2017 Oakland Raiders Fantasy Football Team Outlook
Oakland will look to make their final season in Oakland a big one before their eventual move to Las Vegas in 2018. Led by up-and-coming superstar Derek Carr under center, they're in good hands. Carr suffered a Week 16 broken fibula but only needed 6-8 weeks of recovery so there are no worries on that front. Behind the NFL's top-ranked pass blocking line Carr should be in for another year of heavy progression. Carr was the least sacked QB among any that played in more than 12 games (16). Finishing as QB9 (Weeks 1-16) in 2016, Carr threw for 3 or more passing touchdowns in 33% of his games and would have had even better numbers had he not broken his pinky finger in Week 12. His completion percentage dipped from 66.4% to 55.5% following the injury, but he'll be at full health with a full compliment of weapons including a year-more-seasoned Amari Cooper, old-reliable Michael Crabtree, a newly added pass-catching tight end in Jared Cook and a versatile weapon in Cordarrelle Patterson. He's getting drafted exactly where he should be as QB10, 101st overall. I would take Kirk and Cam before him, but it wouldn't surprise me if he finished ahead of either.
The debate between Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree is as prevalent this summer as it was last summer. Cooper, the young stud with monster upside, versus Crabtree, old and reliable. Crabtree, for the second time in as many years, edged Cooper in fantasy production in both standard and PPR leagues. But, Cooper is stupidly young, having just turned 23-years old and already has two 1,000-yard seasons on his resume.
People want to know if he's ready to take that next step to fantasy stardom. According to his current ADP (WR9, 18th overall), sounds like the fantasy community thinks yes. Cooper was absolutely dynamite over the first half of 2016 (Week 1-8) as fantasy's PPR WR3. He had four separate 125-yard games in that span, averaging nearly 18 PPR points per. The second half was a different story, however, as he failed to reach 100 yards in any of the eight remaining games. So, which Cooper are we going to see in 2017? If my intuition serves me right, it's closer to the former. From Week 9-17, Cooper only had a fully health Carr for 2-of-8 games. In those two games, Cooper combined for 27.3 total PPR fantasy points, and those were against Denver and Houston, excellent pass defenses. Week 12 is when Carr broke his finger and his performance dipped (Com % from 66.4% to 55.5%), later to end the season in Week 16 after breaking his fibula. Carr did put up decent numbers with the broken pinky, but I'd love to know how it affected his deep ball accuracy, a part of the field Cooper EATS. "That thing you saw at Alabama where he’d just take games over," Carr continued. "(Defensive backs) better know that he’s really taking it serious, that he’s trying to go attack them this year. He’s not going to let them come to him this year." Cooper is currently going off the board as WR10, 18th overall. He's the most likely WR going outside of the top-15 picks to finish inside the top-5 at his position. I'd take Cooper over almost every WR drafted near his ADP (Dez, D-Hop, Cooks) with the exception of Doug Baldwin.
So, what do we do with Michael Crabtree? As per usual, you take him as a great value. At 29, he's not young, but simply saying "he's old" isn't a valid argument against Crab. As mentioned, he's out-produced Cooper each of the past two seasons and is Carr's favorite possession target, managing a whopping 285 targets over the last two years. His floor is gorgeous with that type of target total and consistency is the name of the game when it comes to the former top-10 NFL draft pick. Crab had 85 receiving yards and/or a TD in 11-of-16 games in 2016. With his highest YPR (11.3) total since 2013, there's nothing that says Crabtree lost a step or is ready to regress. Even if this is the year Cooper takes control of the WR1 spot, the league's 7th highest scoring offense (26; 27.3 not counting 6-point Week 17 w/o Carr) should provide plenty of value to their second leading wideout. Crabtree routinely sees team's second or slot corners while Cooper gets sized up against their top option. Seth Roberts has been Oakland's third leading receiver in 2015 and 2016, finishing as WR56 and WR69, respectively. He'll battle new-comer Cordarrelle Patterson for snaps and targets. Given his size, it's possible Patterson carves out a goal-line role, as he did turn 3-of-4 "tenzone" targets into TDs back during his rookie season in 2013. Neither are viable options in fantasy outside of very deep leagues.
Jared Cook decided to turn down a big offer in Green Bay (??) and sign with Oakland on a what's effectively a 1-year deal. The Packers liked what they saw down the stretch in 2016 from Cook. The 30-year old stood out over Green Bay's final six games (including playoffs), averaging 5.2 receptions, 68 receiving yards and scoring twice in their final two playoff games. The Raiders have struggled to get any production from this position over recent years, but Cook is in line for a decent pass-catching role. As TE25 in drafts, Cook has some momentum coming off last season and offers solid late-round TE upside and wouldn't shock me to see him finish inside the positions top-14 in 2017.
Behind Lynch on the depth chart, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard will fight for scraps. Both backs are entering their sophomore seasons after promising rookie years in which they averaged 5.4 and 5.9 yards per carry, respectively. Neither had, or probably will have (in 2017 at least) the opportunity to handle a full workload behind Lynch. Both are very promising NFL prospects, D-Wash being taken 180th overall and J-Rich as 220. If the 31-year old Lynch succumbs to injury, it'll be a full-blown 1-2 punch in Oakland with these two. It's hard to imagine either stepping in as the featured back with a Lynch injury. But, behind a fantastic line, both would hold RB2/3 value in that case. As it stands now, Washington is my preferred of the two backs, I think he has a bit of standalone value and should see sizable work in the passing game, but I probably won't be drafting either outside of dynasty and best-ball formats.