Preseason - 2021 Las Vegas Raiders Outlook
Las Vegas Raiders Outlook
In his third year coaching the Raiders, Jon Gruden improved by one game to go 8-8. Las Vegas missed the playoffs in 17 of their last 18 seasons. Over 14 seasons as the head coach for the Bucs and the Raiders, Gruden went 114-110 with five playoff appearances and a Super Bowl victory.
Greg Olson returns for his third season as the offensive coordinator for Las Vegas. From 2004 to 2016, he ran the offense for five different NFL teams. Olson has 18 years of experience in the NFL, with 14 coming as an offensive coordinator. His ties to Jon Gruden in Tampa from 2008 to 2011 led to his hiring by the Raiders in 2018.
The Raiders jumped to 10th in points scored (434), which was 121 more than 2019 (313). Las Vegas finished eighth in offensive yards after ranking 23rd and 11th in the first two seasons by Gruden's coaching staff.
Las Vegas slipped to 30th in points allowed (478) and 25th in yards allowed, leading to Gus Bradley signing with the Raiders. Over the past four seasons, he ran the Chargers' defense. Jacksonville gave him four years to prove his worth as a head coach (14-48), which came after running the Seahawks' defense from 2009 to 2012.
The Raiders signed John Brown and Willie Snead at wide receiver after losing Nelson Agholor to the Patriots.
Brown had a career season (72/1,060/6) for Buffalo in 2019, but injuries last year led to nine missed games and a step back in production (44/458/3). He should help stretch the field for the Raiders' offense.
Snead played well in his first two seasons (69/984/3 and 72/895/4) with the Saints. His opportunity took a sharp decline after signing with the Ravens due to their run-first mentality on offense. Snead offers a possession-type skill set.
The Eagles used Agholor close to the line of scrimmage over five seasons, which led to him gaining only 11.2 yards per catch. His best two years in Philly came in 2017 (62/768/8) and 2018 (64/736/4). After signing with the Raiders, Las Vegas featured him as a deep threat. Agholor finished with 48 catches for 896 yards and eight touchdowns over 82 targets (18.7 yards per catch). He had 15 catches over 20 yards, with five of those going for over 40 yards.
Las Vegas brought in Kenyan Drake to upgrade the passing game out of the backfield. He struggled to find his rhythm in too many games last year, leading to regression in his yards per rush (4.0) and yards per catch (5.5). Drake picked 27 touchdowns over his past 45 games.
Their defense lost LB Raekwon McMillan, S Erik Harris, and DE Takkarist McKinley.
McMillan posted 105 tackles for the Dolphins in 2018 after getting drafted in the second round. He struggled in coverage while being a nonfactor rushing the quarterback. In 2020, he added no value to the Raiders' defense while seeing minimal action while being healthy for all 16 games.
Harris starts the year at age 31, with a regression in his overall game. He still missed too many tackles with limited range in coverage.
McKinley continues to fade against the run while losing in the pass rush over the past two seasons (4.5 sacks in 18 games – 13 over his first 31 starts with the Falcons). He is a former first-round draft pick (2017) who missed 12 games last year due to a groin issue.
The Raiders added CB Rasul Douglas, DT Quinton Jefferson, DE Yannick Ngakoue, and CB Casey Hayward to the defensive side of the ball.
Douglas brings a risk/reward in coverage. He projects to be the Raiders' third cornerback after setting a career-high in tackles (62) in 2020. Douglas will give up some damage in touchdowns, and wide receivers can challenge him over the long field.
Jefferson showed growth in the pass rush in 2018 and 2019 in the pass rush for the Seahawks, but he lost his way against the run last year with the Bills.
Ngakoue upgrades the pass rush, but he continues to be a liability in run support with too many missed tackles. The Raiders will give him most of his playing time on passing downs.
In 2016 and 2017, Hayward had 98 combined tackles with 11 interceptions and 42 defended passes. His game plateaued over the past three years with the Chargers while continuing to allow a low catch rate. He allowed more big plays in 2020 with eight defended passes and 41 tackles over 41 games.
The last two additions (C Nick Martin and G Richie Incognito) came to help the offensive line.
Martin faded last year after turning in back-to-back steady seasons for the Texans. His pass blocking tends to be an asset while coming up short in the run game.
Incognito battled injuries last year, and age (38) isn't on his side. He falls into the fighter category with plenty of experience in the league.
The Raiders added T Alex Leatherwood with the 17th overall pick in the first round in the 2021 NFL Draft. He has the look of an upside tackle who lacks fluid motions on some plays when he is thinking and not attacking. Leatherwood has work to do to reach his ceiling while owning the base tools to succeed at the next level. His range, power, and hands are the areas he needs to improve on.
Improving the defense and the secondary was the focus of Las Vegas with their next five selections (S Trevon Moehrig, DE Malcolm Koonce, S Divine Deablo, S Tyree Gillespie, and CB Nate Hobbs).
Moehrig has play-making qualities while owning the vision, quickness, and fire to produce early in his career. His aggressiveness can get him in trouble at times, highlighted by failures when peaking at the quarterback or committing too early against the run. Moehrig expects to play well from a high safety position.
Koonce has the foundation to be a disrupting pass rusher thanks to his quickness and ability to lose blockers at the line of scrimmage. He needs to get stronger plus add more depth to his moves to win more often at the next level. His game takes a hit if asked to work inside at this point in his career.
Deablo projects to work close to the line of scrimmage in run support with the coverage skills to handle most tight ends. His change of direction quickness does put him in a trailing position, which offenses will try to use against him. Deablo needs to improve his play recognition at the point of attack and work on his tackling technique.
Gillespie should work off the ball with a do-your-job approach. He won't create many turnovers while locking in on the quarterback's eyes at times, creating lag in his timing in coverage. Gillespie should handle most tight ends in coverage while offering the most value moving forward in run support.
Hobbs does a lot of things right in coverage while owning plenty of speed and quickness. His challenge comes from weakness in his vision and timing in reading pass routes. He tends to play the man rather than ball in the deep passing, leaving some possible turnovers on the table. With coaching and some correction in his keys in coverage, Hobbs should improve over time.
In the seventh round, the Raiders went back to their offensive line with the addition of C Jimmy Morrissey. He gets off the ball quickly, pointing to success in a fast-hitting rushing attack. His lack of size when matchup with more prominent NFL defenders will invite risk in pass protection. Morrissey works hard with a good feel for the game.
Las Vegas dipped to 14th in rushing yards (1,916) with 20 rushing touchdowns. They averaged 4.2 yards per rush with only 11 runs over 20 yards.
The Raiders jumped to 9th in passing yards (4,383) with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. They gained 8.0 yards per pass attempt with 59 completions over 20 yards. Their offensive line allowed 28 sacks.
LT Kolten Miller
Miller continues to show growth in pass protection after Las Vegas selected him 15th overall in 2018. His foot speed and quickness should improve his chances in the run game, but he fell short of expectation in this area again in 2020.
LG Richie Incognito
After missing 2018 with his early retirement, Incognito played great in pass protection while still adding value to the run. Last year an Achilles issue led to 14 more missed starts. He'll start the year at age 38, which invites more regression.
C Rodney Hudson
Hudson remains one of the top pass-blocking centers in the NFL. Pass rusher did show more success putting pressure on the quarterback in 2020, but he still allowed only one sack. His run blocking tends to be league average. The Raiders drafted Hudson in the second round in 2011.
RG John Simpson
Simpson brings power, vision, and technique to the guard position, but his missing link (first step quickness) lowers his ceiling and ability to win quickly after the snap. Simpson can't overcome his shortfalls, which leads to mistakes in his decision-making and bad penalties. In his rookie season, he sat out 11 games while struggling in both run and pass blocking. Simpson will compete for the right guard job in 2021.
RT Alex Leatherwood
In his rookie season, Leatherwood should slip into the starting lineup. He has the talent to play left tackle, so a downgrade in position should work in his favor out of the gate. His run blocking looks to be ahead of his pass protection skills.
The Raiders have talent at both tackles and the center position. The right guard position looks to be in flux, and Richie Incognito isn't a lock to start while recovering from a significant injury. Overall, Las Vegas should grade above the league average on the offensive line, with a higher ceiling with better play at guard.
The Raiders ran the ball 45.3 percent of the time in 2020 while finishing with about league average pass attempts (551). They ran the ball well in close, and Las Vegas showed the ability to beat defenses over the top in the deep passing game.
QB Derek Carr, LVR - Quality Backup
Under the guidance of Jon Gruden and his coaching staff, Carr improved in each of the past two seasons. He set a career-high in passing yards (4,103) with a rebound in touchdown production (27). Carr gained 7.9 yards per pass attempt in 2019 and 2020 while picking up 22 combined completions of 40 yards or more.
He passed for over 300 yards in six matchups. Carr had a brutal three-game stretch midseason (111/1, 165/2, and 154/0) while also posting an empty game (53/0) in Week 15 due to an injury. He finished with five games with three or more touchdowns. All three of his rushing scores came over the final five weeks.Fantasy Outlook: In 2020, Carr ranked 13th in scoring (330.35) in four-point passing touchdown leagues. He has an elite pass-catching tight end, and Kenyan Drake should improve the passing game out of the backfield. His ceiling and explosiveness fall on the development of Henry Ruggs and possibly Bryan Edwards. His overall wide receiving core won't attract a high level of attention in the fantasy games, but the sum of the group should outperform expectations. With 17 games played, Carr will produce 4,500 passing yards with 30 scores. His downsides in touchdowns would come from a productive run game in close. He projects as a backend QB2 with potential matchup value.
QB Marcus Mariota, LVR - Deep-league Only
Mariota posted a 29-32 record over five seasons with the Titans. His only year of value came in 2016 (3,775 combined yards with 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions). He'll add value in the run game (251/1,487/12 in his career) while showing improved accuracy in 2018 (68.9 percent).
Mariota gained 314 combined yards with two touchdowns and one interception in his only game with starting snaps last year.
Fantasy Outlook: For now, Mariota works as a handcuff to Derek Carr. He will be a free agent at the end of the year.
Other Options: Nathan Peterman
RB Josh Jacobs, LVR - Solid/Safe Pick
The Raiders' running backs almost had the same opportunity over the past two seasons. In 2020, their backs scored 18 times (eight more than 2019) while regressing in yards per rush (4.1 – 4.4 in 2019), yards per catch (7.1 – 8.4 in 2019), and catch rate (76.8 – 83.8 in 2019). In the end, the running back position gained 2,291 combined yards with 19 touchdowns and 86 catches.
Despite rushing for over 1,000 yards for the second straight season, Jacobs had regression in his game. He lost momentum in his yards per rush (3.9 – 4.8 in 2019) and yards per catch (7.2 – 8.3 in 2019). Jacobs finished with only three runs over 20 yards while scoring 12 times.
He rushed for over 100 yards in only two games (31/129 and 21/112/4). Over his first nine matches, Jacobs averaged 22.8 touches. After missing Week 13 with an ankle injury, he finished the year with 346 combined yards with three touchdowns and six catches on 18.3 touches per game.
The Raiders gave him 61.3 percent of their running back opportunity, leading to 303 chances.
Fantasy Outlook: Jacobs scored 233.30 fantasy points in PPR leagues over 15 contests, which ranked 8th in the league. He scored between 10.00 and 21.00 fantasy points in 11 games. The Raiders added a second running back of value in the offseason, pointing to a similar role in 2021. His gain in fantasy points will need to come from more production runs and catches. With 300 touches this year, Jacobs should push his way to 1,500 combined yards with similar scoring and about 40 catches.
RB Kenyan Drake, LVR - Quality Backup
The Cardinals failed to get Drake going in the passing game last year (25/137). Over the previous two seasons, he had 103 combined catches for 822 yards and five scores on 141 targets. Drake finished with a career-high 264 touches while setting a career-high in touchdowns (10).
He gained over 100 yards in two matchups (20/164/2 and 16/100) while also turning in a productive showing in Week 12 (93 combined yards with two touchdowns and three catches. Arizona gave him 17.6 chances per game.
Fantasy Outlook: Las Vegas should use him as their change of pace back with most of his playing time coming on passing downs. There is room for him to 125 carries with over 40 catches. Drake is the clear RB2 in this offense while being on a path for about 150 fantasy points in PPR leagues. He projects as a possible flex player with bye week cover value.
Other Options: Jalen Riddick, Theo Riddick, Garrett Groshek, Trey Ragas
WR Henry Ruggs, LVR - Quality Backup
Only 42 percent of the Raiders' completions went to their wideouts in 2020. They finished with 155 catches for 2,351 yards and 14 touchdowns on 236 targets. The most exciting gain came from the growth in their yards per catch (15.2 – 12.8 in 2019).
The Raiders failed to get Ruggs going in his rookie season. He missed two games (knee and Covid) while flashing in Week 5 (2/118/1) thanks to a 72-yard score. His only other game of value came in Week 13 (3/84/1). Las Vegas never gave him more than five targets in any game, leading to three catches or fewer every week.
Ruggs brings elite speed (4.27 forty) to the passing game, but he only had 98 catches for 1,716 yards and 24 touchdowns over four seasons in college. He did score a touchdown once every four times he touched the ball.
In 2018, Ruggs worked his way to WR2 as far as catches (46) in Alabama's offense, but he had to compete with WR Jaylen Waddle (45/848/7), TE Irv Smith (44/710/7), and WR Devonta Smith (42/693/6) for targets.
Ruggs slipped to WR3 (40/746/7) in 2019, with his best success coming in Week 3 (6/122/1) and Week 4 (4/148/2). WR Devonta Smith (68/1,256/14) pushed his way past him on the depth chart while WR Jerry Jeudy (77/1,163/10) regressed slightly.
Ruggs is slightly undersized (5"11" and 188 lbs.), which will hurt him vs. press coverage out of the gate. His hands will be assets while proving to be a player that can be used at all levels of the offense. Ruggs will be viable on bubble screens, slants, and deep end cuts where his speed creates impact plays. He'll break tackles and create after the catch. Alabama used his speed on quick-hitting plays as well at the goal line.
Fantasy Outlook: The Raiders invested in an early draft pick to acquire Ruggs. Now, they need to get him more involved in the passing game. His speed and quickness set the tone for big plays, but he needs more chances over the short areas of the field. Ruggs should take over the role of Nelson Agholor (48/896/8) in 2021. His price point (ADP – 178) looks free. Start the bidding at 60 catches for 900 yards with about seven scores while being on a path to be a WR3 in PPR leagues.
WR Hunter Renfrow, LVR - Deep-league Only
Even with a higher out in catches (56) and receiver yards (656) than his rookie season (49/605/4), Renfrow had a weaker opportunity in 2020. He played in three more games with only a bump of six targets. He gained over 20 yards in seven plays in both years in the NFL.
Renfrow gained over 60 yards in only two contests (6/84/1 and 7/73). The Raiders failed to get him more than four catches in any of his other 14 games. His catch rate (72.7) should lead to more chances.
Fantasy Outlook: There is upside here, and Las Vegas should use Renfrow to move the chains. In a way, Darren Waller looks to be the thorn in his target side. His natural progression should be 65-plus catches for 700 yards with a chance at five touchdowns. He projects to be in the free-agent pool in most 12-team leagues.
Other Options: Willie Snead, Jay Jones, Caleb Scott, Marcell Ateman