QB Matt Flynn
(2012 QB Rank – #58, 1.5 FPts/G)
A sought-after free agent following his four-year run with the Packers, Flynn signed on in Seattle prior to the 2012 season with the expectation of starting at quarterback. Russell Wilson had other ideas. With the Raiders looking to clear salary cap room, they traded for Flynn and then jettisoned incumbent starter Carson Palmer off to Arizona. While Palmer wasn’t spectacular in Oakland, you would be hard-pressed to find many who consider Flynn an upgrade. He may have looked good in a few games for the Packers with their wonderful array of offensive weapons, but in Oakland he will play behind a mediocre offensive line with an injury-prone running back, no true No. 1 wide receiver and major question marks at tight end. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for fantasy success. We don’t expect Terrelle Pryor or a rookie fourth-round pick to supplant Flynn on opening day, but there is certainly a chance that one of them will take over at some point in 2013.
RB Darren McFadden
(2012 RB Rank – #28, 9.5 FPts/G; #25 PPR, 13.0 FPts/G)
Quick: after five seasons in the league (didn’t know it was that many, did you?), how many 1000-yard seasons does Darren McFadden have? If you said one, bingo! After five injury-marred seasons during which he has missed 23 games, it is fair to wonder if McFadden will ever put together a season in which he comes close to realizing on his immense potential. A change in running schemes hurt him in 2012, but the Raiders will move back to a power running attack in 2013. Unfortunately, that won’t lessen his injury risk. After struggling badly in 2012 , amassing just 80.4 total yards per game and setting career lows in yards per carry with 3.3 and yards per reception with 6.1, Run-DMC should be drafted as no better than a mid- to lower-tier RB2. But we all know that some owner will see some game tape prior to your auction and draft him much higher than that, based on his upside. Just don’t let it be you.
RB Marcel Reece
(2012 RB Rank – #41, 5.5 FPts/G; #31 PPR, 9.0 FPts/G)
Fullbacks don’t get much glory in the NFL these days, but there is little denying that Marcel Reece is a talented weapon for the Raiders. He contributes both as a blocker and a runner and has proven to be productive in one-back sets, as evidenced by his career averages of 4.8 yards per carry and 10.8 yards per reception. But what fantasy pundits want to know is whether he would be productive in an extended stay in the starting line up if Darren McFadden were lost to injury. Why not? He can run the ball and caught 52 passes last season, a remarkable number for a fullback. He also piled up 456 yards in four starts subbing in for McFadden. Consider Reece worthy of a flier, particularly if he enters the season as the Raiders’ main backup behind McFadden, which seems likely.
RB Rashad Jennings
(2012 RB Rank – #60, 5.3 FPts/G; #56 PPR, 7.2 FPts/G)
After a four-year run with the Jaguars, Jennings joins the Raiders in 2013. Jennings has good size and enough speed to have generated some big plays while in Jacksonville, but a sprained ankle caused him to miss all of 2011 and he was largely ineffective in 2012 despite being given four starts after Maurice Jones-Drew was lost for the season. Jennings lost the starting job as he averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. While he gets a fresh start in Oakland, he will need to beat out fullback Marcel Reece, as well as rookie sixth-round pick Latavius Murray, to earn the backup role behind McFadden. Whoever earns the job has a chance for significant playing time, given McFadden’s injury history, but there is no guarantee that Jennings will be that player.
RB Latavius Murray
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or so seems the case with the Raiders’ decision to select Murray in the sixth round of this year’s draft. The Central Florida product has solid size and ran a sub 4.4 40-yard dash but wasn’t even invited to the combine. While Murray isn’t worthy of a selection in redraft leagues, he makes for an intriguing prospect in dynasty formats, given Darren McFadden’s contract situation and his inability to stay healthy.
WR Denarius Moore
(2012 WR Rank – #32, 7.7 FPts/G; #37 PPR, 11.1 FPts/G)
There is a lot to like about Denarius Moore. He has decent size, outstanding speed and has been a big-play threat and surprisingly productive 2011 fifth-round pick for the Raiders. Entering his third year in the league, and with both Darrius Heyward-Bey and Brandon Myers having left Oakland, Moore should be in line for a big workload, making him an obvious candidate for breakout status in 2013. Here’s what’s not to like: Strong-armed quarterback Carson Palmer has been replaced by not-so-strong-armed Matt Flynn. What is perhaps even more disconcerting is that Moore caught just 44.7 percent of his targets last season, an improvement from the 43.4 percent completion rate he had as a rookie. Add it all up and there is little reason to suggest Moore will see a major improvement on his 51-reception, 741-yard, seven-touchdown performance from 2012. Consider him a high-end WR4 with upside.
WR Rod Streater
(2012 WR Rank – #62, 5.1 FPts/G; #63 PPR, 7.7 FPts/G)
As an undrafted free agent last year, Streater had a strong training camp, not only earning a spot on the Raiders roster but also getting targeted 10 times on opening day. Not bad. He finished the year with decent numbers (39 receptions for 584 yards and three touchdowns) and should earn a starting spot in 2013. Streater finished his rookie season strongly with 18 receptions for 351 yards and a touchdown over his final five games. While the Raiders figure to go deep less often in 2013, that could benefit Streater who, despite averaging 15.0 yards per reception, is more adept at running short and intermediate routes. Consider him a strong WR5 in 2013.
WR Jacoby Ford
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
After displaying some promise as a rookie in 2009, Ford has endured a pair of injury-plagued seasons, missing eight games in 2011 and all of 2012 after undergoing foot surgery. While Ford has outstanding speed and big-play ability (career average of 17.0 yards per reception), he has caught just 50.8 percent of his targets and isn’t exceptional playing out of the slot. With Denarius Moore assured of a starting spot and Rod Streater the front-runner to start opposite him, that doesn’t bode well for Ford’s fantasy prospects in 2013. He might be worth a flier if he wrestles a starting job away from Streater but is likely waiver wire material in most leagues and is a middling dynasty prospect.
WR Juron Criner
(2012 WR Rank – #123, 2.6 FPts/G; #122 PPR, 4.6 FPts/G)
The Raiders’ fifth-round pick in 2012, Criner failed to emerge as a rookie despite Oakland’s middling group of wide receivers and an injury to Jacoby Ford. Criner has solid size at 6’2” and 221 pounds but he caught just 16 of his 33 targets last season, with a far less than stellar average of 9.4 yards per catch. So, he didn’t catch many of his passes and when he did he didn’t get many yards. Criner’s only saving grace is that Jacoby Ford, his main competition for the top backup spot at receiver, isn’t much of a threat out of the slot. Criner doesn’t offer much to get excited about.
The Raiders’ situation at tight end looks like a black hole. But that’s what we thought entering 2012, and Brandon Myers piled up 79 receptions for 806 yards and four touchdowns. Not bad. With Matt Flynn and his lack of big-time arm strength under center in 2013, there is a chance that whoever emerges at tight end could see plenty of targets. Kasa and Rivera are rookie sixth-round picks but Gordon and Ausberry have done little during their first two years in the league, so this position battle is wide open. If one player emerges after the first couple of weeks of the season, they may be worth a waiver claim at that point.