2021 Fantasy Football Preview: Las Vegas Raiders

Today’s 2021 NFL offseason fantasy football preview highlights the Las Vegas Raiders. As we’re doing for this series of articles, we’re covering each team’s fantasy-relevant players based on average draft position in a 12-man fantasy league.

The Las Vegas Raiders totaled six players that are expected to be selected this upcoming fantasy season, so here’s our take on the outlook for each of these players and whether or not we’re comfortable selecting them at their current ADP.

Quarterback

Derek Carr
(ADP: QB25; 14.12)

Carr’s average draft position tells us nearly everything we need to know about his fantasy outlook heading into the upcoming season. While Las Vegas was tied to numerous quarterbacks this offseason, the Raiders remain committed to Carr as he enters his eighth season in the league. However, that’s about the extent of it when it comes to fantasy purposes for a couple of different reasons. Despite playing at a fairly high level earlier in his career, Carr’s top fantasy finish is QB12 (2016) and he’s proceeded to finish as the QB19, QB20, QB17 and QB14 in each of the following seasons. Additionally, while he has some young promising talent at the wide receiver position in the form of Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards (both selected in the 2020 NFL Draft), neither of these players are anywhere close to polished at the next level as Carr’s most accomplished receiver – if you don’t count tight end Darren Waller – is newcomer John Brown. Carr is at best a fill-in option at QB if your weekly starter goes down to injury, so my advice is to take a late-round flier at running back or receiver rather than spending actual draft capital on Carr.

Running Back

Josh Jacobs
(ADP: RB20; 3.12)

It was a rough day for the Josh Jacobs truthers when the Raiders signed Kenyan Drake earlier this offseason in free agency. However, the addition of Drake hasn’t completely turned off fantasy players on Jacobs as he still finds himself as a late third-round pick as the 20th running back off the board. Whether or not you select Jacobs at his current ADP is likely going to come down to how much you believe Drake is going to cut into his workload. Jacobs finished as the RB8 last year in both standard and PPR leagues, so if you’re of the belief that Drake will be nothing more than a change-of-pace, third-down back for Vegas, then you’re likely landing a steal by making Jacobs the 20th running back selected. My personal belief is that Jacobs will live up to his late third-round ADP. While I’m a fan of Drake, I still think it’s Jacobs that’ll receive the majority of carries, including the goal-line work, and that Drake will play a bigger role as a pass catcher out of the backfield. If my prediction comes to fruition, Jacobs’ upside is capped in PPR leagues, but we’re all aware of how difficult it is to find running backs that perform at a high level on a weekly basis outside the first two rounds. Outside of Waller, Jacobs is a shoe in to finish the highest at his position of all Raiders’ players.

Kenyan Drake
(ADP: RB39; 9.01)

While I just told you that I support selecting Jacobs in the late third/early fourth, I’m also going to tell you that I’m not opposed to taking Drake in the ninth. After some very sporadic usage in Miami over the course of his first two NFL seasons, Drake has PPR finishes of RB14, RB17 and RB16 each of the last three seasons. It’s also worth noting that Drake accomplished this level of fantasy production despite relatively low workloads. He saw a significant jump in carries last season rushing the ball 239 times, which is 106 more carries than his previous career high (2017), while totaling a career-high 10 touchdowns. I tend to view Jacobs and Drake as running backs that can both be fantasy relevant, but I’ll warn you that it’s likely inevitable that there will be a couple of weeks where you get a complete dud from one of these two players. If I had to pick one of these guys at their current ADP, I’d lean towards Drake in the ninth, but I’m pretty confident that the debate between these two players will be close to a 50/50 split as we approach fantasy-draft season.

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Wide Receiver

Henry Ruggs
(ADP: WR48; 11.10)

Coming into the 2020 NFL Draft I wasn’t an all-out Henry Ruggs truther, but I did believe that his game would translate to the next level and that he’d eventually turn into a viable starting option from a fantasy football perspective. While I think he’ll take significant strides towards fantasy relevancy in ’21, I don’t feel the need to draft Ruggs any higher than his current ADP. There’s a community of fantasy players out there that believe Ruggs is delegated to the sole role of being a straight-line burner, and despite the fact that that’s how he was primarily used as a decoy throughout his rookie season, I still believe there’s more to Ruggs’ game and he’ll evolve just fine as he gets more experience. For a positive outlook, you can likely consider Ruggs as the team’s WR1 following the departure of Nelson Agholor, but I don’t imagine the Raiders as a team that’ll consistently pepper one wide receiver with a ton of targets. Waller will pace the team in that category, and then the remainder of Vegas’ wide receivers and running backs will see a fairly even target distribution. Ruggs is essentially a dart throw at this point in the draft, so if you’re looking for a backup receiver with upside, he’s a pretty good option for you in the late 11th/early 12th round.

John Brown
(ADP: WR64; 16.07)

Brown produced a decent stat line (33-458-3) in just nine games last year for the Bills and now finds himself in Vegas for his age-31 season. Given Brown’s experience (entering his eighth season) he’ll likely be seen as a veteran leader in the wide receiver room given the amount of youth that currently surrounds him. This may be beneficial for Brown as his experience should lend itself nicely as a security blanket for Carr, leading to fairly consistent targets and receptions, but his upside will likely be limited as Vegas attempts to see what they have in Ruggs and Edwards. Brown has routinely been a player with a knack for getting open and making big plays downfield, the problem is that Carr and the Raiders just haven’t proven to be that type of team recently; especially in comparison to what Brown was working with last year with Josh Allen and the Bills. You can chalk Brown up as another late-round dart throw, but it may take an injury to another pass catcher for Brown to be even somewhat fantasy relevant this season.

Tight End

Darren Waller
(ADP: TE2; 3.01)

The only way you can say that you disagree with Waller’s ADP is if your fantasy strategy includes avoiding early-round tight ends. Waller has posted back-to-back, top-three PPR finishes over the last two years and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. He single handedly was the reason you likely won a few weeks last season if he was on your fantasy squad seeing weekly PPR scores of 28.5 (Week 2), 21.8 (Week 11), 45 (Week 13), 30 (Week 15) and 26.7 (Week 17). Waller received a career-high 145 targets in 2020 and I wouldn’t imagine that number dropping too much in ’21 based on the fact that Las Vegas still doesn’t possess an alpha WR that’ll command consistent targets on a weekly basis, and because of the bind he puts defenses in due to his height/weight/speed combination. In a game where exploiting mismatches is key, Waller is one of the best examples in the league. Historically my strategy is to wait until the later rounds to select my squad’s starting tight end, but Waller would be tough to pass on in the third round if you’re able to start the draft RB/RB.

Be sure to check out my positional rankings as they’ll continue to be updated leading up to the 2021 fantasy football season:

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Check out the latest episode of the Loaded Box Podcast as we wrapped up our Dynasty Shark Tank series with our Dealer’s Choice episode!

Ben Morgan is a co-host and blogger for the Loaded Box Podcast. Check out his article archive and find more from the Loaded Box on Twitter & Facebook

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