The Oakland Raiders are poised to be competitive again in the 2016 campaign and there is plenty of excitement from the Bay Area. Fantasy Football aficionados should be sharing in the excitement, as well, because they will have plenty of Silver and Black options to pick from when their draft day comes. For the first season in quite some time, the Raiders boast quality fantasy options at a number of positions.
Quarterback Derek Carr is primed to have a breakout season in 2016. Carr, about to enter his third year in the league, was solid in 2015 but was still uneven as a quarterback, engineering some great games but turning in some poor performances as well. Barring an injury setback, he’s poised to have a stellar 2016 campaign, improving over even these impressive stats from 2015: 3,987 passing yards; 32 touchdowns; 13 interceptions with 138 rushing yards. In standard format leagues, Carr had eight games with at least 20 Fantasy points and just five games with 16 points or less in 2015. There is no reason he cannot improve this in 2016.
At wideout, rookie standout Amari Cooper will be further improved. With the stable of talent surrounding him, the Raiders passing attack has the chance to be dominant. A consistent focus under GM Reggie McKenzie, the offensive line has been upgraded again for 2016 which will allow Carr plenty of time to pick defenses apart. Some have argued that Carr could put up Blake Bortles numbers this year. The good thing is David Carr should be available in the later rounds of the draft, so prepare your draft order accordingly.
One could question Amari Cooper being a breakout candidate since he was highly successful as a rookie in 2015. This is true, but his ceiling is high enough that his production can rise tremendously in 2016. Cooper had 72 catches for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns in 2015, which for any rookie are fantastic numbers. Cooper dealt with a foot injury toward the end of last season and the Raiders considered shutting him down. If not for the injury, his numbers would have been even higher!
Look for Carr to lean on Cooper, who is worth drafting in all formats no later than Round 3. In 16 team leagues (of which I am in two), you will need to draft him earlier than Round 3. While Michael Crabtree led the Raiders in targets last season with 146 compared to 130 for Cooper, count on the trend reversing moving forward. The Raiders know Cooper is their best weapon, and the rapport with him and Carr should be better after a full off-season together.
In the offensive backfield, Latavius Murray had an surprisingly good 2015 season when he had 266 carries for 1,066 yards and 6 touchdowns. He added 41 catches for 232 yards. His numbers were all career highs for the young back, and they propelled him to end the season as the No. 10 Fantasy running back in standard leagues. Moving into 2016, expect the same, and even potentially even better, numbers with the offense going into their second year mostly intact and upgraded.
Like with Carr and Cooper, the Raiders’ enhanced offensive line could make Murray exceptional. Oakland signed guard Kelechi Osemele from Baltimore and brought back left tackle Donald Penn. Those two join center Rodney Hudson, standout third-year guard Gabe Jackson and resurgent right tackle Austin Howard to give the Raiders one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Murray should be able to take advantage of his O line to find more consistency in 2016.
Last year, Murray started strong, scoring double digit points in five of his first seven outings in standard scoring formats. However, his production really dropped at the midpoint of the season and he reached that level just two more times in his final nine games. Even with his late-season inconsistency last year, I believe he should be considered a high-end No. 2 Fantasy running back, worth drafting in Round 4/5 in the majority of formats. As always, due to the high number of injuries to running backs, consider picking up his likely primary-backup DeAndre Washington in the late rounds as he looks good enough to play well in a pinch if Murray sustains an injury.
Be excited FF owners: Raiders players are here to help you win it all!