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Fantasy Football Preview: Oakland Raiders

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We're two weeks into the preseason and that can only mean one thing: it's Fantasy Football time! So with that in mind, we'll take a look at the 2015 Raiders roster and see which players might (or might not) be a good fit for your squad.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

They say the first rule of Fantasy Football is to check your biases at the door — as a Raider fan, that means accepting that your rosy view of Michael Dyer's fantasy prospects are probably a couple notches higher than reality. Now, this doesn't mean that all Raider players are off-limits (obviously), it just means evaluating your own evaluations in being sure that players aren't being viewed through silver and black lenses.

Consider, for example, that while many people reading this boasted a Raiders player following the 2014 draft, that the Raiders had the following fantasy contributors by season's end:

  • No. 20 QB
  • No. 41 & No. 48 RB
  • No. 44 WR
  • No. 19 TE
  • No. 32 D/ST
  • No. 26 K

Moral of the story? Owning an Oakland Raider for any extended period of time last season was a bad idea.

Sure, you may have been the shark that spot-started Latavius Murray for his 112 yards, 2 touchdown performance against the Chiefs, but spending a roster spot on him at any point before that would have been a mistake.

So, will the same be true of the 2015 Raiders?

While my heart tells me 'no', the good news is that my head (and the experts) agree. The 2015 Raiders will suffer defensively in real life, but that doesn't hurt the wide range of options they boast on what should be a much improved offense.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts on the guys coming off the board in most drafts...

Derek Carr (No. 28 QB according to Matthew Berry, ESPN)

If there's one guy Raider fans are drooling over in draft rooms, I'd have to assume it's Carr — and with a ranking like this, there's good reason to.

Carr finished last season as the No. 20 fantasy quarterback, and when you add in weapons like Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Latavius Murray (as the feature back and not third-string) and Clive Walford, it's hard to imagine he does worse this season.

That said, the concern with Carr continues to be whether or not he'll throw the ball down the field. We saw a ray of hope on Saturday when he hit Amari Cooper down the sideline, but even with that included, his Yards-Per-Attempt is still just 7.11 this season.

Now, I understand they run a vanilla offense in the preseason, that it's the preseason, etc. but unless Carr can prove he's going to throw the ball more than 3-5 yards down field most of the time, his fantasy upside (especially in bonus-oriented leagues) is limited.

Verdict: Carr is a great late-round option at backup quarterback

Latavius Murray (No. 20 RB according to Berry)

It seems clear to me that this ranking has more to do with questions about Murray's durability than about his talent and potential. Remember, Murray tore his ACL as a freshman in college, sprained his shoulder as a senior and fractured his ankle as a rookie. Now, I'm not saying this is Darren McFadden 2.0, but it's simply a trend that needs to be acknowledged and reflected as risk in the rankings.

Despite those concerns, this preseason has been a pleasant reminder of what Murray looks like on the field — really, really good. He runs hard, he makes the right cuts and he has torn through both defenses so far. Add into the equation that he's the primary back in a league that has shifted away from one-back systems and it's surprising to see him so far down in the rankings.

Another reason to like Murray is Carr's propensity to check-down, a habit that will benefit Murray's owners throughout the season.

If there's one main concern (for me) with Murray — aside from injury history — it's questions about how his workload will be impacted by the overall performance of the team. The Raiders run defense looks stout, but their pass defense is suspect (at best). If the Raiders get involved in a number of shootouts, that might hurt the stock of a guy like Murray — especially if Roy Helu starts to snake some passing downs.

Verdict: Probably deserves to be in the range of guys like Justin Forsett and Mark Ingram (No. 14 and 15), and is thus a little underrated

Amari Cooper (No. 19 WR according to Berry)

The Raider fan in me watches "Tim Brown: Road to Canton" and can't help but see the similarities between Brown and Cooper coming out of college. Now, remember: Tim Brown was a Pro-Bowler as a rookie.

Note: I don't think Amari Cooper is a Pro-Bowler this season.

In fact, of all the Raiders on here, it's actually Cooper that worries me the most. Rookies are always the "sexy" pick in fantasy drafts — high upside but also massive downside — and I think Cooper falls squarely into that category. While I don't have any doubt Cooper will be a really good receiver in this league, I wonder whether or not being the No. 1 receiver on a middling team is a recipe for success.

Right behind Cooper in the rankings are Brandon Marshall, Jeremy Maclin, Vincent Jackson and Desean Jackson among others — all guys who have thrived at this level at some point in their careers. While I think Cooper could be the next Julio Jones or AJ Green, remember that Sammy Watkins came into the league with similar fanfare last season and finished as the No. 27 WR last season (according to ESPN).

Verdict: I like Cooper a lot, but as a risk-averse owner, I'd probably take my risks later on in the draft

Michael Crabtree (No. 54 WR according to Berry)

Now we're talking.

Coming into the season with almost no risk, Crabtree is currently being drafted around No. 140 on ESPN — meaning in a 10-team league, he's available in rounds 13 & 14, and in a 12-team league, he's still there in rounds 11 & 12. Assuming he solidifies himself in the No. 2 WR role on this team (which is a pretty safe assumption), and that Amari Cooper inherits a large portion of the defensive double teams, I really like Crabtree as a sleeper this season.

In a contract year, Crabtree knows he needs to prove he's as good as his draft position says he is — and with an upgrade at quarterback (from a pure passing perspective), I think Crabtree could develop into a really solid receiver.

Verdict: This is the type of guy I LOVE taking a flyer on late in drafts

——

The only other player to receive ranking inside the Top 200 by Berry was Roy Helu, who came in at No. 49 among running backs. The Raider defense is projected to finish the same place they did last season: No. 32.

Some people are surely wondering about the tight end position, and my advice would be to take a pass at draft time. I think there will be some value in either Rivera or Walford once the season begins, but it's anyone's guess as to which guy will get a majority of the snaps there this season — so you're better off spending draft picks elsewhere.