The Raiders finished 8-8 on the back of the offense – the defense was abysmal. The team allowed 29.9 points a game, 30th in the league, and only forced 15 turnovers, also 30th in the league. And it wasn’t one phase, the run defense allowed over 2,000 yards, 24th in the NFL, while the passing defense allowed over 4,200, 26th in the league.
The team addressed the pass rush, adding Yannick Ngakoue on a two-year deal to bolster a defensive unit that only had 21 sacks last season. A third of those came from second-year starter Maxx Crosby. The team also added safety Trevon Moehrig to help the secondary. Team brass brought back Karl Joseph and signed former stud CB Casey Hayward for depth.
There were a few other depth pieces but the key defensive addition may have been new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. He will bring a 4-3 under defense to Sin City, this article has a good, in-depth look at what his defense will look like. I will use this article to break down players who will be IDP assets in 2021 and going forward.
Before the 2020 season, the Raiders made a splash by signing Littleton to a three-year, $35 million dollar contract. He is a high-profile player and the team had high expectations for him. In an article on Yahoo Sports recently, Littleton was named the most overpaid player on the Raiders roster and it’s hard to argue with the reasoning.
|4 yr||4 yr||LAR||64||37||6||82||1||26||26||3||0||4||16||0||8.5||315||205||110||20||14||26|
|1 yr||1 yr||LVR||14||14||0.0||82||56||26||4||0||5|
There is still hope and if he can return to what he has displayed in the past, Littleton could rebound and have a three-down role again. He missed several games in 2020 and the few after his return didn’t seem to be himself. Littleton did have a few strong games to end the season, giving the hopeful a glimpse of what could be. On the season, he was the LB64 yet for IDP, he was counted on to be an LB1.
If Littleton returns to the production he had for the Rams in 2018 and 2019, IDP owners will be happy. His ceiling is a player who can get 120+ tackles, a handful of pass deflections, and a few sacks too. I think he gets closer to what we expected in Bradley’s defense and Littleton is an LB2 in 2021.
Projection: 110 total tackles, 3 sacks, 10 pass deflections
Morrow is projected to be the only three-down linebacker for the Raiders but isn’t a great IDP asset nonetheless. He was the LB32 for 2020, producing LB3 numbers, and is right at his ceiling with that production.
Morrow is solid in coverage and run support, and can get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. 79 tackles is a nice floor, but the forced fumbles, interception, pass deflections, and sacks help give Morrow a better stat line. He’s a decent linebacker but isn’t going to win you any weeks.
Projections: 75 total tackles, 7 pass deflections, 2 sacks
On a points per game basis, Kwiatowski was the top linebacker for Las Vegas and could be again in 2021. He picked up the slack for Littleton, raking in tackle after tackle. 81 tackles despite missing four games.
|4 yr||4 yr||CHI||57||22||1||4||4||8||4||6.0||184||139||45||13||8||1||16|
|1 yr||1 yr||LVR||12||12||1||9||9||4||1||1.0||81||53||28||3||2||5|
With that in mind, he is a total liability in pass coverage and what you get with tackles is going to be all you get in most games. Kwiatkowski is a two-down backer who can get downhill and stop the run. I would be happy with him as an LB3/LB4 because of the safe floor with tackling.
Projections: 95 total tackles
THE REST OF THE LINEBACKERS
Devine Diablo and Tanner Muse are on the depth chart at linebacker and both are former college strong safeties. Both guys could step in and give depth, both guys can hit but also aren’t total liabilities in pass coverage. I don’t have much hope for either in IDP but I have each in several places with deep rosters.
Crosby saw double teams from offensive linemen all season as the only pass-rusher of note and still had seven sacks. A fourth-round pick in 2019, he has been a pleasant surprise and has room to get much better. Crosby played at Eastern Michigan and is raw, a scary thought – he could be a future star.
The Raiders adding Ngakoue is a huge help for Crosby. Jonathan Hankins is a good player to plug the middle and former first-round pick Clelin Ferrell is listed as the starter in front of Crosby. Ferrell hasn’t provided the Raiders the pass rush expected from him and was only on the field for 42% of the snaps. Crosby was at the end spot for 83% of snaps.
I love Crosby and I think he is going to get better. He’s not a liability in run defense, and he will make his money as a pass rusher. Getting Ngakoue to rush from the other side is going to make Crosby better. He’s a good DL2 and will win you some weeks with sacks.
Projection: 35 total tackles, 10 sacks
The former Jaguars star spent 2020 with the Vikings, starting five games, and the Ravens, starting three games. It was an odd season for Ngakoue, getting used to two different systems but he still managed eight sacks somehow.
|4 yr||4 yr||JAX||63||62||2||32||1||23||9||14||3||65||1||37.5||122||105||17||42||85||33|
|1 yr||1 yr||BAL||9||3||0||0||0||0||1||2||0||0||0||3.0||0||2||3||2|
|1 yr||1 yr||MIN||6||5||2||0||0||0||5.0||0||5||8||2|
The new-look Raiders defense starts here and Ngakoue’s arrival is critical. It allows the Raiders versatility with Ferrell and takes the pressure off Crosby. Bradley has to be excited scheming defense with the options he has on the defensive line. Ngakoue has the potential to be even better than he has in the past with the help he has on the line as well.
I expect Ngakoue to settle in nicely and contribute DL1 numbers right away. The Raiders could use him standing up on the edge, with Ferrell having his hand in the dirt, or Ngakoue could man the end. He’s going to always be on the field and have a career year in 2021.
Projection: 50 tackles, 12.5 sacks
THE REST OF THE DEFENSIVE LINE
Ferrell is the only other lineman I would want to own and I have tempered my expectations for him. He’s going to be better for the NFL than for fantasy, that dreaded statement. If you have to start defensive tackles, Hankins is a solid option as a player who will consistently get you 3-5 tackles a game.
The Raiders attacked defense hard in the 2019 draft and Abram was the 27th overall pick in the draft. After missing nearly the entire season his rookie year, the Raiders had high hopes for him in 2020 and he had a solid season but not what he is capable of.
Abram is the type of safety I love for the NFL and for fantasy. He’s a strong safety, capable of raking in boatloads of tackles, and can absolutely thump as a tackler. He did miss three games last season and still had 86 tackles with a pair of INTs.
Abram’s role in this defense is locked in and 2021 is a critical year for him. The Raiders want to see him step up and emerge as one of the top safeties in the game – I think he will. The Nerds staff has him ranked as DB11 and he will return on the ranking, with the potential to be even more.
Projection: 110 tackles, 4 INTs
I am typically an IDP player who streams or doesn’t pay a lot of attention to corners, but Mullen is one of the more reliable at the position for IDP. In his third season, he is going to get targeted and in turn, going to have a lot of tackle opportunities.
Mullen and Damon Arnette are two of the youngest corners starting in the NFL and veteran Casey Hayward was signed in the offseason. Playing in a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, the Raiders will be in shootouts and the corners will be tested. Mullen is the corner I want to own and start, but Arnette is solid as well.
Projection: 70 tackles, 3 INTs
THE REST OF THE DEFENSIVE BACKS
Trevon Moehrig was drafted in the second round and the former TCU Horned Frog is slated to be the starting free safety. I don’t have much expectation for him from an IDP standpoint, he will likely be, at best, a fill-in for injuries or byes.
Karl Joseph returned to the Raiders after a season away with the Browns and provides the Raiders with depth. If Abram falters or gets injured, Joseph is a good source for tackles and can fill in for your fantasy team.
The Raiders defense has to be better in 2021 or the team will be mired around the .500 mark. The defense will be on the field a lot and have chances to provide your IDP teams with lots of points.
Linebackers are kind of up in the air, but I am counting on Littleton to bounce back and he should be able to be acquired inexpensively as well. Crosby, Ngakoue, and Abram could also be studs at their positions and each should be in the top twenty at their respective positions.
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