The Upside, Downside, and Bottom Line for Derek Carr
2016 seems like a distant memory when Carr led the Raiders to 12 wins and finished third place in AP MVP voting behind Matt Ryan and Tom Brady. It probably seems like a long time ago because the Raiders followed up their 12-win season with two atrocious years. They finished 2017 with 6 wins and 2018 with 4 wins. For better or worse, Jon Gruden returns in his second year as the head coach and the Raiders are looking to turn the corner.
The starting skilled position players surrounding Carr has changed dramatically. The Raiders added wide receivers Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, J.J. Nelson, and Hunter Renfrow and rookie running back Josh Jacobs. Tight end, Darren Waller, was with the team last year but he will take over as the starter because Jared Cook went to New Orleans. Carr is coming off a career-low 19 touchdowns. He has a good chance to improve, as he will lean heavily on one of the best route runners in the league, Antonio Brown. Brown can help Carr return to his 2016 form when the team’s top weekly wide receiver finished as the WR6.
In his first season with the Raiders, Brown is clearly the team’s top receiver. Last season, Jared Cook led the team with 101 targets and Jordy Nelson was second with 88 targets. Cook moved to New Orleans and Nelson retired. Brown should have a lot of opportunities because the Raiders lead the NFL in vacated targets, 359. Brown caused a lot of drama recently but is looking to put his helmet issues behind him and focus on building rapport with Carr.
Brown’s PPR Season Totals Since 2013
Williams was with the Chargers in 2018 but will now be playing alongside Carr. Williams’ broke out in 2016 with 69, nice, receptions, 1,059 yards, and seven touchdowns. However, he only averaged 42 receptions and 690 yards over the last two years. Increased opportunity with the Raiders could help Williams become a more consistent player. However, he is unlikely to match his career-high numbers from 2016.
Waller’s workout metrics are ridiculously good. Per Player Profiler, his 40-yard dash time, 4.46 seconds, ranks in the 99th percentile and his speed score, 131.6, ranks in the 99th percentile. He was drafted in 2015 by the Baltimore Ravens as a wide receiver but transitioned to playing tight end. Oakland’s offensive coordinator, Greg Olson, said Waller is currently the top tight end on the depth chart.
Jacobs was not used as a true three-down running back at Alabama because Nick Saban had two NFL caliber running backs. He was in a running back committee with Damien Harris, who was drafted by New England in the third round. Jacobs is expected to get the lion’s share of attempts above teammates Jalen Richard and Doug Martin. Oakland might face negative game scripts on a regular basis so Jacobs’ role in the receiving game will help provide Carr with a reliable check-down option.
The offensive line ranked 26th in pass protection, per Football Outsiders. They are projected to face the sixth most difficult pass rush schedule, per Warren Sharp. Carr also averaged the least amount of time to throw in the NFL, 2.55 seconds per Next Gen Stats. He will need improved offensive line play to take advantage of the new offensive weapons. Taking a step in the positive direction may be a tall order because offensive line expert, Justin Edwards, has Oakland’s line ranked 20th. it doesn’t help that Richie Incognito is suspended for the first two games.
The Raiders averaged the fifth lowest number of points per game with 18.1. This number must increase dramatically for the team to stay competitive. Gruden could rely heavily on Carr because they will face a slew of high scoring offenses, including Kansas City, LA Chargers, Indianapolis, Chicago, Green Bay, and Houston. Carr’s fantasy numbers could benefit from frequently playing in negative game script situations against these high-powered offenses. Carr might be game scripted into attempting more passes but it may not matter if the offensive line does not give him enough time to throw.
The team improved their offensive weapons and it will be entertaining to see if Carr develops any chemistry with his new teammates on HBO’s Hard Knocks. He has potential but his wide range of outcomes makes him a risky draft pick. He should only be drafted as a backup quarterback in deep leagues or superflex leagues. In traditional leagues with five or six bench spots, he should be targeted as a weekly streaming option when facing favorable defensive matchups.
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