Monday, July 9, 2018
Raiders Offensive Profile Last Three Years
2015-2017 Pass Attempts Rank: 14th, 9th, 15th
2015-2017 Rush Attempts Rank: 29th, 11th, 30th
2015-2017 Play Volume Rank: 24th, 11th, 30th
2015-2017 Yards Per Play Rank: 23rd, 10th, 11th
Unaccounted for Air Yards from 2017 (Rank): 1,472 (12th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2017 (Rank): 33 (25th)
Projected Starting Lineup
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Passing Game Outlook
Derek Carr followed up becoming the highest-paid player in NFL history last offseason with a dreadful year. Much of Carr’s performance was attributable to a Week 4 transverse process fracture in his back that cost him only one game but affected Carr’s comfort in the pocket. Carr later referred to his injury as “three broken bones in my back.” Although Carr has legitimate excuses for his substandard play, he’s gone four NFL seasons without topping 7.03 yards per attempt with abysmal QBR rankings of 30th (2014), 32nd (2015), 17th (2016), and 22nd (2017). Carr has also shown consistent timidity in the downfield passing game, ranking 23rd/38 (2014), 20th/35 (2015), 26th/34 (2016), and 15th/34 (2017) in percentage of passes attempted 20-plus yards downfield. New OC Greg Olson will be Carr’s third offensive coordinator in as many years, although Olson was Carr’s OC in his 2014 rookie campaign. Jon Gruden, who spent the last decade in broadcasting, will call plays. One forward-thinking positive is that Carr is due positive-touchdown regression after his TD rate slipped from 5.3% in 2015-2016 to 4.3% last year. Ultimately, Carr is a low-efficiency passer who adds no value with his legs and must catch high touchdown variance to deliver upside. He’s a low-ceiling, back-end QB2.
Amari Cooper opened his third NFL season battling a knee sprain that kept him on the injury report for the first six weeks, suffered a sprained ankle and concussion in Week 12, and aggravated the ankle injury in Week 14. Although he missed only two games, Cooper lost effectiveness and confidence while playing with a shell-shocked quarterback. Cooper ranks top 30 all time in receiving yards during the first three years of a player’s career, but he’s left a ton of yards on the field with dropped passes, and the Raiders haven’t made life easy on him. Cooper turned in by-far his biggest 2017 game in Week 7 against the Chiefs when he ran a season-high 35% of his routes in the slot, yet Cooper worked in the slot on only 20% of his plays in his other 13 games. Cooper has frequently operated as a decoy, drawn No. 1 corner shadow coverage, and failed to assert himself as a reliable go-to receiver. Immediately after accepting the Raiders’ head-coaching job, Gruden vowed to make Cooper the “main vein” of his passing offense. If so, Gruden must find ways to create advantageous matchups for Cooper, feed him early-game targets, and align him on the interior, where Cooper is bigger and quicker than most NFL slot cornerbacks.
Jordy Nelson landed a two-year, $15 million deal from Oakland two days after the Packers cut him to keep Randall Cobb. Nelson carries several red-flag metrics, including his age (33), abysmal 2017 yards-per-catch average (9.1), and putrid No. 87 ranking among 93 qualified wide receivers in PFF’s predictive Yards Per Route Run metric. Even as inept Brett Hundley did most of Green Bay’s 2017 quarterbacking, Jordy still finished 60th among 90 wide receivers in YPRR during Aaron Rodgers’ seven starts. Although reasons to doubt Nelson in a new offense are many, his role is secure opposite inconsistent Cooper with Martavis Bryant potentially facing another suspension and no reliable red-zone alternative on the team. Josh Hermsmeyer’s Game Speed charts also show Nelson is still moving at an above-average pace. I began the offseason planning to draft zero Jordy. I’m now taking him consistently in the tenth round.
Martavis Bryant was suspended for all of 2016 due to substance-abuse violations, wasn’t the same player in 2017 (50/603/3), requested a move out of Pittsburgh, and got his wish when Gruden brazenly gave up the No. 79 pick for Bryant in his contract year. In mid-June, the same Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter (Michael Gehlken) who broke Michael Crabtree’s release three and a half months before it happened reported Bryant was in danger of discipline for another substance-abuse violation. Bryant was never going to draw heavy targets from a gun-shy quarterback, and his passion for the game warrants legitimate doubt. He’s undraftable until his off-field situation plays out.
Inefficient incumbent No. 3 WR Seth Roberts, trade acquisition Ryan Switzer, and situational deep threat Johnny Holton are candidates for expanded snaps should Bryant miss time. The Raiders found no takers for drop-prone Roberts in pre-draft trade talks. Slot receiver/punt returner Switzer was Dallas’ fourth-round pick in 2017, then got sent to Oakland for replacement-level DT Jihad Ward after a non-productive rookie year and offseason ankle surgery. Switzer was Mitchell Trubisky’s go-to guy in North Carolina’s spread offense. Holton is a third-year deep threat who led the team in 2017 yards per reception (24.2), albeit on only nine catches. Nevertheless, Holton’s deep speed will be needed if the Raiders lose Bryant, who could have at least ran valuable clear-out routes on the outside.
Jared Cook’s role also projects to expand whether or not Bryant plays. Cook set a career high in catches (54) in 2017, and Gruden – a one-game-a-week broadcaster essentially admitting he’d never seen Cook play — was blown away by Cook’s speed at OTAs. “I did not know Jared Cook moved like that,” Gruden conceded. Gruden also said the Raiders proactively moved Cook around the formation to create mismatches. Cook has long been an atrocious confined-space/contested-catch/red-zone player, but he’s one of the premier field-stretching tight ends in the league. He’s a cinch pick at his 13th-/14th-round ADP.
Running Game Outlook
Marshawn Lynch was one of the NFL’s most-egregiously underutilized players in 2017, finishing No. 13 among 47 qualified backs in Football Outsiders’ rushing Success Rate but averaging 11.6 touches in his first nine games. Lynch was the Raiders’ best offensive player in the final seven weeks, averaging 4.69 yards per carry and 99.7 total yards per game from Week 12 on. Lynch finished No. 7 among 53 backs in PFF’s Elusive Rating, while Gruden favorite Doug Martin finished dead last. Even entering his age-32 season, it’s clear Lynch has high-end run skills left in his tank. In exchange for a guarantee of his 2018 salary, Lynch took a $500,000 pay cut to lock in his roster spot. Gruden can fantasize about reviving Martin, but Lynch will be Oakland’s bellcow if the assumption of rational coaching holds.
It likely seems irrational to any objective observer, but the Raiders are genuinely smitten with one-year, $1.5 million pickup Doug Martin, who was wildly ineffective in four of the last five years and turned 29 in January. Martin has failed to clear 3.0 yards per carry in back-to-back years, finishing 34th/42 and 46th/47 among running backs in rushing Success Rate. Beat writers believe Martin is the biggest threat to Lynch’s 2018 workload. Although incumbent reserves DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard were productive in change-up roles, the new coaching staff has no allegiance to either as contributors. Those covering the team expect Lynch to be pushed hard by Martin for backfield work, and all others to take a backseat.
2018 Vegas Win Total
The Raiders’ Win Total opened at 8.0 with -120 odds to the over, even as Oakland reached eight wins just once in the last six years. Working in the Raiders’ favor is a schedule Warren Sharp tabbed as fifth softest in the league. Working against them were strange personnel moves under ten-year, $100 million coach Jon Gruden, whose downfalls in Tampa Bay were poor personnel decisions and a tendency to play favorites. Derek Carr’s massive contract does not correlate with his play, and the Raiders’ probable loss of Martavis Bryant would delete their most-dangerous vertical threat. Oakland’s reshuffled defense is boom-bust at best. Especially at higher-payout odds, I think under 8.0 wins is the obvious play here.