2022 Las Vegas Raiders – Fantasy Football Deep Dive
Heading into their third season in Las Vegas, the Raiders are already on to their second head coach (third if you count interim coach, Rich Bisaccia). Jon Gruden resigned from being the head coach and now Josh McDaniels is ready for his second stint as a NFL head coach.
McDaniels was able to start his coaching career under the tutelage of Nick Saban back at Michigan State in 1999 (his father and Saban were friends). This helped him land a role with the New England Patriots in just two years and was with the organization for quite some time. He started as a personnel assistant but was able to work his way to being the offensive coordinator in just five seasons. His experience and success with the Patriots led to him becoming the head coach for the Denver Broncos in 2009. He was the head coach for less than two seasons (fired after going 3-9 in 2010) and after a brief stint as the offensive coordinator for the then St. Louis Rams in 2011, he re-joined the Patriots organization in 2012. McDaniels was then set to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, but later declined the position the day of his press announcement to stay in New England.
Over his time as an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL (more as the Patriots coordinator), McDaniels has won six Super Bowls and led an offense that finished top-10 in points a dozen times. He’s found success in the NFL, but let’s see if he can re-write his head coaching failure with his new role as the Raiders head coach.
It seems like it’s really obvious, but a lot of play-callers fail to have a balanced offense when running an offense. McDaniels likes to make sure there is a good blend of running and passing plays within his offense. Last season, with rookie quarterback Mac Jones, he had more of a tendency to run the ball to alleviate the pressure from Jones. The Patriots were ranked 26th in passing attempts in the NFL last season and were ranked eighth in rushing attempts. Coming to Las Vegas, McDaniels can work with an experienced quarterback in Derek Carr and should be able to have a more balanced attack and possibly lean more on the pass if he’d like to.
When it comes to running style, McDaniels will probably switch the scheme from zone-blocking to gap-heavy. With a zone-blocking scheme, the offensive line needs to work together and the running back has more freedom to find a hole and try to get to the second level his own way. This is great, but this requires having a great offensive line which is something Las Vegas lacks.
Switching to a gap-heavy scheme will allow the offensive lineman to find a man and block him. Taking it to another level, McDaniels likes to take advantage of his tight ends, fullbacks, and wide receivers as well to help with blocking on the offensive line which allows the offensive line to take easier assignments at times against second-level defenders. This type of scheme also creates a hole for the running back and solves the problem of trying to find one. Simplicity allows for the running back and the offensive line to find more success, even if there’s not as much talent for either position group.
Lastly, the passing style is something we’re all used to seeing. McDaniels loves the West Coast style of offense with the short to intermediate throws to players that are good with the ball in their hands. We’ve seen players like Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola make a name for themselves in this offense with their impeccable route-running skills and strong ability to generate yards after the catch. Also, they were smart players and this led to McDaniels scheming up more option routes for his receivers to take advantage of how the defense lined up and bust coverages to lead to longer drives and higher probabilities of points being scored.
Who Stands to Benefit?
Josh Jacobs, RB
There are a lot of mouths to feed in this Raiders backfield, but Jacobs should emerge from the pack as the lead dog of the pack. After his fifth-year option was declined, the 2022 season for Jacobs is a contract year. Expect Jacobs to have a chip on his shoulder to earn himself a big contract with another team, if McDaniels decides he doesn’t want to bring Jacobs back past this coming season.
Jacobs finished as the 12th-best fantasy running back last season and was the eighth-best in 2020. He can be a difference-maker in this league and should be able to take advantage of the new running scheme. He just needs to find the hole and hit it and he should be able to become a bigger factor in the running game because of that. Let’s not forget that he has dual-threat ability and can easily be used on all three downs if McDaniels wants to during crucial points of the game.
Also, McDaniels wants to improve the red-zone conversion percentage for the Raiders, as they were ranked 26th with a 51.7% conversion rate. McDaniels has said that he wants to use Jacobs creatively in red-zone situations and this could mean Jacobs could see more scoring opportunities in 2022.
Jacobs may not be the most popular running back heading into fantasy drafts, but he could be a difference-maker for your roster. If you’re picking towards the end of your snake draft, he’s a perfect candidate to be taken on the turn at the top of the second round. You could roll the dice and see if he lasts until the third round, but the chances of him being there are slim in a 10-man league and non-existent in a 12-man league. He’s going to be drafted as an RB1 in all fantasy leagues and your benefit could be that other league members will be scared to draft him because of the possible committee approach. Ignore the talk and don’t be afraid to zig while everyone else is zagging. Draft Jacobs to your roster with the peace of mind that he’ll deliver for your roster when needed and he’s the reason you’ll be hoisting the championship trophy at the end of the fantasy season.
Hunter Renfrow, WR
The acquisition of Davante Adams is a big deal for this Raiders offense and will be a huge factor for opposing defenses to worry about. While a major move, he surprisingly might not be the biggest benefactor of having McDaniels being the new leader for the Raiders offense.
Renfrow fits the mold of all the great receivers that have found immense success in McDaniels’ system like Welker, Amendola, and Edelman. He’s a crafty route runner and can be a dangerous ball carrier once he makes the catch. In 2021, Renfrow finished with over 1,000 receiving yards and more than 100 receptions for the first time in his career. While Adams previously played with Carr back in college, Renfrow has been playing more recently with Carr and has developed a really good trust factor there. Let’s also not forget that while adding Adams is great, he’ll certainly draw more attention from the defense which will benefit Renfrow to replicate his numbers from last season.
Looking at Renfrow for fantasy purposes, he’s a receiver that will be taken as early as round five but no later than round eight. Adams being acquired drops Renfrow’s stock a bit but as mentioned earlier, he’ll fit this offense a lot better and could give you an excellent value pick in the middle rounds. He finished right at 10th among fantasy receivers last season and this type of system can see him finishing as a top-10 receiver again. Sit in the catbird seat on this one and relish in the value that Renfrow can give you as a possible WR1 being drafted as a WR2.
Potential Break-Out Player
Kenyan Drake, RB
There’s a larger backfield in Las Vegas than last season, but that shouldn’t affect too much value of Jacobs and Drake. Jacobs is going to get his fair share of touches in this offense and Drake will be able to carve out a good role with the leftover scraps. Looking back at the offenses that McDaniels has run in his past roles, there’s always a lead guy but the second option in the backfield got a lot of work as well. Guys like Sony Michel and LeGarrette Blount were lead rushers in the offense and were supplemented by guys like James White and Brandon Bolden as receivers in the offense.
Drake is going to be the main receiving back in this offense and you can look at him as filling the role that White and Bolden previously filled when McDaniels was in New England. Yes, Bolden is part of the Raiders now but Drake has the better talent to get the majority of the targets compared to Bolden.
His fantasy value is pretty much tied to if your league is a PPR league (which most are nowadays). As mentioned, Drake is going to be the primary back in the passing offense and will get a good amount of targets to make him hold some FLEX appeal. Drake is going to toe the line when it comes to getting drafted in most fantasy leagues. If he does get drafted, he’ll be the second-to-last or last pick to round out someone’s bench.
Drake is a valuable handcuff option as Jacobs has been known to miss time during his NFL career, so he’s a great addition to your bench. Whether you decide to use one of your final picks on him or make a priority addition to your watch list once the draft is over, Drake can be a great addition to bring value to your fantasy roster.
Derek Carr will finish as a top-7 fantasy quarterback
As mentioned earlier, McDaniels was forced to run the ball more in New England last year with a rookie quarterback under center. With Carr, McDaniels can rely on him more to get the ball down the field and this means good things for fantasy managers. Last season, Carr threw for 4,804 passing yards and he can easily cross the 5,000-yard mark with McDaniels calling the shots. One thing that Carr has never done is throw a lot of passing touchdowns, but that number is sure to increase with the addition of Adams into the offense.
Looking at last year’s top-seven fantasy finishers at the quarterback position, Dak Prescott finished seventh with 4,449 passing yards and 37 passing touchdowns. Also, while rushing ability has led to quarterbacks scoring more points, four of the top seven finishers last year had under 150 rushing yards and six of the seven finishers had three or fewer rushing touchdowns. This means that Carr just needs to increase his passing touchdown number this coming season and he has this in the bag.
The system will benefit Carr with the short to intermediate passing attack that will get the ball out of his hands quickly. Pairing up with Adams, his former college teammate, will surely increase his passing statistics and we already spoke about how well Renfrow will fit this system as well.
This statement is bold on the surface, but peeling back the layers means that Carr should easily claim a top-seven finish. With an average positional ranking of 12th, he’s being undervalued and this could be a player that wins someone a title that went overlooked. With that positional ranking, he’s going somewhere around the 10th round which further reinforces Carr’s value. Don’t overlook him this coming fantasy season.