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2022 Player Outlooks: Las Vegas Raiders

By HC Green | 7/20/22 |

Derek Carr

QB Derek Carr
(2021 QB Rank – 14, 20.2 FPts/G)

If ESPN ever makes a “30 for 30” on the career of Derek Carr, it’ll be entitled “Solid but Unspectacular.” Over his eight years as the starting quarterback for the Raiders, the 31-year-old has posted a 57-70 record, made one postseason appearance, passed for between 3,925 and 4,125 yards five times, and thrown for over 30 TDs in a season exactly once. His yardage spiked a year ago, throwing for a career-high 4,804 yards in the NFL’s first-ever 17-game season, but the TDs (23) stayed the course while he also set a new highwater mark in INTs (14). Solid. Unspectacular.

Carr’s opportunity to change that narrative begins now with the Raiders acquiring perennial All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams from the Green Bay Packers before the draft. The duo played together during their time as Fresno State and have maintained a strong friendship over the years, so don’t expect there to be many issues getting on the same page. Adams joins holdovers Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow to give Las Vegas one of the NFL’s most formidable trios.

Now the question becomes whether Carr can elevate his game to another level. He’s already working from behind the eight-ball in fantasy circles since he’s an old-school pocket passer, having averaged just 93 yards per season on the ground. That means he’ll need to post passing numbers like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Matthew Stafford to enter the QB1 zone. While not the worst quarterback to roll the dice on for a leap, Carr is better served as a quality QB2 on draft day.

RB Josh Jacobs
(2021 RB Rank – 14, 15.3 FPts/G)

A first-round pick in 2019, Jacobs has watched his rushing yardage dip each season, going from 1,150 yards as a rookie down to 872 last year (despite playing in two more games). The Raiders effectively put the Alabama product on notice by not exercising his fifth-year option, meaning he’ll be playing for his financial future in 2022, which is always a powerful motivator. How much he’ll be featured under new head coach Josh McDaniels remains to be seen, however, as the longtime Patriots offensive coordinator oversaw the addition of a lot of new pieces on offense.

One thing working in Jacobs’ favor is his improved work as a receiver out of the backfield, posting a career-high 54 receptions for 348 yards last year; he has yet to find the end zone as a pass catcher, though, logging 107 catches without a score in his three-year career. The addition of Adams, who is another high-volume receiver, is a bit of a Catch-22 for Jacobs as the running back will likely see less attention defensively, but at the same time that’s another very large mouth for Carr to feed.

Even though his production has dipped, Jacobs’ averages of 1,280 total yards and 9.3 TDs per season with the Raiders are still solid. That seems like a reasonable target for 2022 as well, which makes Jacobs well cast as a quality RB3 or maybe even a low-end RB2, depending on league size.

RB Kenyan Drake
(2021 RB Rank – 54, 8.5 FPts/G)

Drake inked a two-year, $14.5 million contract with Las Vegas before last season. At that time, it was believed the plan was to pair Drake with Jacobs as a one-two punch, but after totaling 34 touches over the first three games of 2021, the former Cardinal would see double-digit chances only twice in his remaining nine games. Drake’s season came to a halt Dec. 5 courtesy of a fractured right ankle. The injury required surgery, but the veteran is expected to be ready for camp.

One thing to note about McDaniels is that he has shown a tendency to feature multiple backs to the point that in 10 seasons as OC with the Pats, his offenses featured just two 1,000-yard backs, most recently in 2016. That at least gives Drake some hope of recapturing the form he showed at times in Arizona, which might be enough to invest a late-round pick on.

WR Davante Adams
(2021 WR Rank – 2, 21.5 FPts/G)

Slapped with the franchise tag by the Packers, it was a foregone conclusion that Rodgers’ longtime No. 1 target would be back in Titletown... until it wasn’t. Unable to reach a long-term contract, Green Bay traded arguably the NFL’s preeminent receiver to the Raiders for first- and second-round picks. It was a huge splash for Las Vegas, giving them the type of true No. 1 receiver they’ve lacked since the days of Tim Brown and Jerry Rice (depending on your opinion of Amari Cooper).

While it’s a boon for the Silver and Black, it’s hard to view this as a positive for Adams. Yes, he and Carr came up together at Fresno State, but in no universe would anyone put Carr in the same stratosphere as the four-time MVP. Rodgers and Adams had a connection formed by years of practicing and playing together, and Adams effectively served as the de facto No. 1 read on most routes -- he certainly hasn’t had to share the field with anyone as talented as Waller (or maybe even Renfrow) since truly breaking through for the Packers in 2018.

Without question, Adams remains a WR1, but whether he can match the 108 catches, 1,328 yards, and 11.8 TDs per year he’s averaged over his last four seasons remains to be seen. A year ago, he deserved to be the first receiver taken in drafts. Now, he probably fits better around No. 5.

WR Hunter Renfrow
(2021 WR Rank – 17, 15.4 FPts/G)

When last season began, the Raiders’ receiver room featured Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, Zay Jones, Willie Sneed, and Renfrow. Of that group, only Renfrow remains. In a season that featured the Ruggs tragedy, Jon Gruden’s bizarre dismissal, and a lengthy injury to Waller, Renfrow was a constant. His 103 receptions were nearly twice as many as anyone else, and he caught nine of Carr’s 23 TD passes. Not bad for a guy whose combine picture routinely makes the rounds on Twitter for his lack of physique.

Obviously, the addition of Adams is the headliner, but Las Vegas’ overhaul didn’t stop there as they also brought in Keelan Cole (28-449-1 w/ NYJ last year), Demarcus Robinson (25-264-3 w/ KC), and Mack Hollins (14-223-4 w/ MIA). If nothing else, that trio should bring more stability than what the Raiders dealt with last year. There’s no doubt Renfrow will still be a major factor offensively, but it’s hard not to envision his numbers taking a dip assuming good health from Adams and Waller. Draft Renfrow as a quality WR3 and you should be in good shape.

TE Darren Waller
(2021 TE Rank – 6, 12.1 FPts/G)

After closing 2020 being targeted 55 times in his final five games, Waller opened last season with a 10-catch, 105-yard, 1-TD showing on Monday Night Football during which he was targeted 19 times. For whatever reason, that proved to be the high point of his season; he’d see double-digit looks just one more time (Nov. 7) and top 100 yards once (Nov. 21). A knee injury suffered Thanksgiving Day all but ended his season -- he returned for the finale -- and he finished with a disappointing 55-665-2 line. For comparison, he posted 43-654-4 in that five-game stretch to finish the previous year.

There were reports that the Packers tried to acquire Waller as part of the Adams deal, but the veteran remains in Vegas. With Adams on the outside and Renfrow operating out of the slot there should be room for Waller to make things happen. He doesn’t have the track record to be selected ahead of names like Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone with a higher ceiling at the position for 2022 than Waller. If you’re in a gambling mood you could make him the first TE off the draft board, but around TE5 is the safer call.

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