeAndre Washington or one of the undrafted aree agents to possibly earn a spot on the team here.
Fantasy Targets (ADP provided by myfantasyleague.com as of 6/21/2016)
Derek Carr – ADP of 84 across all leagues and 9th among QB’s. Finished the 2015 season ranked 12th. The improved line and going into a second year with his receivers should provide the jump into the Top 10.
Amari Cooper – ADP of 16.83 across all leagues and 9th among WR’s. Finished the 2015 season in the top 25. His second year in the league and in the system should provide more comfort and confidence. He’ll lead the Raiders in receptions and touchdowns, as well as yardage this season.
Michael Crabtree – ADP of 92.21 across all leagues and 41st among WR’s. Will have a hard time duplicating the 85/922/9 of 2015.
Clive Walford – ADP of 165.59 across all leagues and 19th among TE’s. Possible sleeper candidate as his role is expected to increase. Watch to see how he is utilized in pre-season games.
Khalil Mack – ADP of 80.30 across all leagues. 3rd among LB’s and 2nd among DE’s. 77 tackles and 15 sacks makes him a coveted player in either format.
Malcolm Smith – ADP of 126.65 across all leagues and 9th among LB’s. The 6th best LB in 2015 should see similar to even better numbers this year.
Reggie Nelson – ADP of 302.62 across all leagues and 22nd among Safeties. 77 tackles, 14 passes defended and 8 int’s last year in Cincinnati.
Karl Joseph – Possible sleeper candidate at safety to keep an eye on during the season. Could play the Charles Woodson role better than Reggie Nelson.
The Raiders schedule features games against the NFC South: Carolina, New Orleans, Atlanta and Tampa Bay. They have to like their chances to improve upon last year’s 0-4 non-conference record. They also play games against the AFC South: Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Houston, plus Baltimore, in addition to their AFC West schedule.
After the improvement last year, and with all of the new additions to the team via Free Agency and the draft, I like the direction the Raiders are headed in. They’ll need to avoid injuries at the RB position or possibly add a player.
My prediction for the Oakland Raiders: 10-6
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday June 23rd, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #19 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will be the first of 2 episodes covering the MLB Draft. This week we will cover the American League side of the draft.
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Major League Fantasy Football Weekly: Join Lou Landers, Zak Sauer, and Coach Jeff Nelson live Saturday June 25th, 2016 from 1-2:30pm EST for episode #24 of Major League Fantasy Football Weekly. We will run our show on Saturday until August 27th, and then move back to Tuesday nights from 8-10pm EST on September 13th. This is a live broadcast and we do take callers at 323-870-4395. We will discuss the AFC West from a NFL and fantasy football perspective.
You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”