The Las Vegas Raiders have all new digs in Sin City, leaving the not-so-friendly confines of Raw Sewage Field in Oakland for the Death Star in Vegas. They are starting to coalesce around Jon Gruden’s vision for the squad. They added three offensive weapons in the 2020 NFL Draft, but what about the guys who are already there? How will they perform headed into their first season in a new town? Let’s take a look at the Las Vegas Raiders and their 2020 sleeper, breakout, and bust candidates.
Sleeper – Hunter Renfrow, Wide Receiver (WR63, 181 overall)
It was the best of rookie years, it was the worst of rookie years. Hunter Renfrow came on in the second half of the 2019 season as the designated PPR slot receiver monster for the Raiders. In the first half of the season, he averaged just three catches for 32 yards per game; he contributed to the Raiders but he didn’t do much to write home about. In the second half of the season, he played five games (he missed time with a chest injury) and he turned in five catches for 70 yards per game in that span, scoring two touchdowns in those five games.
In the first half of the season, Renfrow ranked as WR58 in PPR leagues, and in the second half of the year, he ranked as WR17 in the games he played. He’s WR63 and we already saw that his absolute floor, outside of getting removed from the offense entirely, is WR58. The best-case scenario is you get a set-and-forget starting WR in your PPR leagues, and he’s free at the end of drafts. What do you have to lose?
Breakout – Henry Ruggs III, Wide Receiver (WR52, 142 overall)
The Las Vegas Raiders had their choice of any wide receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft, and went out and got Ruggs. They got Hank over Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb for one reason: the kid can fly. He’s the next DeSean Jackson, meaning he only needs to catch a couple of balls a game to end up with a big receiving total. Jon Gruden is likely seeing what PFF has seen lately: Derek Carr is better with the deep ball than we give him credit.
Ruggs is going extremely late because we have a very narrow view of the Raiders’ offense, that it’s a Waller-and-Jacobs Show with little room for anyone else. The reality is that we already saw a stretch of time where an inferior deep shot artist thrived in this offense. In the first four weeks of 2019, before going down with an injury, Tyrell Williams paced out for 864 receiving yards on 68 catches, and he scored a touchdown in each of the first four games. In fact, Tyrell Williams was one of eight guys to have a double-digit yards per target on at least 50 targets last year. Should Ruggs get that role with an expanded target base, it’s off to the races for the rookie in 2020.
Bust – Darren Waller, Tight End (TE5, 51 overall)
I don’t feel good about Darren Waller for 2020 because of what I like to call The Hunter Renfrow Problem. In the second half of 2019, minus games where Renfrow injured his rib and lung and missed time, Darren Waller wasn’t nearly as good. He was still really good, he just wasn’t top-five good. Outside of the second-half Hunter Renfrow games, Waller was TE1. Inside those games, he was TE8. Again, he was still really good in those games, just not transcendent. He lost about two targets and 37 yards per game depending on if Renfrow was in or out of the lineup in the second half.
My big worry is that growth from Renfrow and the additions of Henry Ruggs III and Bryce Edwards might cause a bunch of targets to dry up for Waller. He ended last season as TE5 on the third-most targets. What happens if he drops down to the hoi polloi of tight end targets, getting around 80-90? Where does that put him? He’s going to end up somewhere around TE8, by my reckoning. He’s at the top of what I call the Lottery Tight Ends this year. The reason I call them that is not that they are lottery tickets, but because you could put their faces on ping-pong balls and let the lottery machine spit them out in any order, and I would buy the finish. This tier runs all the way down to about TE15. Why take a guy at the top of this TE stack?