Ahhhh my Oakland Raiders. I have been a lifelong Raider fan and it just pains me to witness what my beloved team has become. The Raiders finished 5-11 in 2008 leaving the Raider Nation with yet another year of heartache. I have written (and will continue to write) several articles about the Raiders prospects as a team heading into 2009. For the sake of this article however, I will be examining the Raiders solely from a fantasy prospective. With that in mind let’s look at the fantasy potential of the Silver and Black for 2009.
It is no secret that I am not sold on JaMarcus Russell as an NFL QB and I am even less fond of him as a fantasy QB. To be blunt, Russell has shown me and fellow Raider Nation members very little in his 3 years in the league. Obviously, he has the cannon arm but it takes much more than that to be a successful NFL QB just ask Jeff George. Furthermore, Russell has not shown much of a work ethic since the Raiders invested pretty much their entire franchise with him 3 years ago. Truthfully, I wanted and still wished the Raiders had drafted Brady Quinn rather than Russell as I think Quinn has all the tools to be a fine QB in this league for a long time to come if the Browns ever give him the chance. I just don’t see that out of Russell and apparently the Raiders are getting concerned as well or they would not have signed free agent QB Jeff Garcia to “backup” Russell. I have news for you folks. If Russell starts off slowly which is a real possibility seeing as though the Raiders have an absolutley brutal schedule this year Garcia will be in there. Until Russell shows some fire underneathth his ass don’t go anywhere near him on draft day this August even as a number 2 QB.
As down as I am on Russell I am that high on the Raiders running game and in my estimation if the Raiders pound the ball all year long utilizing the 3 headed monster they currently have on the roster I truly believe that this team can go 8-8. First, Darren McFadden WILL breakout this year to the tune of 1100-1300 yards and 12 total TD’s. Count on it. Why am I so sure of that? A couple different reasons. First, Dmac is just too damn good. His rookie campaign was derailed largely in part to a stubborn turf toe injury that hampered him for virtually the entire year. Make no mistake about it. In terms of pure talent McFadden is better than Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, and Steve Slaton. Moreover, Dmac has been proactive regarding the aforementioned toe injury by having the Raiders trainer place a steel plate in his shoe to help prevent such an injury from happening again. Finally, battering ram specialist Lorenzo Neal has been brought in by the Raiders specifically to block for McFadden and to help launch his career. McFadden is the real deal. Draft him between the 3rd to 5th rounds as a number 2 RB and watch him explode.
In addition to McFadden the Raiders also sport 2 other fine backs in Justin Fargas and Michael Bush. If I am a betting man I am thinking that Fargas will be the odd man out this year. If McFadden gets hot early on which I believe he will Fargas will not be seeing the field much. Bush however, will have a role regardless. The nation saw exactly what Bush is capable of as a runner in the week 17 finale against the Buccaneers when he rushed for 177 yards and 2 TD’s in a game that Tampa needed to win to make the playoffs and that ultimately cost Tampa Head Coach and former Raider Coach Jon Gruden his job. Had it not been for the broken leg he sustained at Louisville Bush would have certainly been a top ten pick and the Raiders absolutely stole him in the 4th round a few years back. Bush will surely continue to see work this year as a short yardage/goal line back and don’t be afraid to take a shot on him with a pick in rounds 12 and after. As for Fargas, I personally wouldn’t waste a pick on him because unless McFadden gets hurt this year I don’t see him putting any kind of worthwhile numbers statistically.
Unlike the Raiders running attack the team’s receiving corps is clouded with controversy and question marks. Al Davis shocked me and the rest of the world when he selected WR Darrius Heyward-Bey over Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin. It is obvious to me and everyone else that really the only variable that matters to Mr. Davis when evaluating players is the 40 yard dash time. I will not get into Davis here as it is not the proper format as this is an article pertaining to the Raiders from a fantasy prospective only. Does Heyward-Bey have any fantasy potential for 2009? Yes. Would I daft him? Yes, but no earlier than the 13-14th round and if someone like Maclin or Percy Harvin is still on the board I would take either ahead of Heyward-Bey. However, from a fantasy point of view Heyward-Bey has some things working for him. First, he is already the number 1 receiver on the team and Mr. Davis has made his intentions perfectly clear that he intends to try to get the ball deep to the speedster right from the get go. If you are in a league like mine who rewards you with bonus points for long TD runs and receptions than it is worth a shot taking a late round flier on Heyward-Bey because the law of averages says that he will catch at least a few bombs from Russell this year. Another receiver that could see an increase in his production if Russell develops the way the franchise needs him to is Johnny Lee Higgings. Higgins represents a nice talent both at the WR position and as a punt/kick returner. Similarly to Heyward-Bey take a shot on Higgins late and if Russell can finally get his head out of his ass you may see some dividends from him as the year progresses. Chad Shillings and rookie Louis Murphy from Florida are 2 other Raider receivers to keep an eye on this fall.
TE Zach Miller could be the biggest beneficiary if Russell makes strides. Miller started to really make a name for himself last year by catching 56 passes for 778 yds and 1 TD. Both the receptions and yardage led the Raiders receivers by a mile and although the 1 TD is disappointing Miller is sure to improve on that in 2009. Miller along with Greg Olson from Chicago are my 2 dark horse TE candidates for the upcoming season. Olson has the better QB but Russell and Miller appeared to form a nice chemistry last year and if that continues Miller has the talent to be an elite NFL TE.
The Raiders DST is to be avoided at all costs until the unit proves otherwise. Last year the team ranked 31st against the run and were pounded on the ground all year long. The DL was a complete disaster and LB Tommy Kelley who normally anchors down the unit had an off year. The secondary is led by one of if not the best cover corners in the game with Nnamdi Asomugha who was just signed to a contract extension this off season. Asomugha is the modern day Lester Hayes and is truly one of the best at the CB position in the NFL. The bottom line however, is that it goes without saying that there are far better options at the DST position than the Raiders and they should not be considered in any circumstance under any format. In leagues where kickers are rewarded with bonus points for FG’s over 50 yards kicker Sebastian Janikowski can be of some value as he still has the same leg he had coming out of FSU.
To conclude my examination of the Raiders I strongly suggest taking a long hard look at McFadden as a number 2 RB for 2009. I am telling you right now he is going to have a great year and I also like the TE Miller. As for the other Raiders there is nothing really to get excited about from a fantasy prospective. Next up: The Kansas City Chiefs.Get a free .com.ng domain name and 2GB Space + 8GB Bandwidth + Free SSL Cert for N5,000 Only!