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Team Previews: 2010 Raiders Preview

Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O'Brien writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

Another year, another double-digit loss campaign. Since reaching Super Bowl XXXVII, the Raiders have had seven such seasons in a row, but there's a renewed sense of optimism in Oakland for several reasons.

Tom Cable assumed the head coaching duties in the middle of the 2008 season following the messy divorce between Al Davis and Lane Kiffin. Cable was retained for the 2009 season, but legal issues, a 5-11 record, and Davis' penchant for coaching changes led many to believe that Cable would be replaced by a more experienced coach during the offseason. However, Davis noted the Raiders' improvement towards the end of last season and recognized that Cable had earned the respect of the players. As a result, the Raiders will have a coach entering his third season for the first time since Jon Gruden in 2000.

While the head coach will remain the same in 2010, the starting quarterback will not. JaMarcus Russell was supposed to help restore the Raider glory of years past, but his time in Oakland came and went after just three seasons. Russell struggled with his fitness and preparation and never really gained the respect of his teammates. The Raiders had to decide to either pay Russell a $6.45 million roster bonus or cut him. When they acquired Jason Campbell on draft day from the Redskins, it was clear what the decision would be. Campbell didn't experience abundant success in Washington and he doesn't have a rocket arm; however, his quarterback rating has increased each of the last three seasons. At the very least, he'll be a better leader than his predecessor.

The Raiders will also enter the 2010 season with a new "quarterback" on defense, middle linebacker Rolando McClain. Kirk Morrison had been a stalwart in the middle for the past five seasons, but the Raiders weren't overly enthused with his run defense. The middle linebacker in the team's defensive scheme typically makes the most tackles, so a tackling machine like McClain should have no trouble fitting in. College linebackers have often adjusted quickly to the professional game over the last few seasons, so the Raiders will be expecting McClain to step in and make plays from Day One.

The AFC West figures to be wide open in 2010 after the Chargers lost several key players during the offseason, so the Raiders feel they'll have a chance to compete for the division title. They'll need big improvements from their offensive skill players, but former first-round picks Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey have the talent to succeed if they can stay healthy and disciplined. With new leadership on offense and defense and a head coach who has grown with his team, the Raiders are finally working their way back to
respectability.

OFFSEASON MOVES

2010 Draft Round, Overall, Player

1. (8) Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama - Will step right into starting middle linebacker role.

2. (44) Lamarr Houston, DT, Texas - Pass-rushing specialist should see action on passing downs.

3. (69) Jared Veldheer, OT, Hillsdale - Has size and athleticism to play left tackle at the professional level.

4. (106) Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland - Workout warrior will likely shift to guard to take advantage of his speed.

4. (108) Jacoby Ford, WR, Clemson - Could help in return game but will likely be no better than fourth receiver.

5. (138) Walter McFadden, CB, Auburn - Will have a shot to earn nickel or dime role.

6. (190) Travis Goethel, LB, Arizona St. - Will provide depth at linebacker and should see action on special teams.

7. (215) Jeremy Ware, CB, Michigan St. - Will battle for reserve defensive back spot.

7. (251) Stevie Brown, S, Michigan - Started at safety in 2008 and linebacker in '09; a good special teams candidate.

Key Acquisitions

Jason Campbell, QB (Redskins) - Will take over as the Raiders' starting quarterback.

Kamerion Wimbley, LB (Browns) - Pass rusher will start on strong side.

Rock Cartwright, RB (Redskins) - Will serve as third running back and could help out in return game.

Key Losses

Justin Fargas, RB (FA) - Departure will free up more carries for Darren McFadden and Michael Bush.

Greg Ellis, DE (FA) - Raiders going with healthier, younger options on defensive line but could miss his pass rush.

Kirk Morrison, LB (Jaguars) - Racked up tackles, but the Raiders want more against the run.

TEAM NOTES

Who Will Start at Running Back?

The Raiders essentially split the carries among three running backs over the last two seasons, but the trio is now down to two. The team released Justin Fargas during the offseason and didn't bring in any other highly touted backs, so Darren McFadden and Michael Bush will compete for the starting spot and carries during camp. Neither stood out last season - Bush led the team in rushing, but nearly half of his yards came in two games; while McFadden battled injuries and averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. Still, the Raiders will lean on both backs in 2010. Our best guess regarding the potential workload distribution is that McFadden will be the starter and receive about 60 percent of the carries, while also serving as the team's primary receiving threat out of the backfield. Meanwhile, the rugged Bush should receive roughly the other 40 percent of the carries and see the majority of the touches in close.

What Impact Will Campbell Make?

The Raiders were reportedly interested in acquiring Donovan McNabb during the offseason, so it's ironic that they ended up with the guy McNabb replaced in Washington. Jason Campbell is clearly an upgrade over JaMarcus Russell, but he certainly has not experienced the success McNabb has had during his career. While Campbell set career highs in quarterback rating, passing yards and touchdown passes last season, the Redskins only managed to win four games. So, while Campbell will almost definitely have better stats than Russell had last year, whether he will be able to help the Raiders move up in the standings or not remains to be seen.

Which Wide Receiver Will Become the Go-to Guy?

Raider wide receivers have been practically non-existent in fantasy terms over the last few seasons, due in part to the instability at the quarterback position and the relative inexperience of the entire group. With Jason Campbell on the roster, things could change in 2010. A strong 2009 preseason had the coaching staff excited about Chaz Schilens, but a broken foot cost him the entire first half of the season. The speedy Darrius Heyward-Bey was selected with the seventh overall pick in 2009, but poor routes and poor hands kept him from being a contributor. Louis Murphy was very impressive in several games but he lacked consistency. This year, Schilens is healthy and both Heyward-Bey and Murphy are a year older and wiser. While both Heyward-Bey and Murphy figure to make strides in their second seasons, the best bet to win the No. 1 job in 2010 is Schilens, who has become a favorite of head coach Tom Cable and is more experienced than his competitors. Go with him if you're considering Oakland receivers.

VALUE METER

Rising: Redskins TEs combined for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns last season with Campbell at quarterback. Zach Miller will be a top tight end option if he approaches that TD number.

Declining: The trade for Campbell means that Bruce Gradkowski will open the season on the bench.

Sleeper: Injuries have already cost Darren McFadden seven games in his short career, but he'll have no problem setting a new career-high in rushing if he can stay healthy.

Supersleeper: Oakland's wide receivers should actually have fantasy value in 2010, and the best bet for success is Chaz Schilens.

IDP WATCH

Tyvon Branch, S - Tackling machine is among the top DB options.

Rolando McClain, LB - Nearly a lock to reach triple digits in tackles (former MLB Morrison reached that number in last five seasons).

Trevor Scott, LB - Sleeper alert. He recorded five sacks in six games after being moved to OLB last season.

TEAM DEFENSE:
RotoWire Rank: 13