This article is part of our Team Previews series.
Las Vegas Raiders
A frustrating slide of three losing seasons precedes the Raiders' move to Las Vegas. It's a context that places quarterback Derek Carr on the hot seat ahead of a pivotal campaign in which he'll have to show less of a reliance on the dink-and-dunk approach with the Super Bowl champion Chiefs in control of the AFC West.
- WR Henry Ruggs (Rd. 1, No. 12 – Alabama)
Old habits die hard as the Raiders made the speedster the first WR drafted in April.
- QB Marcus Mariota (from Titans)
A chance for QB drama legitimately exists as Derek Carr is now pushed.
- LB Cory Littleton (from Rams)
Inked a three-year, $36 million deal after recording 259 tackles since 2018.
- RB Lynn Bowden (Rd. 3, No. 80 – Kentucky)
Positional versatility could make Bowden quite a playmaking gadget.
- TE Jason Witten (from Cowboys)
Adds veteran depth as Foster Moreau returns from serious knee injury.
- WR Bryan Edwards (Rd. 3, No. 81 – South Carolina)
The 6-3, 215-pounder could turn into a solid "X" receiver to pair with Ruggs.
- LB Tahir Whitehead (to Panthers)
Younger free-agent signees replace the Raiders' reigning leader in tackles.
- RB DeAndre Washington (to Chiefs)
Unable to secure primary backup duties over Jalen Richard in Oakland.
A Look Under the Hood
Head Coach: Jon Gruden (Year 3)
Offensive Coordinator: Greg Olson (Year 5) - West Coast (power run)
Defensive Coordinator: Paul Guenther (Year 3) - 4-3 scheme
2020 Vegas Projected Wins: 7.5 (T-20th)
2019 Record: 7-9
2019 Points Scored: 313 (24th)
2019 Points Allowed: 419 (24th)
2019 Point Differential: -106 (27th)
2019 Run-Play Rate: 44.2 percent (8th)
2019 Situation-Neutral Pace: 31.80 seconds per play (26th)
2019 Offensive Snaps: 989 (24th)
2019 PFF O-Line Ranking: No. 15
Projected 2020 Depth Chart
Buying insurance at the blackjack table is a losing strategy in the long run, but the two-year, $17.6 million spent on making Marcus Mariota one of the highest-paid backups in the league could indicate a desire for the Raiders to do more than simply mitigate damage if starter Derek Carr were to go down with an injury, as a midseason job battle isn't out of the question.
Mariota was benched just seven games into his fifth campaign with the Titans as he watched Ryan Tannehill enjoy a trip to the 2020 AFC Championship Game, while Carr was busy earning a top-10 pass grade from Pro Football Focus out on the west coast. However, Carr tossed less than 23 passing touchdowns for a third straight season, and his 6.9-yard average depth of target ranked 34th out of 37 qualifying quarterbacks.
Unfortunately for Carr, the Antonio Brown experiment was short-lived as the troubled receiver requested his release prior to Week 1, but the Raiders again added several pass-catching toys this offseason in the form of top-100 selections Henry Ruggs, Lynn Bowden and Bryan Edwards while also signing Nelson Agholor in free agency.
The pressure is on for Carr to perform as an intriguing amount of cap savings accompany his contract's minimal dead cap cost in the event of a trade or release, with Mariota eagerly awaiting on the sideline.
Feeling a Draft on the Strip
A global pandemic ruined plans for the NFL's newest city to host the draft in the shadow of the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, but the construction of Allegiant Stadium was deemed essential business, and the Raiders' gorgeous new home should be completed in time for preseason action.
Major alterations to both their roster and front office in the years leading up to the transition to Vegas included the Raiders parlaying stars Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper into a trio of first-round picks via trades, resulting in five total Round 1 choices for coach Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock since the latter's 2019 arrival.
Mayock, who was criticized for reaching at No. 4 overall with Clemson's Clelin Ferrell last year, again surprised draft observers with the top-20 selection of Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette, who wasn't even considered a second-round lock.
Surely the Raiders needed someone capable of immediately competing for a starting cornerback spot on the outside across from Trayvon Mullen, but they may have found their steal of the draft in slot corner Amik Robertson. The 5-8, 187-pound Louisiana Tech product racked up 14 interceptions in three seasons of collegiate ball, and his acquisition could allow for Lamarcus Joyner to shift back to the more natural safety position he enjoyed as a Ram.
Jacobs Powers the Ground Game
The NFL's analytics revolution has manufactured inflated levels of animosity towards running backs and a grim perception of their relative value, but the Raiders disobeyed commands to avoid such a forbidden fruit when they tabbed Josh Jacobs as the first running back off the board in 2019 at pick No. 24 overall.
A draft capital investment questioned by cynics, the Raiders locked in a gifted workhorse at a sub-$3 million average cap hit through 2022. Despite fracturing his shoulder blade Week 7, Jacobs toted the rock 242 times for 1,150 yards and seven TDs in 13 games before the nagging shoulder issue forced him to miss three contests down the stretch.
Along with an impressive 4.8 yards per carry, Jacobs lost just one fumble while leading the entire league in forced missed tackles (69) as he finished the season as Pro Football Focus' second-highest graded running back behind only Cleveland's Nick Chubb. Jacobs made a justifiable case for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, but was classically snubbed in favor of a quarterback.
There's room for improvement from the Raiders offensive line as starting vets Trent Brown, Gabe Jackson and Richie Incognito missed a combined 14 games while left tackle Kolton Miller struggled again in Year 2, but fresh tires and a clean bill of health solidify Jacobs as a potential fantasy anchor.
The elusive Josh Jacobs may be destined for a true breakout as the Raiders take residence in Las Vegas.
⬆️ Rising: TE Darren Waller
The uber-athletic, 6-6 former wideout erased significant reliability concerns as he drew 117 targets last season, obliterating his previous season high by triple digits. A positional ADP of TE5 is realistic for Waller.
⬇️ Falling: RB Jalen Richard
Despite earning a two-year extension with nearly $3.5M guaranteed at signing, Richard figures to cede a share of the Raiders' pass-catching duties out of the backfield to 80th overall pick Lynn Bowden.
😴 Sleeper: WR Hunter Renfrow
Henry Ruggs' decoy deeds should help open things up underneath for Renfrow, but the slot man is a security blanket even deep in enemy territory as well, snagging four more red-zone passes than any other Raider in 2019.
🌟 Pivotal Player: Darren Waller
Sandwiched between George Kittle and Zach Ertz in standard fantasy scoring despite tallying just three touchdowns during the 2019 season, Waller shined in what became his first campaign with a prominent role in any NFL offense at 27 years old. Perseverance paid off as Waller ranked second among TEs in receptions (90) and yards (1,145).