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Fantasy Opportunity Spotlight: Las Vegas Raiders

A team-by-team analysis of coaches’ tendencies and using them to help create realistic fantasy football projections. @TubaDeus takes a look at the Las Vegas Raiders.

Welcome to the new home of my yearly Fantasy Opportunity series! For those who didn’t see this series on Reddit last year, I try to take a different approach to fantasy projections than your run-of-the-mill analyst. The basis of my process is that the number one indicator of fantasy success is opportunities to touch the ball. Obviously, individual player skill can (and will) affect that, but at the end of the day, players are at the mercy of playcalling and play design. Therefore, if we want to make accurate projections, we need to look at each coach’s scheme and how they like to spread the ball around.

As a result, this series is very coach-centric. I’ll touch on individual players, but only as they relate to their coaches’ schemes. On a related note, this series will only aim to establish projections on how touches will be split up, not what individual players will be able to accomplish with those touches. That will come later once depth charts settle through training camp. Think of this series more as a basis for realistic expectations.

Make sense? Good. Let’s dive in.

Most of my stats are pulled from Pro Football Reference. Please support them. They are awesome and are my primary source of statistical information.

Las Vegas Raiders

Last Year’s Accuracy

Total PlaysRush Attempts (Rush %)Passing Plays (Pass %) – Includes SacksSacks Allowed (Sack %)WR Targets (WR Target %)RB Targets (RB Target %)TE Targets (TE Target %)
2020 Projections1000450 (45.0%)550 (55.0%)30 (5.5%)250 (48.1%)115 (22.1%)135 (26.0%)
2020 Stats1036457 (44.1%)579 (55.9%)28 (4.8%)239 (43.4%)112 (20.3%)172 (31.2%)
For league wide stats, see this spreadsheet.

Coaching Changes

In year three, the offense finally took off under head coach Jon Gruden and offensive coordinator Greg Olsen, placing in the top 10 for the first time under the pair. The defense, however, lost what little momentum it had gained between 2018 and 2019. After three straight bottom third finishes, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was ousted. Former Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will take his place in 2021.

Raiders news: Jon Gruden expecting big things from 2020 draft class
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Coaching History

With three years under his belt in his current tenure, I think we’ve pretty safely hit the point where we can judge Gruden’s scheme by what he’s done with the Raiders rather than looking back at what he did with the Buccaneers in the early 2000s. With that in mind, it does appear as though Gruden has settled on a scheme after a tumultuous first year. In year one with the Raiders, Gruden called for a surprisingly pass-heavy 39/61 run-pass ratio while featuring his wide receivers to the tune of a 48% target share compared to just 23% for his tight ends. His offensive line also gave up a well-below-average 8.6% sack rate.

Since then, Gruden has just about nailed the exact same 44/56 run-pass ratio in 2019 and 2020. He’s also featured his tight ends (read: Darren Waller) to the tune of a 31% target share both years, at the expense of his wideouts, who only saw target shares in the low 40s. And despite the up and down performance of the offensive line, they stabilized their sack rate right around an above-average 5%. It is worth noting that Gruden’s running backs have consistently hovered just above a 20% target share all three years.

Interestingly, there was a slight uptick in the Raiders’ tempo in 2020. It can be easy to miss as they were still rather slow compared to league average, but their pace picked up by about one second per play over their 2019 and 2018 counterparts. This increased speed is the primary reason for the increased 2020 play total over the previous two years.

Looking Ahead

The biggest change for the Raiders heading into 2021 is the complete overhaul of their offensive line. Several starters were jettisoned this offseason, with some being replaced in-house and some being replaced through the draft. Generally speaking, releasing/trading several high-priced starters does not make an offensive line better, no matter how much they had underperformed. As noted above, though, the 2020 line didn’t exactly set a high bar. They may get worse in 2021, but they likely won’t be that much worse.

Raiders running back Josh Jacobs could prove to be an elite fantasy option
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Of course, the offensive line isn’t the only notable change. Despite already having Josh Jacobs in the backfield, Gruden added Kenyan Drake for decent money, closely mirroring his first year with Tampa Bay in 2002. For those who don’t remember (or weren’t alive yet), the Bucs added Michael Pittman to a backfield that already included Mike Alstott. Now obviously, Jacobs and Drake have a slightly different dynamic (not least of which is because neither is a fullback). Still, it is likely fair to say that Gruden is hoping for a similar thunder and lightning combo.

The loaded backfield could also lead to a slightly heavier run rate, especially when considering the receiver’s situation. Waller is still there – and he will likely continue to lead the tight ends to a 30%+ target share – but the wide receivers could still use some improvement. Nelson Agholor actually led all Vegas wideouts in targets, yards, and touchdowns in 2020, only to be replaced by veteran deep threat John Brown. Neither of those are household names and for good reason. Unless one of the two sophomore receivers is ready to step up, the position group will likely continue to be targeted at one of the lowest rates in the league.

2021 Projections

Total PlaysRush Attempts (Rush %)Passing Plays (Pass %) – Includes SacksSacks Allowed (Sack %)WR Targets (WR Target %)RB Targets (RB Target %)TE Targets (TE Target %)
2020 Stats1036457 (44.1%)579 (55.9%)28 (4.8%)239 (43.4%)112 (20.3%)172 (31.2%)
2021 Projections (17 Games)1092486 (44.5%)606 (55.5%)32 (5.3%)244 (42.5%)123 (21.4%)175 (30.5%)

Previous Entry: Kansas City Chiefs

Next Entry: Los Angeles Chargers

Find this article helpful? You can follow me on Twitter and Reddit as @TubaDeus, though I spend most of my time on Discord.

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