StrategyAugust 3, 2009

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Daily Preview: Oakland Raiders

By R.J. White

The Oakland Raiders won’t be mistaken for being a good team, but there is an aspect of their offense that must be considered above-average: their running game. While the team finished last in passing offense last year, they were 10th in rushing offense — the gap between passing yards per game and rushing yards per game wasn’t more than 25 yards. 2009 should offer much of the same, and the only player you should spend a high pick on is running back Darren McFadden. In many drafts, it isn’t unheard of to see McFadden and two other Oakland running backs come off the board before anyone takes a stab at owning another Raiders player.

QB: JaMarcus Russell, Jeff Garcia
RB: Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas, Michael Bush
WR: Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Louis Murphy, Javon Walker
TE: Zach Miller
PK: Sebastian Janikowski

Quarterback: The Raiders brought in successful starter Jeff Garcia in the offseason, but remain adamant that JaMarcus Russell is their starting QB. After leading the aforementioned worst passing offense in the NFL last season, Russell doesn’t have much time left to shake off the bust label and become a successful starting QB. With his WR cupboard bare of talent, I would suggest passing on Russell in any but the deepest of leagues.

Running Back: The money position. Darren McFadden flashed his capabilities in a huge game against Kansas City early in the season, but injuries cost him some valuable time in 2008. Questions remain whether McFadden can handle a full workload. If he can manage 250 carries, he makes for a great value in the fourth round of fantasy drafts. If he can’t step up and reach that total, someone will be getting a lot of work. For that reason, I really like Justin Fargas and Michael Bush as values in the late portion of the draft — if you can net both as your fourth and fifth backs, you could easily wind up with the lead back in a top-ten rushing offense.

Wide Receiver: This isn’t a unit you want to delve into. The likely starters will be Chaz Schilens and rookie Darrius Heyward-Bey, with Johnnie Lee Higgins likely manning the slot. Schilens has proven to be Oakland’s number-one option in offseason workouts, which isn’t saying too much considering the competition. Heyward-Bey was a huge reach in the NFL Draft, but with a big contract in tow, Oakland will be pressured to have him on the field as much as possible. Higgins actually emerged as a quality option at the end of last year, scoring TDs in each of the final three games of the season. If he can weasel his way into consistent playing time, he should make a nice reserve fantasy WR. Dynasty leagues should keep an eye on rookie Louis Murphy — the opportunity is definitely present for playing time if Murphy can establish himself as a play-maker.

Tight End: Excepting the running backs, Zach Miller would be the only other Oakland player I would consider drafting. Miller put up an amazing stat-line considering his circumstances: 56 catches, 778 yards and one TD. The top three Oakland WRs totaled 56 catches, 773 yards and eight TDs. That’s right, the Oakland TE put up the same amount of catches and yards as the team’s top three WRs combined. If Russell starts to find Miller in the end zone, he should catapult into the top eight at his position.

IDP: As much as the offense keeps the defense on the field, there are several IDP starters here. Kirk Morrison is the best of the bunch and a solid LB1, routinely racking up scores of tackles (he had 136 total tackles in 2008). Thomas Howard is also on the field most of the time, which has led to around 100 total tackles a season. The cornerback that plays across Nnamdi Asomugha is likely to see a plethora of balls thrown his way — that starting position will likely be won by Chris Johnson, making him a solid pickup at CB. With teams avoiding Asomugha, he’s not a good fantasy pick. One of my favorite sleepers this year at DB is Michael Mitchell, the safety that Oakland reached for in the second round of the draft. You can see more on that pick here. On the defensive line, Trevor Scott showed enough last year that he should be owned in fantasy leagues in 2009, as he’s slated to start.

If you play in an IDP league, you’ll find a lot more use for Raiders defenders than you will for the players on offense. However, Miller, Fargas and Bush are all great pickups later in your draft, as all have the potential for big numbers this season. I would avoid any Oakland WRs until someone emerges as a consistent fantasy option. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for a look at the eminently-more exciting fantasy prospects of the San Diego Chargers.

R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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