Taken in the 2nd round of last year’s NFL Draft, Carr unexpectedly supplanted Matt Schaub in training camp to earn the starting role and played well enough to provide the Raiders with confidence that he is their long term answer at the quarterback position. Despite playing with wide receivers and tight ends that would rank amongst the worst depth charts at those positions in the league, Carr managed to throw for 3,270 yards with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. However, much of that production came in garbage time (which certainly helped to inflate his touchdown pass total) and Carr managed to complete just 58.1% of his passes despite ranking near the bottom of the league in yards per attempt and yards per completion. While Carr has a strong arm, he will need to avoid the check down mentality that he displayed as a rookie as well as improve his accuracy if he is to emerge as a quality starter and decent fantasy option. Since we view some of the issues arising from his rookie season as the result of playing with inferior skill position players, Carr has the potential to emerge as a mid-tier QB2 in his second season due to the additions of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, as well as the return to health of Rod Streater.
Proving why the Raiders are the Raiders, they kept Murray nailed to the bench for the first 11 weeks of last season behind veteran journeymen Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden before unleashing him on the league for the final five games of the season. During that stretch, Murray ran for 370 yards and a pair of touchdowns while producing another 108 yards as a receiver. Possessed with outstanding athletic ability, the 2013 6th round pick is an obvious breakout candidate in 2015. At 6’2” and 223 pounds, Murray has the size to handle a workhorse role and given the competition he will face in training camp from Roy Helu and Trent Richardson, he could be in line for 300 touches. The only negatives with Murray are his uneven skills as a receiver as well as a Raiders offense that figures to rate in the bottom third of the league. Murray is a lower-tier RB2 with upside.
After showing plenty of promise as a rookie 4th round pick in 2011, gaining 640 yards on the ground while catching 49 passes for 379 yards, Helu emerged as nothing more than a 3rd down, change of pace back during his final three years in Washington. In 2015, he joins a Raiders rushing attack that will feature Latavius Murray with Trent Richardson and Marcel Reece also competing for touches. An underrated receiver out of the backfield, Helu has caught 122 passes for 1,107 yards in his career excluding 2012 in which he only appeared in 3 games. However, despite having solid agility and better than average speed, Helu has just three receiving touchdowns during his career despite averaging 8.9 yards per reception. That makes him little more than Murray’s handcuff this season although we wouldn’t be surprised if the Raiders went with a committee approach if injury strikes down their starter.
Just two years after amassing 950 rushing yards, 367 receiving yards and scoring 12 touchdowns as a rookie despite playing much of the season with rib and knee injuries, Trent Richardson is well on his way to establishing himself as one of the biggest running back draft busts of his era. A total flop in Indianapolis after being traded from the Cleveland Browns to the Colts early in the 2013 season, Richardson had fallen behind Ahmad Bradshaw, Dan Herron and Zurlon Tipton before his days in Indy came to an end. Signed by the Raiders in the offseason, Richardson will battle Roy Helu, rookie undrafted free agent Michael Dyer and Marcel Reece for playing time behind Latavius Murray. Given his inability to gain yards on the ground (career yards per carry average of 3.3), lack of explosiveness and rumored weight issues in Indy, we aren’t banking on this reclamation project having a happy ending.
While Reece is a solid fullback and a capable fill in at running back (he has two 100 yards games to his career), the Raiders have chosen to only use him as a tailback when their hand has been forced. However, with Roy Helu and Trent Richardson joining him on the depth chart behind Latavius Murray, it is unlikely that Reece will see much time at tailback this season. And with Helu signed mainly for his receiving abilities out of the backfield, we don’t expect Reece will haul in many passes in 2015. His days as a late round flier in larger PPR leagues should be over.
With one of the worst group of wide receivers in the league last season, the Raiders were desperate for an upgrade at the position heading into 2015. Needing to address the position in order to give second year quarterback Derek Carr a better opportunity to succeed, and provide the offense with more playmaking ability, Oakland used the 4th overall selection in the draft to acquire Alabama product Amari Cooper. While Cooper lacks ideal size at 6’1” and 210 pounds, he has outstanding speed and displayed solid playmaking ability in college. In Oakland, he will be paired with Carr, who needs to attack the field vertically in order to progress as an NFL quarterback. However, with Cooper excelling on short and intermediate routes in college and Carr having shown a propensity for making those types of passes as a rookie, Cooper should receive a ton of targets and catch plenty of passes in 2015. The issue is whether he will be able to turn those receptions into big plays and how often he will be able to find the end zone on an Oakland offense that figures to finish in the bottom third in the league. Since Carr seems another year away from establishing himself as a true quality starter, a season with 900-1,000 yards and between five and seven touchdowns seems likely for Cooper making him a lower tier WR3 in his rookie season.
After failing to live up to his promise after being taken by the 49ers with the 10th pick in the 2009 draft, Michael Crabtree joins the Raiders in 2015 where he is expected to start opposite rookie Amari Cooper. After catching 85 passes for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns during the 2012 season, Crabtree suffered through an injury plagued 2013 before being relegated to a more secondary role last season, catching 68 of his 108 targets for 698 yards and four touchdowns. In Oakland, Crabtree has the potential to emerge as the team’s top receiving option depending on how quickly Cooper adapts to the pro game. While we don’t expect that to happen, reports out of the Raiders training camp indicate that Crabtree is rejuvenated and motivated to prove the 49ers were wrong to reduce his role leading to his exit from San Francisco. With conservative Derek Carr at quarterback and Crabtree showing little explosiveness last season averaging a career-low 10.3 yards per carry, it is difficult to predict a solid comeback season from Crabtree no matter how glowing the training camp reports are. We rate him as a lower tier WR4 although one of the more intriguing options in that tier.
Poised to possibly emerge as the Raiders top receiving option last season after catching 60 passes for 888 yards and four touchdowns during his second year in the league, Streater suffered a foot fracture in Week 3 that ended his season. And the Raiders moved on, adding Amari Cooper with the 4th pick in this year’s draft and signing free agent Michael Crabtree. Their additions all but ensure that Streater will assume a role as a low volume, possession receiver this year in Oakland. Possessing decent size at 6’3” and 200 pounds but with middling speed, Streater could produce some decent stats in that role given the Raiders murky outlook at the tight end position. However, until he strings together a couple of solid games, Streater is waiver wire material entering 2015.
A former undrafted free agent, Holmes was slowly emerging as a decent receiving option for the Raiders, gaining 693 yards and four touchdowns on 47 receptions last season after catching 25 passes for 431 yards and a touchdown in 2013. However, his path to the starting lineup is blocked in 2015 by Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. That leaves Holmes fighting with Rod Streater, Brice Butler and Kenbrell Thompkins for targets. Since Holmes has displayed solid playmaking ability during his stay in Oakland, we won’t be surprised if he wins the battle to emerge as the team’s backup. However, we still don’t like his fantasy prospects in 2015.
On first glance, it appears that Rivera’s career is on the upswing. After catching 38 passes for 407 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie, he improved to 58 receptions for 534 yards and four touchdowns last season. However, a closer look reveals that, while Rivera may have posted marginally better production, he wasn’t really all that much better as a sophomore than he was as a rookie. First off, he failed to top 40 receiving yards in 12 games. Secondly, despite averaging a lowly 9.2 yards per reception, he managed to catch just 58% of his targets, a decline from his reception to target ratio of 63.3% in 2013. Finally, the Raiders added two players to the tight end depth chart in the offseason, blocking specialist Lee Smith and rookie 3rd round pick Clive Walford. With a reduced snap count likely, we don’t like Rivera’s fantasy prospects in 2015.