Raiders

Fantasy football cheat sheet: One to draft, one to avoid at each position

carrusa.jpg
USATSI

Fantasy football cheat sheet: One to draft, one to avoid at each position

Are you ready for some football?

Dumb question. Of course you are, why else would be reading this.

Fantasy football season is upon us, and if you've stopped by for some advice that will take you from league laughingstock to holding the trophy, then I'd like to think you've come to the right place.

So, you want to know who to draft? You'd like to know what big names to dodge? Well, I have you covered.

Let's start with this: Yes, you should draft Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey if you can. Please, select Baker Mayfield, Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers. I'm not going to tell you to draft Kyler Murray because I shouldn't have to. He was the No. 1 overall pick, and he's in a good offensive system -- albeit with a bad line -- for his skill set.

Would I have needed to tell you to draft LeBron James in 2003? No? Take Kyler if you can.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's look at one player you should draft and one you should avoid, at each position.

Quarterback

Draft: Derek Carr, Raiders
Yes, I know all about the stats. The yards per attempt, per completion, all of it. That was then, this is now.

The Raiders revamped their offense to give Carr the best arsenal of weapons he's ever had -- Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller form a dangerous, explosive group. Carr also has been locked in during training camp, showing better command of Jon Gruden's offense. The Raiders will score a lot of points., and you can expect a bounce-back year from Carr.

Avoid: Drew Brees, Saints
Wait, what? You thought it was still 2009? Brees is old, and Father Time, as they say, is undefeated (although Tom Brady is giving him a run for his money).

Brees has playmakers in Kamara and Michael Thomas, but he showed signs of slippage last season, and Sean Payton has been transitioning the Saints' offense to a more run-heavy approach to compensate in recent years. Fade.

Running back

Draft: Kalen Ballage, Dolphins
OK, yes, the Dolphins' offensive line has some issues. But Ballage is talented, and he'll have a lot of opportunities, especially with Kenyan Drake banged up.

The Arizona State product ran a 4.6 40-yard dash and is great catching passes out of the backfield. He should be available in the later rounds, so you might want to look like the smart guy and pick him up.

Avoid: Leonard Fournette, Jaguars
I just don't see the point. Fournette isn't explosive nor efficient, and he doesn't break tackles. The addition of Nick Foles as the Jaguars' QB won't magically make Fournette faster and more elusive. No thanks.

Wide receiver

Draft: Adam Humphries, Titans
Yeah, everyone hates Marcus Mariota. The guy only threw 45 touchdown passes to just 19 interceptions in his first two seasons, beat the Chiefs in the playoffs at Arrowhead Stadium in Year 3, and couldn't feel his hand last season. What a bum.

With the Titans finally committed to playing to Mariota's strengths, I expect Humphries -- if he's healthy -- to develop good chemistry with his QB and rack up the targets. Give me all the Titans stock.

Avoid: A.J. Green, Bengals
Let's make this one really simple. Green can't stay healthy. He's already hurt, and has missed at least six games in two of the past three seasons. Oh, and he's now 31 years old. Oh, and Andy Dalton still is his quarterback.

Tight end

Draft: Darren Waller, Raiders
Did I mention I'm bullish on the Raiders' offense? Waller is an athletic freak who ran a 4.66 at the combine. With the Raiders bringing in Brown, Williams and the like, Waller will have a lot of chances to torture defenses that are focused on the other guys.

Avoid: Jimmy Graham, Packers
It might be the end of the line for Graham -- at least as a productive fantasy tight end. He didn't have the 2018 that many predicted last year in Green Bay, notching just three games with more than 55 receiving yards. Plus, the Pack brought in Texas A&M stud Jace Sternberger to share (and eventually take over) the duties as Aaron Rodgers' tight end.

Kicker

Draft: Robbie Gould, 49ers
Now that he's done throwing his contract fit, Gould can get back to being one of the more reliable kickers in the NFL. Plus, Jimmy Garoppolo is back, so the 49ers' offensive attack should give Gould more scoring opportunities.

Avoid: Anyone who isn't Justin Tucker, Greg Zuerlein, Stephen Gostkowski, Gould or Harrison Butker
Honestly, if you don't get one of these five guys, and maybe Will Lutz, you're better off playing kicker roulette.

Defense/Special Teams

Draft: Denver Broncos
Vic Fangio with Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Chris Harris and the boys? Yeah, pick up the Ponies.

Avoid: Baltimore Ravens
But ... but ... the Ravens always have a good defense. Yes, Baltimore's defense has been a terror for a long time, but this could be a transition season for that unit. The Ravens lost Eric Weddle, C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith in the offseason. That's a lot to overcome. Best to use the Ravens as a streaming option.

More fantasy football draft kit content

Why Raiders should make Emmanuel Sanders priority in NFL free agency

Why Raiders should make Emmanuel Sanders priority in NFL free agency

So, you want to compete with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs? Well, you're going to need a lot more firepower.

Jon Gruden knows that.

In what was Year 1 of a true rebuild for the Raiders following the teardown in 2018, the Silver and Black showed a lot of promise, with a historic draft class leading them to a 7-9 record. The building blocks are being put in place for the Raiders to march up the AFC West pecking order. While another draft-day haul is needed, Gruden knows he doesn't yet have the offensive weapons to contend with Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City. 

Yes, the Raiders have a big question mark at quarterback, but this is about a different area of need -- the team's biggest area of need -- other than the black hole at linebacker. The Raiders need wide receivers. Many of them. They need dynamic playmakers who can stretch the field, make people miss and rack up explosive plays. Players who can answer a lightning strike from Mahomes that left the Raiders stunned and wobbling last season.

They'll likely select one early in the 2020 NFL Draft and maybe another in the third round. But that won't be enough. With $54 million in projected cap space, expect the Raiders to look to the free-agent market to add a veteran receiver to help Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller shoulder the load. 

The Raiders don't seem like a home for A.J. Green and we can cross former Raider Amari Cooper off the list. Robby Anderson might be a fit, and the Raiders reportedly had interest in him at the deadline, but his price tag might be a tad high for a guy that isn't a true No. 1.

Gruden needs only look to the Raiders' now-former Bay Area neighbor for a free agent worth their while. 

Emmanuel Sanders came over to the 49ers in a midseason trade with the Denver Broncos and immediately paid dividends. He was able to lead a young receiver group while being successful running every type of route for coach Kyle Shanahan.

Sanders is most effective in a West Coast type of offense such as the one Gruden runs. The 32-year-old completely transformed his game after tearing his Achilles, reinventing himself as a savvy, veteran playmaker. He's a highly efficient route-runner and has some of the surest hands in the game, only dropping one pass last season.

His arrival in San Francisco took the 49ers' passing game from an attack with puppy teeth to one that could shred defenses in an instant. He played a key role in the development of Deebo Samuel, who became a lethal weapon as the season wore on. Sanders also is a good blocker on the outside, as he showcased during the 49ers' run to the Super Bowl.

Don't let Jimmy Garoppolo's overthrow in Super Bowl LIV taint your opinion of Sanders. With the title on the line, Sanders smoked his man, blew past the safety and was in line to be a Super Bowl hero had the pass been on target.

He's played in three Super Bowls and knows what it takes to get to, and win, the biggest game in sports. His leadership and experience would be as valuable as his on-field production.

Some will argue Sanders' age is a red flag or that the 49ers are destined to re-sign him. Due to the 49ers' cap situation, it seems more likely than not that they will let Sanders walk. At age 32, Sanders is exiting his prime, but he's the perfect veteran receiver to complement Tyrell Williams, mentor Renfrow and the incoming top prospect (s) (CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy) and provide a reliable target for Derek Carr, Tom Brady or whoever is under center for the Raiders in 2020.

[RELATED: Why Raiders would make sense in Darius Slay trade]

The Raiders need to take their offense to the next level. Their offensive line is stout, running back Josh Jacobs is a star and Renfrow and Waller will be long-term staples of the offensive attack. Gruden will expect more from Williams in Year 2 of his contract after the veteran receiver was hampered by injuries in 2019. 

But they need to get more explosive at receiver. No matter who the quarterback is, Renfrow and Waller can't be the only weapons. If that's the case again in 2020, the results will be the same.

A deep draft class at receiver will help the Raiders stock the arsenal, but they'll need another proven veteran as well.

Sanders, who PFF projects to make around $10 million per season, would give Gruden a do-it-all veteran who has ranked as one of the 25 most valuable receivers in each of the past two seasons. And it also would leave the Raiders with money to spend to improve a defense that needs a lot of work.

An offense with Sanders, Williams, Renfrow, Waller, Jacobs and at least one young star from the draft would give the Raiders' offense the pop Gruden has been missing.

Derek Carr posts photo with Khalil Mack, adding to Bears trade rumors

Derek Carr posts photo with Khalil Mack, adding to Bears trade rumors

The picture of Tom Brady talking to Raiders owner Mark Davis at a UFC fight was burned into Oakland Las Vegas Raiders fans' minds.

What would that mean for Derek Carr? Could he be headed to the Windy City to meet up with an old friend? 

There has been a lot of speculation about Carr getting traded this offseason. Carr had a less than memorable season during the Raiders' last year in Oakland, and a photo on his Instagram just adds to the swirling thoughts.

Carr added a picture of himself and Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, with no caption.

Naturally, the comments section flooded with speculation. 

The two are former Raiders teammates, and despite Carr's "meh" season, he would be an improvement over current Bears QB Mitch Trubisky -- who could also use a change of scenery. 

[RELATED: One NFL exec sees Raiders as Brady's fallback]

Carr's contract could make a trade hard, but this IG post on top of everything else makes us think.

The quarterback will blow out 29 candles on his birthday cake next month which could only help his cause.