Originally written August 17, 2012 on The Sports Headquarters:
This will be an interesting year for the Raiders.  Their Owner and Figurehead Al Davis passed away last October. Davis had a philosophy called “Just win, baby” which was ingrained in his players heads.  He built his Franchise around speed, speed and more speed, which has actually been a hindrance to date.  Oakland has incredibly fast WR’s but they needed to be more technically refined.  Hopefully the new management team can focus on restoring the Raiders to the glory days of the late 70′s.  They have a decent Offensive Line who protects the QB well and also create running lanes for all-world RB Darren McFadden.  The Offensive line as it looks right now is LT Jared Veldheer, LG Cooper Carlisle, C Stefen Wisniewski, RG Mike Brisiel and RT Khalif Barnes.   Left Tackle Jared Veldheer was taken in the 3rd round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Raiders.  Great size at 6’8 and 321 pounds he can envelope pass rushers at the point of attack.  He only allowed 4 sacks at LT last year but was penalized a lot as were many of the Oakland team.  He is going to be counted on to be the Franchise’s Left Tackle for years to come.   Left Guard Cooper Carlisle was picked up in the 4th round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.  He played with Denver until 2007 when he was released and subsequently picked up by Oakland where he has been a starter since arriving.  Carlisle is extremely versatile and has played any spot along the Line except Center.   Center Stefen Wisniewski was selected in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Raiders.  He comes from a professional sports family.  His dad Leo was a member of the Colts, his Uncle Steve was a perennial Pro Bowler for the Raiders and another of his relatives, James, is currently in the National Hockey League.  He only allowed 1.5 sacks in 2011 and will be switching back to his natural position of Center from Left Guard.   Right Guard Mike Brisiel was undrafted but was signed by the Texans in 2006.  He played in Houston until 2012 when he was picked up by the Raiders in Free Agency.  His signing allows Wisniewski to return to the position he was drafted for.  Brisiel is known as a smart but scrappy Guard who only gave up 1 sack last year with the Texans.   Right Tackle Khalif Barnes was a 2nd round Draft choice of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2005.  Barnes is a load at RT, but can be overpowered at times and is relying upon a TE or Guard to chip the pass rushers.  Backup Joseph Barksdale is a younger, hungry guy who may push Barnes out to pasture if Barnes can’t elevate his game.   Now to analyze the numbers…..   Oakland ranked 14th in Total Run Blocking allowing Darren McFadden and Michael Bush to gallop for 4.52 yards per carry which well exceeded the NFL average of 4.31.  They were stopped at/or behind the line only 16% of their rushing attempts which was 3rd best in the NFL.  They achieved first downs on 3rd/4th down runs 67% of their attempts which was well above the NFL average of 62%.  The Raiders ran the ball 407 times in 2011 and if McFadden can stay healthy, that number will probably remain the norm.  The Raiders RB’s had their least success running up the middle/Guards as they only achieved 3.78 yards per carry.  They had much more success running behind big Khalif Barnes as they scampered to a 4.90 yard per carry average which was 4th best in the NFL.  From a Fantasy perspective, Darren McFadden is an absolute stud who is the best player on the Raiders, but he doesn’t have a player like Michael Bush to provide a change of pace.  This year the Raiders are counting on the duo of Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones to take the snaps when McFadden is resting.  Target McFadden in the 1st or 2nd round of your Fantasy Drafts but make sure to have a contingency plan if he goes down.  Goodson and Jones will not be Fantasy relevant so avoid them.   Oakland ranked 5th in Pass Protection in 2011 only allowing Jason Campbell and Carson Palmer to be sacked on 5.0% of their dropbacks which was much better than the NFL average of 6.7%.  The Oakland Offensive Line only gave up 25 sacks which was pretty darn good.  Palmer is a prototypical pocket QB who relies on quick reads and decisive reactions to be productive.  His arm is not what it used to be and he tries to fit the ball into tight windows at times which have led to interceptions.  Palmer is only a low end Fantasy backup and should not be starting unless you have a two QB league.  Darius Heyward-Bey finally came out of oblivion to moderate Fantasy relevance in 2011.  Denarius Moore is a burner who can take the top off defenses but must improve his pass protection and route running. Jacoby Ford, who return kicks, is one of the fastest NFLers but has ill-timed concentration drops and is a tad small for a WR.  Juron Criner, who the Raiders drafted this year is about a season away from relevance.  The two Tight Ends, David Ausberry and David Gordon are underutilized in Oakland’s offense and will be Fantasy afterthoughts.  So to summarize, Moore and Heyward-Bey are the only legitimate Fantasy targets and should be there for the taking in rounds 9 or 10.  The only other weapon you should consider and will be in 100% of Fantasy Leagues is Sebastian Janikowski who I predict will break the NFL record for longest field goal in 2012.   Thanks to www.footballoutsiders.com for the stats.   Next team is the Philadelphia Eagles
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