The Oakland Raiders had a magical year in 2016. They compiled their best record since the 2000 season, finishing at 12-4. While they made the playoffs for the first time since 2002, a Week 16 injury to star quarterback Derek Carr left Raiders’ fans wondering, “What might have been?” Oakland’s season ended with a disappointing 27-14 first round playoff loss at Houston.
From a fantasy perspective, the Raiders had an even better season. Their roster was a collection of accomplished, skilled, and young positional players that promise to be very attractive fantasy options in 2017. Here is a recap of the Oakland Raiders 2016 fantasy football season (all statistics from PlayerProfiler.com).
Oakland Raiders 2016 Fantasy Football Recap
Derek Carr had a tremendous fantasy football season. Despite missing Week 17, he finished as the 11th ranked fantasy quarterback in total points. His 28 passing touchdowns ranked seventh at the position, and his six interceptions were second fewest among all quarterbacks with at least 500 passing attempts.
The only criticism of Carr was his fantasy volatility. While he had three weeks where he finished as a top five fantasy quarterback, Carr also tallied seven weeks where he finished 20th or worse. That is typical of a young quarterback, and Carr did possess solid season long consistency numbers with nine weeks of at least 17 fantasy points.
In 2017, Carr should be one of the top five quarterbacks drafted. The Raiders’ high powered offense will place him ahead of veterans such as Matthew Stafford, Blake Bortles, and Philip Rivers. Entering the prime quarterback age of 25, Carr has officially made the leap as a top fantasy option.
Another area of strength for Oakland was at the running back position. Their lead back was fourth year player Latavius Murray. Due to the Raiders’ depth, Murray only carried the ball 195 times for 788 yards. However, he ranked fifth among all running backs with 12 rushing touchdowns. Murray also caught 33 passes for 264 yards, giving him over 1,000 total yards for the season. The question remains: Will Murray return to Oakland in 2017? His initial four year rookie contract expires, making him an unrestricted free agent.
The main reason the Raiders may not resign Murray is the development of first year running backs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. At 5’8″ and 205 lbs, Washington was a strong back that was a threat to break a long run on every carry. His 8.1 percent Big Run Rate was fourth among all running backs. Washington improved throughout the season, having his best game in Week 16 when he tallied 117 total yards and two touchdowns. Richard was a huge surprise as an undrafted free agent from Southern Mississippi. He ranked eighth overall in yards per touch and had the 11th best Production Premium (+23.3). Neither player was on the field consistently, but both Richard and Washington were highly effective when used throughout the season.
Where Latavius Murray signs will be an integral part of ranking the fantasy running backs in Oakland next season. The Raiders possess one of the best offensive lines in the league, and whoever plays the main running back role will be primed for a big season. Assuming Murray leaves, the training camp battle between Washington and Richard will be fierce. Whichever player emerges as the number one back must be drafted in the first four rounds of all fantasy drafts. The loser will also emerge as a fantastic later round running back handcuff.
This may actually be Oakland’s strongest offensive fantasy position. Both Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper finished among the top 15 fantasy wide receivers in total points scored. However, the fantasy community viewed each player through a different lens despite the similar production.
Each of the last two seasons, the veteran Crabtree has outproduced Cooper in both fantasy points per game and receiving touchdowns. This year, Crabtree averaged 14.8 fantasy points per game (14th overall) and caught eight touchdowns (10th overall). Cooper averaged 14.2 fantasy points per game (17th overall) but only caught five touchdowns. The difference is attributed to Carr’s clear Red Zone target preference of Crabtree, who outpaced Cooper in both Red Zone Targets (22 to 13) and Red Zone Receptions (12 to five). Yet most of the fantasy community viewed Cooper as the more valuable fantasy receiver prior to the season. For that reason, Cooper was seen by many as a fantasy disappointment, while Crabtree’s 68.5 Average Draft Position (ADP) supports the “great late round value” narrative.
An intriguing late round receiver in 2017 will be Seth Roberts. Always receiving modest coverage because of the presence of Crabtree and Cooper, Roberts became a Red Zone specialist. Shockingly, he received 21 Red Zone targets (one less than Crabtree) and had nine Red Zone receptions. He even equaled Cooper’s touchdown output with five receiving scores. Roberts only received 77 targets, and produced 38 receptions. He only had more than three receptions once, which makes him touchdown dependent. However, if either of the top two receivers suffers an injury, Roberts could have WR2 upside next season. He is a very late round handcuff pick for Cooper or Crabtree.
Oakland finished with the ninth most passing attempts in the league. Between Derek Carr and a tremendous offensive line, the Raiders will produced strong fantasy wide receiver production. As Cooper enters the pivotal year three for wide receivers, he will most likely pass Crabtree in all receiving categories. Look for Cooper to perform as one of the top wide receivers in the league, but Crabtree to also maintain his top 15 status. Cooper is a solid second round pick (especially in PPR) and Crabtree is again a great round four or five selection.
With all the aforementioned offensive weapons, there needs to be an area that underwhelms fantasy-wide. For the Raiders, it is the tight end position. Second year tight end Clive Walford had a modest stat line: 33 receptions, 359 yards, and three touchdowns. As long as the rest of the offensive weapons are healthy, Walford is nothing more than a lottery ticket bye week replacement.
Sebastian Janikowski has always been a great long distance kicker, but with an improved Raiders offense he is now a top fantasy kicking option. He ranked tenth in field goals made (29), and was 37 of 39 on extra points. Janikoswki continued his long range accuracy with ten field goals of 40+ yards, and three of 50+ yards. He remains one of the most reliable kickers in the league, and has raised his floor to a top ten fantasy option.
The Oakland defense was average from a fantasy points perspective, ranking 20th overall. However, there are significant signs that point to the potential for a huge improvement next season. The Raiders finished second in Forced Fumbles (20), and Defensive Fumble Recoveries (14). Their secondary improved throughout the year, finishing tied for third with 16 interceptions. With former defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio (Carolina and Denver) as their head coach, there is every reason to believe the upward trend will continue. The Raiders had the fewest sacks in the league with only 25, but will definitely look for pass rushers in the draft. With just a few personnel improvements, Oakland’s defense could take a massive step forward.
The Oakland Raiders had a breakout season in 2016. Their fantasy prospects are incredible, with young and exciting players at every offensive skill position. Whether it’s Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, or next year’s lead running back, the Raiders are a team that every fantasy owner focus on in 2017.