2020 Preview: Las Vegas Raiders


NFL, Raiders cancel in-person minicamps | Las Vegas Review-Journal

The 2020 NFL Season is nearly upon us, and in anticipation of the new season we’ll be previewing the action team-by-team, using the draft order from last season. The previews will kick off with the Bengals and run right through the reigning champion Chiefs. Come back each day to check out your favorite team. All ADP and Rankings reflect PPR scoring. 2020 Projections are based on a 12-team league (i.e. WR1 (Top 12), WR2 (13-24), WR3 (25-36)).

            The Raiders began the 2019 season as the featured team on Hard Knocks, which led to drama on and off the screen. Their big off-season move was a trade for Antonio Brown, a Pro Bowl receiver who didn’t end up playing a snap for the team. Instead, the Raiders were led by Tyrell Williams and rookie running back Josh Jacobs, while tight end Darren Waller exploded and became one of the league’s best. The team jumped out to a 6-4 start and seemed to be tracking toward a possible playoff berth.

            But the wheels fell off in the last six games as the Raiders went 1-5 to close the season, including losing four straight. The team finished 7-9, third in the AFC West and out of the playoffs. Now they’re moving to a new home in the Las Vegas desert, hoping to capture some of that early season magic and make the playoffs in 2020.

Off-Season Changes

            The Raiders made plenty of changes this off-season as they brought in veterans to compete on offense. This includes former Dallas Cowboys’ tight end Jason Witten, who figures to back up and compliment Waller. The team also reached out and signed former Titans’ QB, an No. 2 overall pick, Marcus Mariota to a two-year deal. Mariota went 29-32 in five seasons, throwing for 13,207 yards and 76 TDs. But when the Titans turned to Ryan Tannehill last season, it became clear Mariota needed a fresh start. He figures to be insurance—and possible competition—behind Derek Carr.

            The Raiders also worked to re-build their offense in the draft. They spent their top pick on Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs III. Ruggs is a burner who caught 98 receptions for 1,716 yards and 24 TDs, including more than 40 receptions each of the last two seasons. He has potential to slot in as the team’s top receiving option. So, too, does Third Round pick Bryan Edwards, out of South Carolina. Edwards was a four-year starter who caught 234 passes for 3,045 yards and 22 TDs. In addition, the Raiders snagged versatile Lynn Bowden, Jr., who figures to be a weapon out of the backfield and in the slot.

Fantasy Impact

            At quarterback, it’s fair to wonder if the Raiders will give Mariota a shot. His team isn’t exceptional, but it’s a good deal for a backup and Mariota is still a young player that was once highly drafted. Carr was highly drafted, too, and given a long-term deal by the Raiders. Yet there have been nearly constant questions about whether he can lead this team. The Raiders didn’t have a lot of weapons last year, and despite that Carr was wildly efficient with a 70 percent completion percentage that helped him finish as QB17. Carr has QB2 potential, but I am not confident he starts all season, so I have him as a QB3.

            In the backfield, Jacobs had a stellar rookie season. He finished as RB21 despite missing three games and playing half the season with a broken shoulder. While Jalen Richard and Bowden are still in the mix, Jacobs should be the workhorse here. I see him as a high-end RB2. I like Bowden as a dynasty stash, but I don’t expect him or Richard to maintain consistent value in 2020.

            Among the receivers, it’s anyone’s guess. Ruggs and Edwards are there, as are Williams, last year’s breakout Hunter Renfrow and free agent signee Nelson Agholor. Someone in the group will have consistent enough value to reach WR4 or WR5 territory, as Williams was WR47 and Renfrow was WR55 in 2019. My bet is that Ruggs flashes enough to be the high man in the group, but Renfrow could have the PPR appeal if he locks down the slot role. I like Edwards most long-term. The real prize in the Raiders’ receiving corps is Waller at tight end. Last year he caught 90 passes and was TE3 despite only three TDs. I think receptions and yards could slip a bit, but touchdowns could go up. He’s got Top 5 TE upside and is easily a TE1 for me.

Prediction

            The Raiders started decent but couldn’t finish in 2019. They had several injuries and are a very young team. Now that team moves to Las Vegas. I think Head Coach Jon Gruden is building for the long-term, and the Raiders aren’t quite there yet. They could be around .500 again, and if things break right, they could be in the Wild Card hunt when we hit November.

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a proud member of the Drive-In Podcast Network.

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