Raiders

Fantasy football rankings 2019: Top 10 QB-receiver stacks to draft

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USATSI/NBC Sports Bay Area

Fantasy football rankings 2019: Top 10 QB-receiver stacks to draft

Drafting a quarterback and a skill-position player from the same team can be a tricky proposition in fantasy football.

If that team goes off for 42 points, you'll likely make out like a bandit with double the points. But if that team is held in check, you're in trouble.

The other downside to having two top players from one team on your fantasy football roster is that you have to fill two important spots on the same bye week.

But having one of these quarterback-wide receiver stacks could pay off big time for you during the 2019 season.

Drew Brees and Mike Thomas, Saints

Despite throwing for under 4,000 yards for the first time since 2005, we still expect Brees to play well in his age-40 season.

Thomas caught more passes (125) than anyone last season. He's a ball magnet, and without a strong No. 2 receiver, Thomas should still see a high number of targets from Brees.

Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, Falcons

Ryan and Jones are two seasons removed from reaching the Super Bowl. They combine to make one of the most dynamic young duos in the league.

Last season, Jones caught 113 passes from Ryan for an NFL-best 1,677 yards. The emergence of Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley could take some targets away from Jones, but he will still put up monster numbers no matter who's on the field with him.

Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, Chiefs

This duo possibly has the most upside of any on this list. Both are young and have yet to reach their potential.

Mahomes is the reigning league MVP, while Hill avoided a major suspension at the hands of the NFL following an incident involving his child.

Hill caught just 87 passes last season, but turned that into 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns. He's a big-play machine and as explosive as any player in the league. If he's on the field, expect big things.

DeShaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, Texans

If you polled experts and asked them to pick the best wide receiver in football, a good number of them would pick Hopkins. Last season, he caught 115 passes for 1,572 yards.

Watson finally was able to play an entire season and showed what he's capable of by throwing for 4,165 yards. But he's still got room to improve. Expect big things from Watson and Hopkins this season.

Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr., Browns

This is the biggest wild card of the group. We all know what OBJ is capable of. When he was motivated in New York, he was a monster.

Mayfield had a good rookie season, and most experts expect him to take the next step this season. With two legitimate options in Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, Mayfield should put up huge numbers.

Aaron Rodgers and DeVante Adams, Packers

The Packers made a big change at head coach, replacing Mike McCarthy with Matt LaFleur, and they are hoping it pays off with Rodgers and Adams.

Last season, the duo connected on 111 passes for 1,386 yards. Green Bay will need more of the same in order to get back to the playoffs.

Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen, Vikings

Thielen has been one of the biggest surprise stars over the last three seasons. Last year, he caught 113 of the 153 balls thrown to him for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns.

Surprisingly, Cousins finished with the second-best completion percentage (70.1) in the league last season.

Derek Carr and Antonio Brown, Raiders

A lot of "ifs" surround this duo.

If Brown's frostbitten feet heal and if he can find a helmet he likes, he should continue to be a dominant, game-changing force.

If Carr can regain his former from 2016 when he threw 28 touchdowns and just six interceptions, the Raiders should bounce back from a disappointing 4-12 season.

Carr and Brown have the chance to be an electric combo, but they must perform to the best of their abilities.

Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, Cowboys

Cooper's disappointing 2018 season turned around when the Raiders traded him to the Cowboys. In nine games with Dallas, the former first-round draft pick caught 53 passes for 725 yards and one touchdown.

Prescott might not get the massive contract he's looking for, but in a full season with Cooper, he should put up big numbers. That will certainly help his case for a payday.

Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers

With Antonio Brown out of the picture, Smith-Schuster becomes the No. 1 target for Big Ben, so you can expect numbers similar to his 111 receptions and 1,426 receiving yards from last season.

Roethlisberger led the NFL with 5,129 passing yards, but that was obviously boosted by Brown. Without the All-Pro, defenses could double-team Smith-Schuster and limit his impact.

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Surging Raiders face tough upcoming tests in Packers, Texans offenses

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USATSI

Surging Raiders face tough upcoming tests in Packers, Texans offenses

The Raiders haven’t played a true home game in forever. That's true, even though the Silver and Black have two games left in a five-game stretch played away from Oakland that will define this season.

They have started it off well, with two quality wins in three attempts. The team has rallied together during this time, facing in-game adversity and practice-week setbacks head on. This group doesn’t wilt, finding ways to beat Indianapolis and Chicago after what could’ve been a demoralizing loss in Minnesota.

Head coach Jon Gruden deserves credit for guiding the Raiders through with expert game plans. The coaching staff and the locker room’s leadership core have kept the team together during tough times playing difficult opposition.

The path doesn’t get any easier as this road trip winds down. In fact, the competition ratchets up. The Raiders face Green Bay on Sunday and Houston the following week before returning to Oakland for a three-game homestand.

Yeah, that’s Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson in consecutive weeks. Those elite quarterbacks are as tough as they get, with an ability to score at will and perform well in the clutch.

The Raiders have scored 55 points in the last two games with a solid run game and efficient passing, with strong starts in both wins. That will be essential yet again if the Raiders are to continue performing well against a run of legitimate playoff contenders.

This two-game win streak, punctuated by an excellent win over the Bears in London, has brought positive press about the coaching staff and the team's toughness. The next two games could offer a reality check -- or densely pack the bandwagon. 

The Packers and Texans offer stiff competition to a Raiders team right in the thick of the AFC West race. The division is bunched up at the moment, with the Chiefs and Chargers each losing two straight games. The Broncos have won two in a row. The Raiders are in a position to make some noise in the division, especially if they can get at least one win out of the next two games.

The schedule gets a bit easier after these two, with golden opportunities down the stretch. There are weak sisters on the schedule that a quality team should handle and a flood of division games. The Raiders can remain highly competitive if they maintain a strong ground game offensively while shutting down the opponent’s rushing attack.

Early leads allow the Raiders to play their way, with a steady diet of Josh Jacobs working behind an imposing offensive line. The Raiders seem committed to playing solid run defense, but the back end must hold its own against excellent quarterbacks. Doing so puts most every game in play, even those where the Raiders look inferior on paper. 

[RELATED: Why Jackson sees so much potential in this Raiders O-line]

The Raiders have played quality competition tough, and found ways to win three important games through five attempts. They aren’t going to win every game, nor should that be expected from a team managing significant talent losses via injury, suspension or other.

Coming out of this two-game stretch with a win, or even two, would show the NFL these Raiders arrived before many expected, and that they’re a legitimate playoff threat heading into the season’s second half.

How Raiders' Isaiah Johnson improved his game while on injured reserve

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How Raiders' Isaiah Johnson improved his game while on injured reserve

ALAMEDA – Raiders cornerback Isaiah Johnson lost valuable development time during his rookie season through no fault of his own. It was stolen from an inadvertent knee to the head by teammate Marquel Lee in the first preseason game, where Johnson suffered a concussion and a facial fracture that put his professional career on hold.

He didn’t play or practice again during the preseason and was placed on injured reserve right after the 53-man roster was set. That final act gave Johnson belief that the entire season was not lost.

The Raiders planned to designate him for return near midseason, when he was healthy and able to contribute on defense and special teams. Defensive contributions will be harder without nine weeks of practice and playing time, especially for a former receiver with just two seasons experience at cornerback, but Johnson isn’t bitter about that.

He applied proper perspective to his downtime and set to handle this setback as best he could.

“I feel like everything happens for a reason,” Johnson said Monday. “I believe in marathons, not sprints. Everybody has a time and place for something to happen. My time just wasn’t then. When I got hurt, it didn’t really destroy me mentally. I knew there were steps to take to get where I want to go. I used it as a learning experience.”

That wasn’t always easy. Johnson was merely watching others practice and play, trying to learn conceptually without an ability to apply it on a practice field.

“I’m going to be honest: It’s really hard sitting in meetings, watching tape that you’re not on,” Johnson said. “After a while you mature and learn how to be a pro. Once you do that, you watch all that film and start applying it to yourself, so when you come back [to practice], you can use that knowledge.

"I kind of felt that today. I found myself applying some of the tools I learned during the six weeks I wasn’t playing.”

Johnson started practicing on Monday, opening a 21-day window for the Raiders to activate him or place him on season-ending injured reserve. Johnson expects activation when he’s eligible to play after eight weeks on IR.

He’ll have nine regular-season games left if all goes to plan, offering plenty of time to accomplish this year’s primary objective.

“My only goal is to help the team win games,” Johnson said. “That has always been the case, so I can do everything I set out to do. Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to come in and do it.”

Johnson is a top-tier athlete perfectly built for press-man coverage, though some development was required and understandable for someone who took up the cornerback position as a junior at the University of Houston. The Raiders need cornerback depth with Daryl Worley moving into more of a hybrid role, with Nevin Lawson and Trayvon Mullen as options to pick up Worley’s outside cornerback snaps when he roves across the defensive backfield.

Johnson will be involved in that but should be an immediate contributor on special teams.

[RELATED: Jackson, Johnson practice as Raiders prepare for Packers]

He was known as an excellent gunner in punt coverage and should give special teams a lift the moment he’s eligible to play. That’s a role he’s ready for right away.

“I have always enjoyed playing special teams,” Johnson said. “I feel like [special teams coordinator Rich] Bisaccia has a great system, and I feel like I can contribute the moment he puts me back on the field. I’m trying to show the coaches that I’m ready to go.

"I know I’ve been out, but I’m working to come back.”