We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2009 fantasy football questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2009 Raiders Fantasy Football Preview comes courtesy of Just Blog Baby.
1) The Raiders seem to have taken the Gruden approach to the QB position by stockpiling QBs, two of which (Jeff Garcia and Bruce Gradkowski) played for Gruden in Tampa. Should fantasy owners see this as a sign that JaMarcus Russell is viewed unfavorably by the current coaching staff? Who do you think wins the starting QB job in ’09?
There is no truth to the rumors that there is a budding quarterback controversy in Oakland. This is JaMarcus Russell’s job to lose. He’s young and is going to make his share of mistakes, but he finished the 2008 season with three very strong games that included throwing for more than 700 yards, 6 TDs to just 2 INTs and completed 60% of his passes. Garcia is a veteran who was brought in to tutor JaMarcus and be ready to play should his number be called. With a young receiving core and a stable of running backs behind him, JaMarcus is poised to have a breakout year in 2008. I’m not saying he’s worth a high draft pick for fantasy owners, but he’s a solid pick as your second QB.
2) Probably the most surprising move of the 2009 Draft was the Raiders selecting the speedy Darius Heyward-Bey 7th overall, 3 picks before the much hyped Texas Tech WR product Michael Crabtree. Do you think this was the right move, and what kind of rookie season can fantasy owners expect from the speedster?
I can’t lie and say I liked the Heyward-Bey selection, though it had nothing to do with not selecting Michael Crabtree. To me, a guy like B.J. Raji or Eugene Monroe would have been the better pick, but the Raiders did need a major upgrade at wide receiver. Heyward-Bey will be given every opportunity to be the #1 receiver in Oakland as a rookie. He played in a pro-style offense in Maryland so he should make a smooth transition. All that being said, I don’t expect more than 600-700 receiving yards and maybe 5-7 TDs for Darrius during his rookie season. He’s capable of having monster games, but his consistency will be the major concern. For whatever its worth, I think Crabtree is going to be good, but Heyward-Bey will be better in the long run. That spread offense just doesn’t do any favors for either receivers or quarterbacks as far as it relates to preparing for the NFL.
3) The Raiders have a stable of talented, though injury prone, running backs in Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas, and Michael Bush. Are we looking at another RB-by-committee situation in Oakland this season, or can McFadden be the every down playmaker fantasy owners drool over?
The running back situation in Oakland is unlike any other in the league. Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas each have very unique skill sets. Bush is the best pure runner. Fargas is a great downhill style runner but is not a red zone threat. McFadden is the X-factor who can line up all over the field. I don’t think Run-DMC will ever be an every down type of back, as far as getting carries out of the backfield. In this modern NFL, McFadden is the guy best suited for the “Wildcat” formation as evident from his career at Arkansas. While Bush could get 1,200+ yards rushing if he got 20+ carries a game, McFadden is the guy capable of 1,600+ total yards and 10+ touchdowns. I see a healthy McFadden as Brian Westbrook 2.0. He’s got that type of all around game and he can be used out of the backfield, under center and even split out as a wide receiver. It is impossible to know what the future holds, but I’m expecting big things from Darren McFadden in 2009. In a keeper league, this guy could be golden.
4) Johnnie Lee Higgins showed flashes of skill and playmaking ability last season, will he be the number one target for Raiders’ QBs in 2009? Can WR Javon Walker rebound from numerous injuries to be the player he was signed to be? Are there any other names in the Raiders receiving corp fantasy owners should be following?
Johnnie Lee Higgins might not be the Raiders #1, but he could develop into a poor man’s Wes Welker. Plus, Higgins gives fantasy owners the added bonus of being a return dynamo that can get you extra points in addition to his receiving duties. Javon Walker is the definition of a free agency bust. There is really no way to comprehend why Al Davis gave this guy a $55 million deal. Walker secretly had knee surgery this offseason and is still recovering from an ankle injury that cut his season short in ’08. I say stay as far away from Walker as possible. The guy who could be a real sleeper is Chaz Schilens. Schilens is a big target (6’4”/225) and since he’s a Raider you know he can run (4.3 40-yard dash). He showed some flashes late in the year and has looked good in the OTAs this offseason thus far. Schilens could emerge as the best receiver on the roster in only his second season after being a 7th round pick.
5) Tight end Zach Miller put up a solid, if quiet season for the Raiders in 2008, racking up nearly 800 yards receiving and adding 1 TD. Should we plan on increased production from Miller during his first full season under head coach Tom Cable?
There is no reason why Zach Miller shouldn’t be playing in the Pro Bowl in the near future. He has the best hands on the roster and has developed some great chemistry with JaMarcus Russell as his go-to-guy. Miller also averaged 13.9 yards a catch in ’08, some truly amazing stuff for a tight end. What was most disconcerting was that Miller disappeared in the red zone. His only touchdown last year was a 63-yarder on a bullet from Russell. Perhaps it was just the scheme, but Miller’s lack of red zone production is the only thing holding him back from being in the same conversation with Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark and Tony Gonzalez in fantasy circles.