Football Outsiders — the premier NFL analytic website — has teamed with SB Nation to give fans its insider thoughts.
Silver and Black Pride had a chance to talk to Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders to ask some Raiders questions. Before we dig in, here’s a chance to check out their terrific 2020 NFL almanac, complete with a chapter on the Raiders by the excellent Mike Tanier.
Silver and Black Pride: What should we expect from Josh Jacobs in terms of total yards from scrimmage?
Aaron Schatz: We have Jacobs projected with 1,475 yards from scrimmage in the book, which is an increase of about 175 over last year. Most of that increase comes from receptions.
SBP: Jacobs said he thinks he can catch 60 passes in 2020? Is that plausible?
AS: Plausible? Sure. Lots of things are plausible. Likely? No, 60 is a bit much. A lot of projecting receptions for Jacobs comes from trying to read the coaching tea leaves; it’s about opportunity, not ability.
Jacobs averaged 12 yards per reception in college, so he can gain yardage that way. So it’s a question of how much the Raiders want to use him in the receiving game. We think more than last year, but he’s still going to have to battle for snaps with a lot of guys whose skill sets say “third down,” including Jalen Richard, Devontae Booker, and now Theo Riddick. We have him closer to 40 catches, not 60.
SBP: Should we expect Derek Carr to have more down-field success with new pieces on offense?
AS: It’s hard to imagine that Carr is going to become a totally different quarterback just because of the addition of Henry Ruggs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Raiders use Ruggs’ speed on short stuff as well as sending him deep: screens and the like. That won’t really lead to more downfield success for Carr. I mean, Carr already did have a good downfield target last year in Tyrell Williams. He still didn’t go downfield as often as other quarterbacks.
SBP: Can Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski make huge positive influence on defensive production?
AS: I think these two players can make an impact, but I don’t know if they alone make a “huge” positive influence. It’s certainly a positive influence. On one hand, analytics generally suggest that off-ball linebacker may be the least important of the defensive positions. But that doesn’t mean “linebackers don’t matter” or some such thing.
What I think makes a difference for the Raiders on defense isn’t one or two players but the volume of accomplished free agents that add to depth. We have a variable in the defensive projections that is based on PFR’s approximate value over replacement, with replacement level being 3 AV, and the Raiders added seven different players that earn them AVOR credit: Amukamara, Collins, Heath, Kwiatkowski, Littleton, Nassib, and Randall.
SBP: What’s Hunter Renfrow’s production ceiling in 2020?
AS: Well, his production ceiling is to be Cooper Kupp, but that’s not what’s the most likely result. Our KUBIAK projections end up with Renfrow putting up very similar numbers to 2019.