Cupboard Is Bare
QB M. Flynn, S C. Woodson,
CB M. Jenkins, CB T. Porter,
RB R. Jennings, WR J. Cribbs
QB C. Palmer, S M. Huff,
DL T. Kelly, DL R. Seymour,
TE B. Myers, P S. Lechler,
DT D. Bryant, RB M. Goodson,
WR D. Heyward-Bey
The Oakland Raiders enter the season with a crop of QBs likely better suited as backups, a talented but injury-prone running back, a raw group of receivers, a no-name defensive line and linebacking corps, and a potentially average secondary. At least their kicker is really good.
The Raiders will roll the dice with either Terrelle Pryor or Matt Flynn at QB.
Flynn, he of two career starts, is the most experienced quarterback on the Raiders' roster and was acquired from Seattle after last year's starter Carson Palmer let it be known he was no longer happy in Oakland. Flynn entered camp the presumptive starter but his uninspired play opened the door for the athletic Pryor, who likely no has an edge to open Week 1 behind centre.
Pryor will dazzle you one play then leave you scratching your head at his decision-making the next. The former third-round pick does have potential however, and his ability to move the chains with his feet could be Oakland's best option considering their leaky offensive line. If Pryor isn't the starter, the Raiders will for sure insert a specialty package into their offence to take advantage of his skill set.
Fourth-round rookie Tyler Wilson or undrafted free agent Matt McGloin are battling for the third spot, and the winner could even earn some starts before the season is out.
The lack of talent at QB and throughout the roster in general underlies the problem second-year GM Reggie McKenzie has been dealing with since taking the job the season after owner Al Davis passed. The Raiders were then and continue to be now in salary cap torment.
Oakland brought over more than $50 million of dead money this season (money still being paid out to players cut from the roster) as a result of several bloated contracts being handed out the years before McKenzie arrived. Only two players – running back Darren McFadden and kicker Sebastian Janikowski – have base salaries exceeding $2 million. The Raiders simply couldn’t afford to spend on top free agents nor keep their own.
There is actually relief on the way. Oakland’s cap situation heading into the 2014 season is a lot easier to stomach, but McKenzie and second-year head coach Dennis Allen are going to have to rely on the players they have now to play above expectations or they likely won’t be around to spend any of that freed up money.
A healthy McFadden for a full 16 games would be a great help. The 25-year-old has never put together a full season for the Raiders and managed only 12 games last year. When he’s 100% and running in a scheme that fits him – McFadden struggled in the now abandoned zone blocking scheme last year – he’s one of the best backs in the league.
The hope in Oakland is McFadden can put it all together in a contract year to take pressure off the passing game, which not only features inexperience at the QB position but greenness at receiver as well.
Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, and Jacoby Ford have all flashed ability in their short careers thus far, but none have demonstrated the type of consistency top level wide receivers around the league possess. Moore regressed in his second season and Ford has missed 24 games to injury in his three years in the league. Steater, an undrafted free agent last year, could be Flynn’s closest thing to a security blanket this year. (-Ben Fisher, TSN.ca)
There are just as many questions for the Raiders on the defensive side of the ball.
The Raiders’ front seven on defence has some talent, but very likely not enough. Lamarr Houston is a productive defensive end and Andre Carter at the very least was a strong pass rusher in the past, four times in his career he’s had double-digit sack totals. But up the middle Pat Sims and Vance Walker are closer to rotational guys than full-time starters, what they’re entrusted to be in Oakland this season.
Nick Roach, who looked impressive filling in for the injured Brian Urlacher in Chicago last year, was signed this off-season – one of the few multi-year deals McKenzie handed out this year – to man the middle in the linebacking corps.
AFC WEST PROJECTIONS
Division Winner, 1st round bye
Moving in right direction
Severe lack of talent
Arguably worst team in NFL
He will be flanked by a combination of promising but untested free agent Kaluka Maiava, PUP candidate Miles Burris, rookie third rounder Sio Moore, and eight-year veteran Kevin Burnett. If any of those players can turn into the second coming of Phillip Wheeler, a relative unknown signed by the Raiders last off-season before leaving for big money this year, the linebacking corps could resemble an above average unit.
The secondary is an interesting unit heading into the season. Strong safety Tyvon Branch is the only returning starter and despite a down season last year, still has the confidence of the coaching staff.
The Raiders hope two of their newcomers make waves in rookie first rounder DJ Hayden and 16-year veteran Charles Woodson.
Oakland is high on Hayden with the hope he’s fully recovered from a freak abdominal injury that nearly cost him his life in college and forced him to miss most of the Raiders’ organized team activities with aftereffects.
Woodson, on the other hand, returns to Oakland eight years after leaving for the Green Bay Packers as a free agent with perhaps more fanfare than gas left in the tank. Still, the skill Woodson does have left and the leadership qualities he brings to a young defence make the signing a strong one from both a business and football perspective.
The Raiders’ biggest area of strength, the kicking game, was diminished by one half when Shane Lechler signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent. Sebastian Janikowski remains a weapon however.
Possessing perhaps the strongest leg in the league, Janikowski has Oakland in field goal range nearly anywhere on the field; a good thing considering the Raiders’ could be hard-pressed to conjure up too many first downs this year.
After the mismanagement late in the Al Davis regime, McKenzie and Allen knew it would be a two-year cleanup before they could start building toward a legitimate contender. Still, in today’s ‘win now’ NFL GMs and coaches aren’t afforded much time to rebuild so Allen will need to find production on McKenzie’s patchwork roster for them to return in 2014. (-Ben Fisher, TSN.ca)
Special Teams: K S. Janikowski, P C. Kluwe, KR J. Cribbs, PR J. Cribbs
Special Teams: K S. Janikowski, P C. Kluwe, KR J. Cribbs, PR J. Cribbs
Fantasy - By The Numbers
It's difficult to recommend any Raiders for fantasy. That doesn't mean that none should be selected, but risk runs throughout the lineup. RB Darren McFadden may be the most talented, but he's never played more than 13 games in any of his five NFL seasons.
Get ready for the fantasy season with the latest from TSN.ca.
Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | DEF
Fantasy Schedules: AFC | NFC
2013 Auction Values: Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Depth Charts: AFC | NFC
New QB Matt Flynn has been effective when he's played, passing for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns on 141 career attempts, but he's started two games in his career, so who really knows how he will hold up over a full season as the starting quarterback.
If Flynn is on target, his top receivers are wideouts Denarius Moore and Rod Streater, both relatively young and unproven, but Moore does have 1,359 receiving yards and a dozen touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons.
The best fantasy value for the Raiders could come from safeties Charles Woodson and Tyvon Branch, both of whom are capable fantasy starters.
LB Kevin Burnett and DE Lamarr Houston could also have some appeal. (-Scott Cullen)