After showing growth as a team in 2016 (12-4), Oakland lost their way offensively last year leading to the firing of head Jack Del Rio after three seasons (25-23). The Raiders fell to 23rd in points scored (301) and 17th in offensive yards. Oakland talked Jon Gruden out of the booth to push the franchise back to relevance in the NFL after missing the playoffs in 14 of their last 15 seasons. Over four seasons as the head coach for the Raiders from 1998 to 2001, Gruden went 38-26 with two playoff appearances. The following season he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory after a 12-4 regular season. In his seven years with Tampa, Jon went 57-55 with two other appearances in the playoffs. His last season as head coach came in 2008.
Greg Olson takes over as the offensive coordinator, which was a position he held with Oakland in 2013 and 2014. Olson worked with Jon Gruden in Tampa in 2018 as an offensive coordinator. Olson has 16 years of experience in the NFL with ten coming as offensive coordinator.
The Raiders have ranked below 20th in yards allowed in each of the last five seasons while being never higher than 20th in points allowed in their last 11 years. Paul Guenther earns the mission of saving the defensive side of the ball. Guenther has 15 years of NFL coaching experience with the last four coming as the defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Raiders were active in the free agency market after the change at head coach. They signed 14 players while releasing ten players. Seven former players found new homes in the NFL.
The first order of business was the wide receiver position. Oakland moved on from Michael Crabtree while signing Jordy Nelson and Griff Whalen. Crabtree played the best ball of his career for the Raiders. Nelson seemed to lose his game in 2017 at age 32. Jordy played seven seasons for Green Bay with a great QB throwing him the ball while offering scoring ability (63 TDs over his last 81 games). Oakland also acquired Martavis Bryant to add explosiveness to the passing game.
The Raiders brought in Doug Martin to compete for touches at the running back position while also signing FB Kevin Smith. Martin has two strong seasons in the NFL while failing to make an impact in his other four years.
Oakland released P Marquette King and K Sebastian Jankowski. Derek Carrier was brought in for depth at tight end. Josh Johnson signed to compete for the backup quarterback job.
The only two changes on the offensive line came with the signing of T Breno Giacomini and the release of T Marshall Newhouse. Giacomini struggled over his last three seasons after showing just league average value over his first four seasons in the NFL. Newhouse has never been an asset in his career.
The Raiders added Tahir Whitehead and Kyle Wilbur to improve their depth at linebacker. Whitehead posted 242 tackles over the last two seasons with the Lions.
Oakland made the most changes in their secondary. They release CB David Amerson and CB T.J. Carrie while CB Sean Smith remains a free agent. Carrie played his best ball in coverage in 2017. The Raiders signed CB Rashaan Melvin, CB Shareece Wright, CB Leon Hall, and S Marcus Gilchrist. Melvin played at a high level in all areas in 2017 as a rotational corner. Wright has never been a strong player in the NFL. Gilchrist should be a neutral player in all areas off the bench for Oakland at safety. Hall appears to be on the decline after playing well early in his career for the Bengals
The only other to changes came on the defensive line. The Raiders added DE Tank Carradine while releasing DE Denico Autry. Both players had only rotational value in 2017 with Autry offering the most playing time. Carradine may improve the run defense off the bench.
With two of their first two picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, Oakland tried to improve their offensive line with T Kolten Miller and T Brandon Parker. Miller comes with mixed emotions in the scouting department. As a left tackle in college, Kolten offers quickness and strong hands helping his range in pass blocking. Miller can struggle with power players especially if challenge with follow through speed. Parker lacks the speed and strength to be an edge player at left tackle in the pros. His technique needs improvement in both run and pass blocking. Brandon has a long resume of success in college, and he should get stronger in the NFL with a chance to improve his overall game with steady coaching.
In the second round, the Raiders invested in NT P.J. Hall who comes from a small school (Sam Houston St.). Hall offers an exciting combination of power and quickness leading to plenty of tackles for a loss and sacks in college. He had a clear edge in talent over his competition, which will be his first challenge in the NFL. P.J. is maxed out in size. He needs to find a balance between his weight and motor at the next level while maintaining his edge off the snap.
With four of their next five draft selections, Oakland tried to upgrade their defense with DE Arden Key, CB Nick Nelson, DT Maurice Hurst, and LB Azeem Victor.
Key projects as a rotational pass rusher with his best asset coming in his ability to beat blockers after the snap. He has a quick first step can offer an edge. Arden has risk vs. the run and commitment to the game. Key needs to stay in top shape while improving his motor and pass rushing technique.
Nelson has cover skills, but he’s not a playmaker. Nick will make many plays in coverage while being a hard worker with a desire to get better as a player. When overmatched, Nelson will try to cheat by holding his opponent which will be a problem in the NFL against better talent.
The new Raiders coaching staff focused on quickness and power on the interior of their line in this year’s draft. Hurst has a great first step, which helps his disrupter value against the run and pass run. His upper body needs to get stronger to help finish his attacks. Maurice has a high motor, but he needs to improve his vision when engaged at the point of contact
An injury at the end of 2016 led to a failed 2017 season. He battled his body and off the field issues leading to a bench role. Azeem flashed enough upside earlier in his career for Oakland to take a swing on him finding his game. Victor shows vision and anticipation with his best value expecting to come against the run when attacking the line of scrimmage.
Oakland replaced their kicker in the fifth round of the draft with Johnny Townsend. His leg grades well, but Townsend needs to add more height to his kicks to limit returns.
In the seventh round, the Raiders selected WR Marcell Ateman. His route running is better than expected when considering his size (6’5” and 216 lbs.) and college resume. Ateman does struggle to beat press coverage while needing a cleaner release out of his breaks. His hands grade well, but he’ll face tighter coverage at the next level.
Oakland fell to 25th in rushing yards (1,554) with 13 rushing TDs. Some of their failure was due to only 23.1 rushes per game, which was about 15 percent lower than the league average.
The Raiders were league average in passing yards (3,631 – 16th) with 23 TDs and 14 Ints. They gained only 6.7 yards per pass attempt with 47 completions over 20 yards. Their offensive line allowed 24 sacks and a league-low in QB hits (51).
LT Donald Penn has been a steady rock on this line over the last four seasons with some decline in 2017. He played well as run blocker while minimizing the damage in sacks. Donald starts the year at age 35 so his days as an elite player are winding down. Last year he missed 2+ games with a foot injury.
LG Kelechi Osemele played great for Oakland in his first season after signing a five-year $58.5 million contract in 2016, but he did fade to league average last year. Osemele continued to play well in pass blocking while showing regression run blocking. The Ravens drafted him in the second round in 2012.
C Rodney Hudson was one of the top pass blocking centers over the last four seasons. He signed a nice contract in 2015 ($44.5M for five seasons). Last year he offered neutral value as a run blocker.
RG Gabe Jackson played at a high level in 2015 and 2016 before seeing his game fall to the lowest level of his career in 2017. Jackson finished as a huge liability in run blocking last year. The Raiders drafted him in the second round in 2015. Jackson is at his best in pass protection while needing to regain his form in the run game.
RT Kolten Miller expects to start after taking a downgrade in position in the NFL. Oakland selected him 15th overall in 2017. Miller has foot speed and quickness to help improve the run game. He may struggle with power rushers on the outside, but the switch to right tackle should help his learning curve in the NFL.
Oakland has talent at all positions on their offensive line with the age of Donald Penn being the biggest risk. The Raiders did add an insurance card in the draft with Brandon Parker to help bridge the gap at left tackle. I expect Oakland to be much better offensively in 2018 with the run game making a nice step forward. The Raiders have one of the top offensive lines in the NFL.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2017, which will work as our starting point for 2018. 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.
2017 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2017.
2017 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.
2017 Adjustment is based on the 2017 league average and the 2017 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.
The Raiders have three favorable matchups (CIN and LAC X 2) for their rushing attack plus three games (ARI and DEN X 2) that project as tough games. Overall, they have a slightly favorable schedule.
Oakland has a tough schedule for their passing game. They have four poor matchups (DEN X 2 and LAC X 2) plus four other below par games (SEA, BAL, PIT, and CIN). Their best success should come against the Chiefs in two games.
The Raiders only had 370 rushes in 2017, which was well below expected value considering their talent on the offensive line. Oakland gained 730 yards fewer than 2016 with regression in all areas. The change in coaching staff should lead to step forward in offensive play. The Raiders don’t have a great defense, so they will have to pass the ball to win games.
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.
Other Options: E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg
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.
Other Options: Chris Warren
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.
Other Options: Seth Roberts, Ryan Switzer, Marcell Ateman, Johnny Holton, Dwayne Harris
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.
Other Options: Lee Smith, Derek Carrier, Pharaoh Brown, Marcus Baugh, Paul Butler
K Giorgio Tavecchio – In his first season in the NFL, Tavecchio made 16 of his 21 field goals (76.2). He missed one of his 34 extra points. His leg played well from 50 yards or longer (3-for-4). Giorgio needs to do a better job in 201 if he wants to keep his job. The Raiders brought in Eddy Pineiro to compete for the starting job. At Florida, Pineiro made 88.4 percent of field goal tries. Either way, Oakland’s kicker will only have matchup value unless their offense makes a step forward.
The Raiders’ defense has three games (MIA, CIN, and ARI) vs. teams that struggle to run the ball last year. The Cardinals will be better with David Johnson back in the starting lineup. Their toughest three games will come against Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt (2).
Their pass defense will be tested in five games (PIT, LAC X 2, and KC X 2). Oakland has four games (IND, CLE, CIN, and BAL) vs. teams that ranked poorly passing the ball in 2017, but I expect all teams to be improved.
Oakland finished 12th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (1,743) with 11 TDs and nine runs over 20 yards. Ball carriers gained 4.0 yards per rush with 27.1 attempts per game.
The Raiders slipped to 26th in passing yards allowed (3,858) with 24 TDs. Their defense only had five Ints with 31 sacks. Oakland needs more playmakers in pass coverage while improving their pass rush.
DE Khalil Mack continued to be an elite player in all areas. He posted a career-high in tackles (78) in 2017 plus 10.5 sacks. Mack has 36.5 sacks over his last 48 games while also offering high value against the run. DE Mario Edwards missed 14 games in 2016 due to a hip injury. As a rotational player last year, Edwards had 27 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Mario projects well as a run defender with minimal upside in sacks.
DT Justin Ellis played well against the run last year while securing a career high in tackles (48). He has no real upside in the pass rush. The Raiders invested in DT Eddie Vanderdoes in the third round 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. In his first year in the NFL, Eddie struggled to defend the run while failing to sack the QB. Oakland hopes DT Maurice Hurst or DT P.J. Hall develop into upgrades against the run after selecting both players in this season’s draft.
LB Bruce Irvin played his best football over the last two seasons with the Raiders. Last year he set a career high in tackles (58) and sacks (8) while playing well against the run. Oakland will try to squeeze one good year out of Derrick Johnson after a strong career with the Chiefs. He tends to play well in pass coverage with no value rushing the QB. Last year Johnson was a liability against the run. LB Tahir Whitehead has 242 tackles over the last two seasons with only one sack. He’ll upgrade the Raiders’ run defense. LB Arden Key will add pass rushing value after getting drafted in the third round.
The Raiders have added two safeties in the first two rounds of the draft in 2016 and 2017 (Karl Joseph and Obi Melifonwu). Joseph was a neutral player in his first year in the NFL while showing growth against the run last year. Karl needs to improve in the passing game. Last year he missed 11 games with a hip injury. 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. Oakland has two veteran options at safety as well with Marcus Gilchrist and Reggie Nelson. Both players have league average value with Nelson having the most downside against the run.
CB Gareon Conley missed 14 games in 2017 with a shin injury that required surgery after the Raiders drafted him in the first round. 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 a coverage cover due to his weakness in run support and aggression off blocks. CB Daryl Worley struggled in pass coverage in his second year in the NFL while seeing more action than expected. In his rookie season, Worley was a neutral player in coverage. CB Rashaan Melvin will compete playing time as the third corner after playing well in a limited role in 2017 for the Colts.
2018 will be an interesting season for the Raiders’ defense will the change of coaching staff. They added talent to the interior of the line with the idea of upgrading the run defense plus disrupt play development. The growth of the secondary will hinge on a core of young players rebounding from some injuries while owning pedigree. Oakland has on stud player in Khalil Mack who will set the tone at the line of scrimmage. Viable second defense in the Fantasy market if the Raiders can play more games from the lead while creating more sacks and turnovers.
2018 NFL Team Outlooks