If anyone told you they saw the Las Vegas Raiders’ season playing out as it did, that’s how you know that they’re a liar. The league somehow found that only Jon Gruden ever did anything bad when investigating the Washington Football Team, so the Raiders canned him. Then, Henry Ruggs III killed someone, then Damon Arnette threatened to kill someone, and everything went haywire. Their head coach, Rich Bisaccia, didn’t even know how to use a headset in his first game. Yet, they ended up in the playoffs and actually put up a fight against the Bengals before losing by a touchdown. But, for 2022 fantasy football, what should we remember from the 2021 Las Vegas Raiders?
- If there’s one good story about the 2021 Raiders, it’s the emergence of Hunter Renfrow as a bona fide fantasy football stud. Renfrow turned into a PPR force down the stretch, scoring at least 20 fantasy points in four of seven games, and at least 13 in six of seven. But, his emergence coincided with a Darren Waller injury. Waller went down in week twelve and returned in week eighteen (though he played just 78% of snaps compared to his normal 90%+). Or did it? Renfrow averaged 6 catches for 60 yards per game with Waller in the first twelve weeks of the season, and then averaged… 6.5 catches for 63 yards without Waller. Unlike in 2019, when they poached each other, Renfrow and Waller lived side-by-side.
- And yes, Renfrow and Darren Waller did live side-by-side, but we forget this, mostly because Waller left after 21 snaps in week 12, and then didn’t return until after the fantasy finals were over (and he had two catches for 22 yards). But, prior to his injury, Waller averaged 6 catches for 68 yards per game, which put him about one eight-yard catch per game behind his 2021 numbers.
- Every year, I like to take a look at the most average running backs in the league. The way that I do this is I figure out the average yards per carry, reception rate, yards per reception, and yards per touch, of every back in the league, then I go +10% and -10% until I get a range of players that sit in the middle of these averages. And every year, guess who is in there? Josh Jacobs coming it at slightly above-average. I decided to take it one step further and look at Z-scores. Jacobs had a slightly above-average catch rate but everything else skewed negative. That means, by Z score looking at the components of a running back, Josh Jacobs was 87 of 188 running backs so… slightly above average, overall. He’s a great backend RB2 because he’s slightly above-average with a ton of volume.
- I think the Raiders’ offense might just be too conservative for Bryan Edwards’ own good. The man had the fourth-highest target distance in 2021, but just the #93 target share at the position (both per com). This led to him having barely making it into the top-fifty in air yards. In the end, he had a lower target share (10.3%) than everyone else in the top-twenty in average depth of target except Keelan Cole. This is a major issue for Edwards, who needs to find a new role before he can flourish with the Raiders. As of now, for 2022, we have to bank on a role change before we can buy back in on a guy that I liked coming out of the draft, but who has had a rocky first couple of years in the league.
- Weirdly enough, Zay Jones somehow leapfrogged Bryan Edwards on the Raiders’ depth chart. He had a Zaynnaissance in the second half of the season (coinciding with Waller’s injury). From week twelve through the Wild Card game, Zay Jones had at least five targets per game, averaging eight per game in that span. He turned that into 5.5 catches for 53 yards in that span. There was a lot of buzz around Zay Jones because of this, but his “hot streak” was just an 87 catch, 843-yard pace. This “hot stretch” is basically Jakobi Meyers (83 catches, 866 yards in 16 games in 2021).