QB Derek Carr – Over four seasons in the NFL, Carr has 28-34 record while gaining only 6.6 yards per pass attempt. After two steady seasons (3,987/32 and 3,937/28), Carr had a regression in his game in 2017. He finished with 3,496 passing yards with 22 TDs and 13 Ints. A back issue early in the year led to a decline in production. Derek had two games with over 300 yards passing and two games with three TDs. Carr had ten games with only one TD, but he tossed at least a TD in each game. His WR core has two young options plus a veteran scoring option at the end of his career. Oakland has a steady option at TE with pass-catching options at RB. His floor should be about 4,000 yards with enough talent to deliver 30+ TDs. Carr needs to improve in the deep passing game to become a Fantasy starter in 2018. I’d drafted him as QB2 while understanding the Raiders could have much higher success running the ball in the red zone.
RB Marshawn Lynch – After sitting out in 2016, Lynch delivered 1,042 combined yards last year with seven TDs and 20 catches while receiving 227 touches. He missed one game due to suspension while earning an early exit in another game for the same incident. Marshawn played his best ball over the last six games of the season (598 combined yards with three TDs and 13 catches) while averaging 20.5 touches per game. He’ll start the year at age 32 with some questions with his opportunity, and upside with Doug Martin added to the roster. Last season the Raiders’ RBs combined for 2,111 yards with 15 TDs and 87 catches. Lynch is still the best RB on the roster on early downs. I expect 250+ touches for 1,100+ yards with a chance at double-digit TDs and 20+ catches. His best value will come when Oakland plays from the lead. More of a matchup player while projecting as RB3 in PPR leagues.
RB Doug Martin – After a great rookie season (1,916 combined yards with 12 TDs and 49 catches), Martin has been a Fantasy bust in four of his last five seasons. Over his last 16 games in 2016 and 2017, Doug gained only 2.9 yards per rush with only six TDs and fading value in the passing game (23/218). After missing the first three games in 2017, Tampa gave Martin 119 touches over the next seven games leading to only 403 yards with two TDs and seven catches. Doug is full of disappointment while only being an insurance card on early downs. Marshawn Lynch rarely gets hurt, and Oakland has better pass-catching talent on the roster. Only a waiver wire options for me unless the Raiders have some injuries at RB over the summer.
RB Jalen Richard – 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 playing 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 DeAndre Washington who played two fewer games. Jalen did play through a shoulder injury late in the year. Last year Richard finished with 531 combined yards with two TDs and 27 catches. The Raiders will use him on passing downs where he can sneak in a long run on a draw play. 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.
RB DeAndre Washington – 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 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. Over two season in the NFL, Washington has 932 combined yards with five TDs and 51 catches. Last year he doubled his output in catches (34), but DeAndre gained only 5.8 yards per catch. Pass catching option with plenty of competition for touches.
WR Amari Cooper – The Cooper train ran off the tracks in 2017 after two strong seasons (72/1070/6 and 83/1153/5) to start his NFL career. Amari caught only 48 of his 96 targets last year with 680 yards and seven TDs, which was about a 25 percent drop in opportunity. After a slow start in Week 1 (5/62/1) and Week 2 (4/33), Cooper barely has a pulse over his next three games (four combined catches for 23 yards). Just when Fantasy owners had him dead and buried on the bench in Week 7, Amari exploded for 11 catches for 210 yards and two TDs on 19 targets. In essence, Cooper scored more points in one game than his first six weeks (44.0 to 38.6 Fantasy points). Over his last ten games of the year, he only had one game of value (3/115/1) with emptiness from Week 12 to Week 15 (1/9/1 on two targets). Cooper battled a knee and an ankle injury over the year. A Fantasy owner needs to write off last year. In 2015 and 2016, Amari finished 21st and 15th in WR scoring in PPR leagues. As bad as he was last year, he was the 36th highest scoring WR. Excellent WR3 if Cooper is overlooked on draft day. Possible 80+ catches for 1,200+ yards with six to eight TDs.
WR Jordy Nelson – From 2013 to 2016 over 48 games, Nelson caught 280 passes for 4,090 yards and 35 TDs on 430 targets. Over the first six games with Aaron Rodgers, Jordy had 25 catches for 290 yards and six TDs on 38 targets while posting a zero in Week 2 after an early exit. The downgrade at QB in Green Bay led to bench results over his last nine games (28/192). Over this span, he didn’t score a TD while failing to catch a ball over 20 yards. On the year, Nelson only had four catches over 20 yards. In comparison, he caught 57 passes over 20 yards over his previous 48 games. Easy player to write off due to age (33) and poor results in 2017. Jordy has great hands, but he can’t difference maker without better separation. My conservative bar is 60 catches for 750 yards and five TDs with just as much failure as upside. Only buy at a discount.
WR Martavis Bryant – Bryant was my biggest draft day mistake in 2017 in a year where I got a lot right. He struggled to find a rhythm in the Steelers’ offense while being outplayed by JuJu Smith-Schuster. Over the first ten games of the season, Martavis made one play leading to his best game in Week 2 (3/91/1). He had fewer than 50 yards receiving in 11 of his first 12 games. With Antonio Brown injured late in the year, Bryant caught 13 passes for 184 yards and one TD on 17 targets. Overall, he caught 50 of his 84 targets for 603 yards and three TDs. His yards per catch (12.1) was well below 2014 (21.1) and 2015 (15.3). His best value should come on crossing routes where Martavis can use his speed to make big plays in the open field. Last year Bryant didn’t make enough plays in the deep passing game on the outside. Carr should have more time to throw creating better scoring chances for Martavis in the deep passing game. Only a three to five catch guy per week with his best games coming when he hits on a long TD. I’d rate him closely with Jordy Nelson heading into 2018 while offering more boom and bust results from week to week.
TE Jared Cook – In his eighth season in the NFL, Cook set a career high in catches (54) and yards (688) with two TDs and 86 targets. His best success came over three weeks mid-season (6/107, 4/57, and 8/126). Just when Fantasy owners started to believe in his upside, Jared had losing value in six of his last seven games (2/36, 1/2, 1/9, 2/17, 1/15, and 3/34). Cook had only one other game of value (5/75/1). In a way, it appeared Jared left stats on the table over the last half of 2017. With better QB play and more threats at WR, he should push his way to 60+ yards for 700+ yards with low scoring ability.
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