With the NFL's annual Hall of Fame Game being held Sunday evening, fantasy football drafts are now in full swing. Preseason is a great opportunity to see which teams and players have the most talent, even if you can't really gauge the schemes that they will be operating within. In just a few days we'll get to see the Raiders take on the Cowboys and we'll get our fist look at the Silver and Black in Greg Olsen's offense, and we'll get to see how the players look. I'm especially interested in seeing if Darren McFadden looks like his 2010 self now that he's back in a power rush offense. All these things will go a long way in helping me and all fantasy players decide who would be the best choices for our fantasy squads.
Recently a website called Fantasy Knuckleheads shared with us their analysis for the upcoming Raiders season. I felt it was fair, if possibly a little pessimistic. I'll be sharing excerpts from it as we move along.
Like all fantasy teams, I'll start at the top with the quarterback. Matt Flynn is a guy who showed a lot of promise playing in a superb offense in Green Bay, but he has a lot to prove now that he has less talent on his side. Here's what Fantasy Knuckleheads has to say:
Flynn’s veteran status should push him to the starting job come Week One, but that doesn’t mean he’ll keep the job for all of 2013. The blame doesn’t necessarily fall squarely on Flynn, however, as the Raiders’ front office didn’t do much in the way of signing free agent talent in the offseason. Because of this, neither Flynn or any of the other quarterbacks on the roster are worthy of a draft pick.
Some good points are made here. The Raiders didn't sign anyone who could help Flynn out such as a big time receiver or offensive lineman- they brought the old crew back and hoped for the best. Unless Andre Gurode returns to his Pro Bowl form, in which case Reggie is even more of a genius than we thought. Flynn hasn't shown us anything in a real game yet as a Raider that would indicate he has the potential to be a top-20 fantasy quarterback, but the Raiders don't have Russell Wilson either so Flynn should get his numbers. If he looks good in preseason, he pencils as a solid backup in fantasy.
Now we move on to the most important player for the Raiders in fantasy and reality- Darren McFadden. Here's what the Knuckeheads have to say:
When clicking on all cylinders, we’ve seen what kind of damage McFadden can do to opposing defenses. In 2010, the Raiders offense transitioned from zone blocking schemes to integrated gap and power schemes that maximized McFadden’s ability. How did McFadden respond? By putting up season highs in almost every statistical category, racking up 1,664 total yards in 13 games. He also posted ten total touchdowns. Dennis Allen inexplicably resurrected zone blocking in 2012, which essentially neutralized McFadden’s strengths.
New OC Greg Olson is returning to a downhill blocking/power scheme, which should bolster McFadden’s fantasy value through August. As of now, McFadden’s ADP (Average Draft Pick) is right around the middle of the third round in PPR leagues. That’s about right for a player who has big play potential, but simply can’t stay healthy for an entire season. Owners shouldn’t be drafting him any higher. He’s too much of a risk. Any lower would be considered strong value.
While the analysis of McFadden's potential in the power scheme is sound, I have found McFadden's ADP to be considerably higher in drafts I have participated in. He's been going mid-second round, not mid-third. The reason for this, in my estimation, isn't that McFadden carries no risk or that he deserves to be that high, it's a lack of alternatives with the potential to accrue that many carries. After the first round, you will invariably encounter a dearth of running backs who are the unquestioned bell-cow of their team and who are not expected to be in a time-share at the position. McFadden, when healthy, ought to get well over 80% of the carries for the Raiders and that goes a long way. McFadden is a HUGE risk at this juncture, probably the biggest risk in the entire draft process, but if he stays healthy he WILL put up top-5 overall stats.
Receiver is a position at which the Raiders ought to focus in the future on improving, as they focused on improving their defense in this offseason. The team has no clear #1 option and really has a few #3 type guys trying to be that #1. That does the quarterback and the offense in general no favors, unless every receiver becomes more consistent. The Knuckleheads chime in:
Because the team has such a weak receiving corps, that leaves Denarius Moore as the most talented receiving option. Although his upside is capped due to the question marks at quarterback. In Moore’s first two seasons, he’s averaged 42 receptions, 680 yards and six touchdowns. His current ADP ranking lists him as the 44th overall fantasy receiver, which is about right. He’s at best a WR3/Flex option.
A recent report stated Rod Streater has been the team’s most consistent receiver and he could "emerge as the go-to" guy for Flynn this season. Moore is more talented, but Streater has shown more consistency. If Streater continues to show off in training camp and the preseason, he could wind up being the biggest value pick of all the Raiders players. That’s not saying much though.
I totally agree with this. However, I think both Streater and Moore- particularly if one of them emerges as the primary receiving target- have the potential to be excellent WR3 of Flex options and have the potential, if Flynn shows himself to be something special, to be considered WR2 options. All the passes that last year went to DHB will now probably be split up amongst those guys so if the Raiders don't just constantly run the ball I expect better numbers than last season.
The Raiders' biggest fantasy question mark is tight ends. Brandon Myers was a decent fantasy player last year, but the Raiders replaced him with rookies and backups. Here's the Knuckleheads:
Finally it’s time to talk about the team’s biggest question mark outside of quarterback: tight end. With 2012 surprise Brandon Myers now a Giant, there is extreme uncertainty surrounding the starting tight end job. Incumbents David Ausberry and Richard Gordon are contending with rookies Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera, but none of the four have any fantasy football relevance.
Normally I would be in total agreement with this, but reports from camp recently have David Ausberry playing at a high level. I wouldn't count on any of the rookies until at least next season, but pay close attention to Ausberry in the preseason to see if he maintains consistency playing as well as he has been.
Kicker is a no-brainer, Janikowski ought to be the first kicker taken. No worries here.
Defense is really interesting as the Raiders were among the worst fantasy defenses and have been for a few seasons. However, the team has signed a lot of new players to replace much worse ones and only lack established talent at the defensive tackle position. The secondary has a chance to be absolutely fantastic and this team could force a lot of turnovers, which alone would make it fantasy friendly. Try to snag them late as a backup defense.
You should definitely check out Fantasy Knuckleheads. They have a pretty comprehensive site that looks well-organized and slick. While I didn't totally agree with all their analysis, I have to admit I'm a Raiders homer and I am very clued-in on the team and how it looks in camp. An outsider or someone who covers every team rather than just one would and should come to these same conclusions. Remember, the only way for the Raiders to get more respect is to win, and I suspect they will be doing a lot of that.