The Oakland Raiders enter the 2013 season as one of the most consistent teams in the NFL. Unfortunately for the Raiders and their fans alike, they are consistently bad.
It has been over a decade since the Silver and Black last made the postseason, a streak they hope to end under second-year coach Dennis Allen, and a revamped offensive attack.
But before we look ahead to what may lie in store in 2013 lets look back at the 2012 season from a fantasy football perspective.
The Raiders finished a dissappointing 4-12 last year, as their offense failed to launch behind veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, which led to his trade to the Arizona Cardinals in the offseason.
As a team the Raiders' offense averaged only 343 yards per game, with an average of 255 yards passing and 89 rushing, not exactly stellar numbers that would instill confidence in any Raiders player from a fantasy standpoint.
The lack of yardage translated to their points scored, with the team tallying 290 points on the season, which is good for an 18.1 per game average, which was 28th in the league.
Heading into 2013, the Oakland front office realized they needed to make changes and they set about to remake the entire offense. Gone is Carson Palmer, whom the Raiders replaced with Matt Flynn, the long-time Packers' backup who lost the competition to start in Seattle to Russell Wilson last season.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, a former first round selection at wideout, as well as the team's leading receiver in 2012, tight end Brandon Myers, are both gone from the team. The only skill player of note on offense that they held onto was the oft-injured Darren McFadden, who will be looking to play in his first 16-game season, as he enters his sixth year in the NFL.
So what can we expect from the Oakland Raiders as fantasy teams across the nation prepare in earnest for their drafts? Lets take a look....
The NFL schedule makers werent kind to the Raiders in the early going, as three of their first four games are against playoff teams from last season (@Indy, @Denver, Washington). Oakland drew the NFC East and AFC South as their non-divisional opponents this year, and they get to host the Steelers, and travel to the Jets to round out their schedule.
While the AFC South figures to be a two-team race between Indianapolis and Houston, the NFC East is loaded with four teams that could each be in the playoff hunt come December. This slate could serve to extend the Raiders' run of ineptitude unless these guys step up:
Entering the 2013 season, Matt Flynn has to be considered one of the most tantalizing, enigmatic starters in the league. In Green Bay he served as backup to Aaron Rodgers, and started just two games. You may remember those starts, as Flynn managed to put together a two-game stat line that looks like this:
Matt Flynn Starts
Now granted, one of those games was against an atrocious New England pass defense, and the other coming in the 2011 finale versus Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions, against whom he threw for 6 touchdowns.
For all the hype surrounding Flynn's starts, his inability to secure the starting job in Seattle does raise some questions, but if Russell Wilson ends up being the second coming of Steve Young, those questions will fade in time.
Flynn is difficult to project out for a full season, as his two starts were largely played from behind, which inflated his passing numbers, but I do feel that the following line is a decent baseline:
Matt Flynn projected
Of course, Flynn could once again lose out to competition from Terrelle Pryor in training camp, but the thought of Flynn spending the entire season behind the unpolished Ohio State product seems highly unliekly, given the investment that the Raiders have made in Flynn to be their starter going forward.
From a fantasy draft standpoint, unless you are in a larger league (more than 12), or one that starts multiple quarterbacks, Flynn should be a late round backup/spot starter until he shows he can be consistently productive at the NFL level. Anyone taking him before the 12th round is seriously reaching.
We all know by now that when he is healthy, Darren MCFadden is one of the most explosive players in the league. Unfortunately for Raiders fans and players alike, McFadden has been unable to remain healthy for a 16-game season. The closest he came was in 2010, when he started 13 games and had his only 1,000+ yards season, totalling 1157 yards and 7 touchdowns.
It is hard to believe that now in 2013, McFadden should finally shake the injury bug, as he has made appearances in an average of 11 games a year. To be on the safe side pencil him in for ten games, and this is what you can expect from DMC: 130 carries for 600 yards and 3-5 touchdowns.
Not exactly RB1 numbers, but the upside is tantalizing enough to justify taking him in the late 3rd-5th rounds.
It is because of McFadden's health issues that the Raiders brought in long-time Jaguars backup, Rashad Jennings. Jennings is no stranger to backing up talented backs that have durability issues, as he spent his first four seasons behind Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jennings has 943 career rushing yards, with 7 touchdowns and a 4.2 YPC average. Given that McFadden posted a career low 3.3 YPC last season, Jennings ability to take hits and accrue yards after contact could factor into a time share of sorts in the backfield, which could also serve to extend McFadden's season.
A wild card in the Raiders' rushing game could be fullback Marcel Reece. Reece filled in for McFadden at time last year and set a career high with 496 yards rushing and averaged and astounding 9.5 yards/carry. It is unliekly that he will paly a huge role unless injuries once again take their toll on the Raiders.
The one aspect of the game that McFadden absolutely trumps jennings in is his pass catching skills. Even while limited by injury, McFadden has averaged 31 catches for 290 yards and a score over his five years, which certainly gives the speedy back a leg up in PPR leagues. Given the state of flux that the Raiders are in at receiver, those totals could figure to skew higher in 2013.
While most of the league is busy talking about the receiver turnover in New England, the Raiders have gone out of their way to improve a lackluster squad from 2012.
Gone is former first rounder Darrius Heyward-Bey, as well as 2012's leading receiver, tight end Brandon Myers.
Denarius Moore has solidified his hold on the No. 1 receiver slot. Over his first two NFL seasons Moore has posted the following totals:
From Moore's first season to his second, he saw an increases of 17 percent in his yardage, 35 percent in his receptions and 40 percent in his touchdowns. Assuming a similiar growth for his third NFL season, Moore projects out to the following for 2013:
|REC||YARDS||AVG||TDS||FANTASY PTS (ppr)|
While not WR1 type numbers, Moore should play a large role in the passing game, and is for your money the only Raiders' receiver that should be drafted. Second -year man Rod Streater is a work in progress on the other side, as the undrafted Temple product looks to build upon a solid 2012 that saw the rookie catch 39 passes for 584 yards and three scores.
Derek Hagans and Josh Cribbs are other receivers of note, but Cribbs was brought in mainly to ease the burden to McFadden on Special teams, and barring injuries at training camp, I dont see an opportunity for Hagan to shine, unless Oakland runs a majority of their offensive plays without a tight end on the field.
Easily the weakest position on the Raiders' offense, their tight end corps is made up of Richard Gordon (three career catches), David Ausberry (nine career receptions), and rookie Nick Kasa, a huge 6'6" target out of Colorado.
With such a small sample size, I am not even going to try and project out what any of these three may be capable of, but I'd put my money on Ausberry to be the breakout this year, as he fits the mold of Brandon Myers coming into this season.
Kasa could impress at camp, and make some noise, but with the amount of turnover already on the offense, head coach Dennis Allen may look to a more experienced player at tight end.
The Raiders have a tough row to hoe this in 2013, but the pieces are in place to begin the long climb back to respectability. As for who will be the breakout star in Oakland, I think that Denarius Moore will become a household name by the end of the season, if by nothing other than default, as Flynn is lacking in established receivers across the board.
Darren McFadden will prove once again to be a bust, as his health will limit his ungodly potential yet again, and will surely end up sinking fantasy teams that will rely heavily upon his output.
The Raiders' MVP in 2013 will be -- wait for it -- Darren McFadden! But how can a player be the bust and MVP? McFadden is so talented that when he is on the field he is clearly the best thing the Raiders have going for them, and he will show it -- when he is on the field.
McFadden's injury history will continue and limit him to less than half of Oakland's games this season, which will ultimately doom the team to another 4th place finish in the AFC West.