Receiver Roundup: Oakland Raiders
By Cody Smith
In this edition of the Receiver Roundup, we’re going to focus on the Oakland Raiders.
In 2019, the Raiders easily will have the most turnover at the wide receiver position. As a matter of fact, Oakland may not have a single wide receiver on the final 53-man roster that ran a route for them last season.
All of Oakland's top receiving options from 2018 have moved on. Jordy Nelson has retired, Seth Roberts is with the Ravens, Amari Cooper is in Dallas, Martavis Bryant has been suspended indefinitely from the league and the list goes on.
The Raiders had to do a lot of wheeling and dealing in the trade market and free agency to put together a solid receiving corps for quarterback Derek Carr who is entering his sixth season in the league.
Obviously, the biggest off-season addition came back in early March when the Raiders agreed to terms with the Pittsburgh Steelers to acquire Antonio Brown. Brown’s tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers came to a tumultuous end with Brown allegedly getting a speeding ticket while traveling over 100 miles per hour, throwing furniture off of a balcony and calling out teammates over social media.
In the end, Brown ended up with exactly what he had hoped for, landing with a team that gave him a contract extension and huge guaranteed money.
Fantasy owners have shown some concern with Brown due to the fact he will no longer be playing with an “elite” quarterback. Reports have also come out that the Raiders plan to rest Brown in the preseason which may slow his progress in building chemistry with Carr.
I however, find these things to be little-to-no issue with a receiver as talented as Brown.
Remember back to last season when Brandin Cooks did not play at all in the preseason in his first season with the Rams. He came out and posted big numbers, catching 80 passes for 1,204 yards. I believe Brown can easily replicate this in Oakland.
Antonio Brown enters 2019 on a streak of six consecutive seasons with at least 100 catches and 1,200 receiving yards. In 2018 Brown also set a career high with 15 touchdown receptions.
Last season Brown led the entire NFL in routes run per game, averaging 44.6 routes run per game. He also finished 2nd in the NFL in targets with 169.
Brown also ranked in the top-5 among receivers in end zone targets (#4 with 20 targets), touchdowns (#1 with 15 touchdowns), fantasy points per game (#2 with 21.6) and total target distance (#5 with 2,005 yards).
Long story short; Brown is the kind of player you want on your team.
Brown finished as WR6 in 2018 PPR leagues, and is currently being drafted as WR7 this year. On average, Brown is going around the middle of the second round in 12-team leagues at 19 overall. I’ve personally seen Brown slip to the early third round in some 10-team mock drafts, and if he does in your league, he’s a must-draft. Brown is a solid WR1 in 2019 and should be drafted as such.
Playing opposite of Brown this season will be former Los Angeles Charger Tyrell Williams who joined the Raiders via free agency, signing a four-year deal worth $44 million dollars.
Williams hasn’t had a chance recently to be a true WR2, playing behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams in LA, but if you remember back to the 2016 season when Allen tore his ACL in Week 1, Williams posted the best season of his career, hauling in 69 receptions for 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns.
More recently Williams seems to have fallen out of favor in LA, catching just 41 receptions for 653 yards and five touchdowns last season.
I expect this change of scenery and promotion to a true WR2 to help the young wide-out. Williams has great size (6’3, 204 lbs), speed (4.48 40-time) and a catch radius of nearly 10.5 feet.
Williams was incredibly efficient last season, catching 41 of 64 balls thrown his way, giving him a true-catch rate of over 87% (23rd best in the NFL). Williams also ranked in the top-15 in the NFL in yards per target and yards per reception. He also averaged 2.15 fantasy points per reception, 14th best in the league.
Williams ranked as WR49 last season and is currently dirt-cheap in fantasy drafts, going off the board at pick 143 (WR55), which equates to a mid-12th round pick in 12-team leagues. Williams is an absolute, no-doubt, straight steal this deep in drafts. Draft him and don’t even think twice about it. I can’t imagine Williams having worse production as a WR2 this year as he did as a WR3 last season in LA.
Behind Williams will be a ton of serviceable receivers looking for targets. None of the following are fantasy relevant right now, but should the Raiders suffer any injuries, these players could quickly fall into the fold.
J.J. Nelson currently looks like the favorite for the WR3 spot, coming over from Arizona in free agency. Nelson caught just seven passes for 64 yards in 2018, but is an intriguing option for the Raiders with his speed combined with Derek Carr’s arm.
The Raiders drafted the player that currently slots into the potential WR4 spot in the team. Oakland spent a 5th-round pick on Hunter Renfrow out of Clemson. Renfrow was not very fast at the combine (4.59 40-yard dash) and he’s an awfully small target (5’10, 184 lbs) but he always seemed to show up in the big moments at Clemson.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jon Gruden said he believes Renforw could “move around and do some things” for the Raiders this season. Renfrow is a mid-round pick in dynasty rookie drafts.
Another rookie on the Raiders roster will be Keelan Doss out of UC Davis. Doss had impressive numbers as a junior (115 catches for 1,499 yards) and as a senior (118 catches for 1,334 yards). According to NBC Sports Bay Area, Coach Gruden is impressed with what he has seen from the 6’2 wide-out. Gruden apparently discovered Doss at the Senior Bowl in January stating “He’s athletic and he’s got size”
The only returning wide-out with a chance to make the roster is Dwayne Harris. Harris caught just six passes for 40 yards last season and should he make the roster, should be primarily used on special teams again this year.
The Raiders have also signed Ryan Grant who spent last season with the Colts. Grant will attempt to make the 53-man roster cut after catching just 35 passes for 334 yards and a touchdown last season.
Other wide-outs that are currently competing for a roster spot are Keon Hatcher, Rico Gafford, Montay Crockett, Brian Burt, Saeed Blacknall and Marcell Ateman.
The next receiver roundup will focus on last year’s AFC runner-ups, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Follow me on Twitter @MasterSmithers. Feel free to tweet at me if there is a team you’d like to see soon in the receiver roundup!