The NFL Draft is over and the heart of the offseason has begun. The Raiders’ rookie minicamp has already taken place and OTA’s are right around the corner, which means we are just three months away from the start of another glorious NFL season.
For the summer lovers out, don’t fret, there’s still plenty of time to embrace patio season and hit the beach before then. For those of us that live for that next snap however, it’s time to start evaluating players offseason storylines—health, fitness and scheme fits—all in the pursuit of that next fantasy football championship.
Here is the pecking order of the Raiders’ fantasy assets heading into next season:
1) Amari Cooper
My belief in 2017 as Amari Cooper’s breakout season hasn’t wavered since I first wrote about it in February. Cooper has, at times, looked like an emerging superstar during his first two seasons in the league. Unfortunately, he has also looked dispassionate and pulled a disappearing act at other times, pulling in less than 60 yards in six games last season.
The criticisms of Cooper from a fantasy perspective have been well documented. While he has looked like a more explosive player and better route-runner than counterpart Michael Crabtree, he simply hasn’t been able to find the end zone, only totaling 11 touchdowns over his first two seasons.
Everything is aligned for Cooper to reach the next plateau this season however. Carr is teetering on elite, Lynch will force defenses to attack the box and Crabtree will be 30-years-old next season.
Cooper needs to do his own part however, bulking up to stave off health issues, improving concentration on dropped balls and creating a stronger spatial awareness around the sidelines. If he can take care of those traits he should become the Raiders’ top fantasy option in 2017.
Fearless stat prediction: 95 catches, 1,317 yards, 10 touchdowns
2) Derek Carr
Despite a breakout campaign in 2016, Carr is surprisingly not getting much love in fantasy circles. Rather surprising consider he had 4,000 yards with 28 touchdowns versus just six interceptions despite missing two games and playing through a thumb injury last season.
The former Fresno State Bulldog looked at ease last year as a gunslinger in Jack Del Rio’s Russian roulette offense. He threw deep on 4th and inches more than once. He threw fades on the goal line with games at stake. The crazy part? It kept working. Carr and the Raiders thrived with the “our guys are better than yours,” mentality and the team’s style shouldn’t change going forward.
Now that Carr has the keys to the kingdom, he should surpass 500 pass attempts again in 2017, even with Lynch now on the roster. And speaking of Lynch, he should do much more to take pressure off Carr than Latavius Murray ever could, even at 31-years-old.
The Raiders’ passing offense has potential to become the league’s best next season.
Fearless stat prediction: 4,576 yards, 35 touchdowns, 9 interceptions
3) Marshawn Lynch
Lynch averaged around 300 carries per season for the Seahawks in his last three full seasons. I don’t expect he’ll reach that with the Raiders who already have some youthful legs at running back in second year backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. They figure to utilize both of them in order to maximize the juice left in Lynch’s legs.
Lynch will be fully expected to return to 4.5 yards per carry or better running behind the Raiders’ meat-and-potatoes bully squad up front, especially if he’s given the proper rest during the course of games and throughout the season. He figures to be a touchdown hog around the goal line, which is why his fantasy stock should be high despite a potentially conservative number of carries.
Fearless stat prediction: 249 carries, 1,123 yards, 12 touchdowns
4) Michael Crabtree
People keep counting Crabtree out, but he doesn’t seem to mind. His career was revitalized with the move to the Raiders, where he has put up 174 receptions, 1,925 yards and 17 touchdowns over his first two seasons.
He will be 30 on September 14, but fortunately for him, his game has never been reliant on top-end speed. Last year he was a dynamic in the red zone at times, pulling in three touchdowns in one game against the Baltimore Ravens, including the game-winner.
Receivers can certainly play at a high level into their 30’s, as Brandon Marshall proved in 2015, but then again, nobody on the Jets was nipping at his heels for that top spot on the depth chart. 2017 is the year that “King Crab” takes a backseat to “King Coop,” both in fantasy and reality. Take it to the bank. Or don’t, but don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
Fearless stat prediction: 78 catches, 840 yards, 7 touchdowns
5) Jared Cook
Sorry Clive Walford, move aside. The Raiders finally addressed their mediocre tight end play this offseason, signing the Packers’ playoff hero to a 2 yr/$10.6 million deal, per Spotrac. Cook was a revelation for Aaron Rodger’s in last year’s postseason, amassing 18 catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns in just three games.
I don’t expect Cook to become Gronk 2.0 for the Raiders, who already have a strong receiving corp, but he should swipe away some targets from Crabtree on short yardage situations and possibly around the goal line.
The Raiders haven’t had a solid tight end for years now and Cook should hover around the 10-15 range of fantasy tight ends this coming season with all the team’s weapons drawing the ire of opposing defenses.
Fearless prediction: 57 catches, 745 yards, 7 touchdowns
Who will finish highest at their respective position in fantasy points in 2017-18?
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