After missing the playoffs for 13 straight seasons, Oakland returned to their destiny with a 12-4 record. They tied for first in the AFC West, but the Raiders lost in the Wild Card game against the Houston Texans (27-14). Their growth came from the offensive side of the ball where Oakland finished seventh in points (416) and sixth in offensive yards. They scored 57 more points than 2015 (359). Jack Del Rio returns for his third season as the head coach. He has a 19-13 record with the Raiders and 87-84 over 11 years in the NFL with three playoff appearances. Del Rio was spent four other seasons as defensive coordinator with Carolina and Denver. Todd Downing makes the jump from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. Todd has 17 seasons of experience in the NFL with most coming from the offensive side of the ball while working with the QB position. The Raiders still have plenty of work to do on defense. They finished 20th in points allowed (385) and 26th in yards allowed. Oakland ranked below 20th in yards allowed in each of the last four years. Ken Norton Jr. will have a third season to prove himself as the defensive coordinator. He spent the previous five years as the linebackers coach for the Seahawks. If Ken doesn’t get it done this year, he could be looking for a new job.
The only starter lost off the defensive side of the ball was LB Malcolm Smith who graded as a losing option. LB Perry Riley played well in 2016, but he remains unsigned. CB D.J. Hayden, S Brynden Trawick, S Nate Allen, LB Daren Bates, and DT Stacy McGee all has part-time snaps last season with each player finding a new home in 2017.
The Raiders decided to part ways with RB Latavius Murray. He had a step back in production while setting a career-high in TDs (12). WR Andre Holmes and TE Mychal Rivera fled for higher ground after losing snaps of the last couple of seasons.
Oakland added only LB Jelani Jenkins to the defense. He projects as a below league average player with rotational value.
QB E.J. Manuel was brought in to compete for a backup role. WR Cordarrelle Patterson should add value to the return game plus add depth to the wide receiver position. Oakland placed a bet that Jared Cook would upgrade the tight end position. T Marshall Newhouse will compete for a starting job after underperforming in 2016 with the Giants.
In the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Raiders tried to improve their secondary with CB Gareon Conley and S Obi Melifonwu. Conley has the skill set to be a run and chase corner with enough speed to recover from a mistake while holding his own in press coverage even with a need for more strength. Gareon seems indecisive when playing off the line of scrimmage when faced with decisions on routes and coverage. His game projects more as coverage cover due to his weakness in run support and aggression off blocks. Melifonwu will offer an edge in speed and athletic ability from the safety position. His vision on play development needs to improve. He’ll add value in run support with enough speed to make long plays at deep safety. Obi will make plays on the ball while still having some risk when catching the wrong receiver in coverage.
The Raiders invested in DT Eddie Vanderdoes in the third round. This could be a nice value pick after Vanderdoes struggled in 2016, which came after a torn ACL the previous season. He plays with power and athletic ability with enough vision to offer more upside rushing the QB. Eddie looked soft last year with questions about his quickness off the line of scrimmage. With another year removed from his injury, Vanderdoes has a chance to gain valuable playing time in his rookie season.
In the fourth round, Oakland drafted OT David Sharpe. He’s big, powerful man who will be at his best in a physical rushing attack. His range is extremely limited while struggling if ask to block outside his patch of real estate. Sharpe has enough punch to defeat power rushers while his hands improve his value in pass protection.
LB Marquel Lee was the Raiders’ fifth selected in this season’s draft. His game has the most value when attacking the line of scrimmage in run support. He’ll offer power and strength, but his change of direction speed kills his value on passing downs if asked to cover. His decision-making, when asked to change direction, leaves him a step behind on too many cut-back runs.
Oakland has four picks in the seventh round – S Shalom Luani, OT Jylan Ware, RB Elijah Hood, and DT Treyvon Hester. Luani looks the part in coverage when it’s in front of him. His game has a huge weakness vs. the run due to a poor skill set in tackling. Ware may develop into a nice option on the line once he adds more bulk and weight. His hands grade well, and he should handle his blocking responsibilities in the run game. Jylan will some improvement in his technique as well. Hood projects as a north/south runner with questionable speed, which make him easier to defend. Hester lacks the motor to play a high percentage of plays. His launch angle off the snap is too high to gain winning leverage. Treyvon plays with power with some value in his hands.
The Raiders finished 6th in the NFL in rushing yards (1,922) with 17 rushing TDs. Their ball carriers gained 4.4 yards per carry with 19 runs over 20 yards (second-highest total in the league). Oakland had 31 negative runs and 43 rushes over 10 yards.
Oakland ranked 13th in passing yards (4,051) with 29 passing TDs and seven Ints. Their offensive line allowed a league low 18 sacks and only 41 QB hits.
LT Donald Penn has been a steady rock on this line over the last three seasons. He played well in as run blocker while minimizing the damage in sacks. Donald starts the year at age 34 so his days as an elite player are winding down.
LG Kelechi Osemele played great for Oakland in his first season after signing a five-year $58.5 million contract in 2016. The Ravens drafted him in the second round in 2012. Over the last three years, Kelechi offered an edge for his position.
C Rodney Hudson continues to improve. He was one of the top passing blocking centers in 2016 with similar success in 2014 and 2015 with the Chiefs and Raiders. He signed a nice contract in 2015 ($44.5 for five seasons).
RG Gabe Jackson is the fourth player on this line that produced an edge in 2016. The Raiders drafted him in the second round in 2015. Jackson is at his best in pass protection while showing continued growth in the run game.
RT Austin Howard started ten games in 2016 due to an early season an ankle issue and a shoulder injury that required surgery after the season. Oakland signed to a nice contract before the 2014 season ($30 million for five years), but he’ll have to beat out Marshall Newhouse for the starting job. Marshall has never been an asset in his six seasons in the NFL.
This line ranks as one of the better options in the league with four players that offer an edge. The low sack total is helped by Derek Carr’s ability to get the ball out quickly, and the grade in the run game is helped by some long runs. With a more explosive runner, the Raiders could be even better offensively.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).
This information is based on 2016, which will work as our starting point for 2017. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2016 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2016.
2016 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL last year.
2016 Adjustment is based on the 2016 league average and the 2016 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.
The Raiders have five games vs. teams that had success defending the run in 2016 (NE, TEN, BAL, NYG, and DAL) plus four other games that look to have some risk (NYJ, PHI, and LAC X 2). Their best four games should be against Denver (2), Miami, and Buffalo.
They have a poor schedule for their passing game due to two games vs. the Broncos. Oakland only has one matchup vs. a team with failure expected defending receivers (TEN).
Last season Oakland ran the ball 42.1 percent of the time, which seems low based on their high finish in rushing yards (6th). They attempted 27.1 runs per game, which was slightly above the league average. Carr will still have plenty of chances to make plays in the passing game (595 attempts in 2016). This offense is also helped by poor defensive play.
After three seasons in the NFL, Carr is almost back to .500 with a 22-25 record. The Raiders’ dream of a Super Bowl title ended in Week 16 when Derek suffered a broken leg. He was on pace to set career bests in just about every passing category. Over his last 31 starts, Carr averaged 255 passing yards per game with 60 passing TDs. His game made a nice step forward in minimizing mistake (six Ints) last year. The biggest area of weakness continues to be his ability to make big plays. He’s averaged 7.0 yards per pass attempt over the last two seasons. Derek was only sacked 16 times in 2016. Part of this was him taking the short pass over the big play, which is where he’ll need to find larger blend to make a higher push on the QB ranking going forward. Last season he had 50 completions over 20 yards and eight over 40 yards. Last season Carr only had four games with over 300 yards passing, which included 513 yards in Week 8. He finished the year with five games with three passing TDs or more. His receiving core should be better in 2017 with Jared Cook added at TE and Cordarrelle Patterson at WR4. The quarterback position had a step back in value last year leading to Carr ranking in the top 10 even with a missed game. More of a steady mid-tier option with some flat games when the Raiders have success scoring TDs in the run game. His floor is 4,000+ passing yards with 30 TDs with upside in both areas.
Other options: Connor Cook, E.J. Manuel
A year hanging around with the family and counting money didn’t fit Lynch’s style, so he’s back for a 10th season in the NFL at age 31. In 2015 with Seattle, Marshawn missed nine games with an abdomen injury. In his previous four seasons, Marshawn averaged over 325 touches per season with 56 TDs over 63 games. In 2016, Oakland’s RBs rushed the ball 391 times for 1,857 yards and 17 TDs while catching the ball 95 times for 843 yards and three TDs on 123 targets. The question here is if there is an on and off switch for a running back after missing one season late in his career. Lynch is a physical runner with value on the downs. Oakland rotates backs, so he won’t get the full show. I know he’s a better player than Latavius Murray who averaged 16.3 touches per game in 2016. This season Lynch will get over 18 touches per game while being expected to score double-digit TDs. Even with league yards per rush, Lynch should be in line for 1,300+ yards and 30+ catches. This projects to be an RB1 with a top 10 opportunity. All he needs to do is stay healthy.
Over the last two years at Texas Tech, Washington rushed for 2,595 yards on 421 carries with 16 rushing TDs (14 in his senior season) while also catching 71 balls for 703 yards with another two TDs. When looking at some of his highlights, Washington looked almost irrelevant if he had no room to run. He didn’t attack the line scrimmage with any sense of urgency without seeing daylight. His short area quickness and acceleration gives him upside at the second level of the defense. DeAndre lacks impact deep speed with questions about his ability to pass protect even with some toughness in his game. He projects as a change of pace back with value in the passing game. In his rookie season, he did run the ball well (87/467/2) while averaging 5.4 yards per carry, which was much higher than Latavius Murray (4.0). DeAndre caught 17 of his 23 targets for 115 yards, but Oakland seems to trust Jalen Richard more especially on passing downs. Washington had his best game of the season in Week 16 (117 combined yards with two TDs and a catch). Improvement should be expected, but being the second option in the run game does limit his playable upside. Possible 125+ touches for 750 combined yards and low-level TDs.
Over four seasons at Southern Mississippi, Jalen rushed for 2,086 yards on 397 carries with 19 TDs. He also caught 83 passes for 675 yards and another five TDs. His success was highlighted by his senior year (1,382 combined yards with 30 catches and 16 TDs). He signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and immediately showed upside in rookie camp. Oakland gave him some player time in each week of the season. His best game came in Week 5 against the Chargers (97 combined yards with six catches). By the end of the season, Richard had more production (685 combined yards with 29 catches and a three TDs) than Washington who played two fewer games. Jalen did play through a shoulder injury late in the year. The Raiders will use him on passing downs where he can sneak in a long run on a draw play. He needs to improve his value as a receiver (6.7), which requires him to gain more ground after first contact. Washington comes with more pedigree, but Richard may deliver the better season. Anywhere from 75 to 125 touches with one-third of his opportunity coming in the passing game.
Other options: Taiwan Jones, Elijah Hood
Even with growth in his second season (83/1153/5), Fantasy owners were still left with that empty feeling with Cooper. He ended up with two more targets than 2015 (130) with improvement in catch rate (62.9 – 55.4 in 2015). Amari played well in Week 1 (6/137) with his best run coming in Week 5 and Week 8 (6/138/1, 10/129, 4/29, and 12/173/1) where he looked to be a great Fantasy pick. Over the last eight games of the season, Cooper was unimpressive (31/366/3 on 52 targets). This is the second straight season where Amari has struggled over the second half of the year (27/417/2 on 59 targets over the eight games in 2015). Late last season I concluded that I might be misclassifying Cooper. He may not fall into the elite high volume WR range. Amari may be the big play WR with occasional value in TDs in the red zone. Oakland found a way to get Michael Crabtree the ball late in the season, and he found a way to get open, so it wasn’t about opportunity. I want to believe there is more here, but I don’t want to pay a premium. His 2016 stats led to a 14th place finish in Fantasy scoring in PPR leagues. Next step: 90 catches for 1,300 yards with growth in TDs.
Some may forget that Crabtree was drafted in the first round in 2009. He played in a poor offense for many seasons leading to short results. Last year he had his second year with over 1,000 yards receiving with a career-high in catches (89). His yards per catch (11.3) remain short while improving in his last two seasons. Over the last two years with the Raiders, Michael has 174 catches for 1,925 yards and 17 TDs on 291 targets. He’s had more targets and TDs than Cooper in back-to-back seasons. On the year, Crabtree had three games with over 100 yards receiver (8/102, 8/108, and 8/110) plus seven games with double-digit targets. After two short games in Week 9 (2/27) and Week 11 (3/5), Michael caught 37 catches for 402 yards and two TDs over his last six games of the season. Nice steady WR2 with a chance to catch between 80 and 90 balls again in 2017. His yards can’t be expected to be over 1,000 while double-digit TDs with within reach.
After being missing in action over 16 games in 2015 (25 combined yards on two catches), Patterson set a career-high in catches (52) last year. He finished with 496 combined yards with two TDs on 70 targets. Over four seasons in the NFL, Cordarrelle has five returned kickoff TDs with over 4,000 return yards. Mismatch playmaker and the Raiders should find a way to get him the ball. Only a flash player in the Fantasy market while adding some value to Oakland’s defense/special teams.
In his rookie season, Roberts caught 32 of his 55 targets for 480 yards and five TDs. The Raiders gave him a forty percent increase in targets (37), but he had a sharp decline in his yards per catch (10.4 – 15.0 in 2015) and a decrease in his catch rate (49.4 – 58.2). Last year he had three catches or fewer in 15 games and less than 45 yards receiving in 15 games. No real Fantasy value plus Jared Cook will pass him on the food chain as far as opportunity.
Other options: Johnny Holton, K.J. Brent, Jaydon Mickens, Keon Hatcher, Isaac Whitney, Ishmael Zamora
Fantasy owners didn’t get much production from Cook over the first nine games of the 2016 season. He caught six of his 11 targets over the first three games for 53 yards. Jared didn’t play over his next six games due to a bad ankle injury. He flashed in his first game back in the starting lineup in Week 11 (6/105/1 on 11 targets) leading to Fantasy owner believing his game had high upside going forward. The Packers barely looked his way over the next three weeks (5/41 on eight targets) while receiving diminishing snaps. Cook only had playable value in one of his final three games (6/85). Last season the Raiders completed only 57 passes for 580 yards and four TDs on 85 targets to the TE position. I don’t believe he’ll get the majority of chances at TE, but Oakland should throw more balls to the position. More of a backup with upside in a couple of games when defenses take away the top two wide receiving options. Possible 50/500/5 season with just as upside as downside.
In his second season in the league, Walford caught 33 passes for 359 yards and three TDs on 52 targets. This was a slight bump over his rookie year (28/329/3 on 50 targets). After a nice game in Week 2 (6/50/1), Clive never caught over three passes in a game while finishing with fewer than 35 yards in 12 of his last 13 games. He did suffer a knee issue in early October that affected him for the rest of the season. Talented enough to post a decent game here and there while finishing with a similar opportunity as 2016 even with less playing time.
Other options: Lee Smith, Gabe Holmes, Cooper Helfet, Ryan O’Malley, Pharaoh Brown
The mule had his best season since 2012. He made 29 of 35 field goals with five of his misses coming from 50 yards or beyond. Oakland gave him eight chances from long range (3-for-8), which was a step back in success based on his last seven years (33-for-51). The Raiders haven’t scored over 39 extra points in their last six seasons. Sebastian missed three of his 78 extra chances over the last two years. This season he’ll start the year at age 39, and the Raiders brought in Giorgio Tavecchio to push him in training camp. Oakland should improve offensively, but they will have success scoring TDs in close. Possible top 5 opportunity with a bump in his success rate.
The Raiders will face three teams that run the ball well (TEN, BUF, and DAL). They also have six matchups vs. teams with some risk rushing the ball (DEN x 2, BAL, LAC X 2, and NYG) leading to just below league schedule against the run.
Oakland will play ten games against teams with weak passing offenses. Their toughest four games vs. teams with above average success throwing the ball are WAS, NE, and LAC x 2.
Stopping the run was an issue for Oakland in 2016. They allowed the 23rd most rushing yards (1,881) with 18 rushing TDs. Rushers had the most runs over 40 yards (5) in the NFL while gaining 4.4 yards per rush.
The Raiders also has risk defending the passing game (4,120 yards – 24th). Quarterback gained 7.9 yards per pass attempt with 27 TDs and 16 Ints. Their defense only had 25 sacks while allowing a league high 61 catches over 20 yards and the most receptions over 40 yards (16).
The best defender on this defense is DE Khalil Mack. Over the last two seasons, he has 26 sacks, and 150 tackles with an Int returned for a TD. DE Mario Edwards missed 14 games due to a hip injury. In his rookie season after being drafted in the second round, Mario only had two sacks while offering upside in run support. DE Denico Autry worked as a rotational player in all 16 games in 2016. His game had little value last year after showing more upside the previous year. DE Jihad Ward should improve in his second season after Oakland selected him in the second round in 2016. Ward projects as a high-motor pass rusher who needs to add more strength to take advantage of his raw talent. Jihad needs to improve his technique while adding more power to his game.
LB Bruce Irvin has his best season in the NFL in his five-year career after signing with Oakland. He finished with a career-high in sacks (7) and tackles (57). LB Jelani Jenkins flashed upside in his second year in the league in 2014 with the Dolphins, but his game faced in each of the last two years. Jenkins missed seven games in 2016 due to a knee injury. The other linebacking job looks wide open when Mack is playing closer to the line of scrimmage. I don’t see any other option that will offer upside in 2017.
CB Sean Smith started off slow in 2016 before rounding into form. He finished as a top option at CB even with a career low in tackles (40) due to him playing through a shoulder injury that required surgery in January. S Reggie Nelson played well in pass coverage, but he showed regression in run support. Overall, he still grades as an asset while starting the year at age 33. The Raiders have added two safeties in the first two rounds over the last two years (Karl Joseph and Obi Melifonwu). Joseph was a neutral player in his first year. I expect Obi to improve the run defense when he’s on the field. CB David Amerson will need to hold off rookie CB Gareon Conley. Amerson can make plays, but he can be beaten by top wide receivers. Conley has cover skills with no value supporting the run.
This defense has two elite players in Mack and Ervin plus Smith can handle his responsibilities in coverage. The secondary has three young players with upside plus a veteran with a winning resume. The key is getting better play from the interior line against the run and rushing the QB. Improvement should be expected with the best success coming against weak teams. More of a matchup play in the season long games until we see growth in the pass rush and improvement in turnovers. Patterson should break a TD or two in the return game.