Travis Kelce

Raiders' plan to stop Chiefs' Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes falls apart


Raiders' plan to stop Chiefs' Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes falls apart

OAKLAND -- The Raiders revamped their roster in the offseason with Sunday's opponent in mind. 

Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock wanted to get faster and more dynamic as they look to catch up to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. 

The Chiefs entered Sunday's game at the Coliseum without game-changing wide receiver Tyreek Hill, but they still had known Raiders killer Travis Kelce. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther cooked up some different looks during the week in hopes of slowing down the Pro Bowl tight end. 

With rookie safety Johnathan Abram on injured reserve, Guenther elected to institute a package with four cornerbacks and one deep safety. In that package, the Raiders moved cornerback Daryl Worley inside to play behind the linebackers on whichever side Kelce was lined up on. Rookie cornerback Trayvon Mullen took Worley's spot out wide and veteran safety Curtis Riley filled in the back. 

"It was in our package," Worley said after the Chiefs' 28-10 win. "We want to minimize him as much as we could. We know that putting a corner on him could help. He’s a versatile tight end. Being able to minimize and eliminate him was definitely the game plan.

"It was something new, something we have been practicing," Worley continued. "The coaches have trust in me, and I showed in practice that I’m versatile and can move inside and outside when necessary. Being able to get four cornerbacks on the field and cover guys is something we want to work toward in this defense."

The package worked for a bit, but then the Chiefs adjusted, motioning Kelce out wide against the Raiders' two-safety look, allowing him to take advantage of a matchup with safety Karl Joseph. 

In the end, though, it didn't matter who shadowed Kelce. The star tight end caught seven balls for 107 yards and a touchdown as the Chiefs scored 28 unanswered points in the second quarter and coasted to a 28-10 win

Kelce has tormented the Raiders throughout his career, and now has 55 catches for 755 yards and five touchdowns against the Silver and Black. Something about playing the Raiders just brings it out of Kelce. 

"The Raiders man, the fan base here is ... they're going to let you know how they feel and you know that's why I love coming here," Kelce said following the victory. "I mean the bus ride in is going to feel weird going to a different location. I get amped up when we're coming into a hostile environment like this. Seeing everyone flick me off coming in on the bus and seeing a few people's cheeks you weren't trying to see. It's just, it's football at it's finest, or pregame at it's finest, you know? We're going to miss that for sure, so shoutout to everybody at Oakland for making it what it was." 

The Raiders locked up Mahomes, Kelce and the Chiefs in the first quarter, but the reigning AFC West champions exploded in the second, as Mahomes threw for 278 yards and four touchdowns in that quarter alone. Likewise, Kelce only had one catch for eight yards in the first quarter, but he had three catches for 50 yards and a touchdown in the second. 

Gruden could only give props to Mahomes, Kelce and the Chiefs' offensive juggernaut. 

"They do a great job now offensively," Gruden said, "with all the empty-backfield sets, shooting five eligibles in it, and Mahomes can reset and throw the ball from any platform I've ever seen, but it's a combination of a great young quarterback, with a scheme that really suits him and we got to do a better job as well."

[RELATED: Carr vents on offensive frustrations after loss vs. Chiefs]

The Raiders' defense tried everything to slow the Chiefs down, but when a souped-up car flicks on the nos there's little you can do to catch it if you don't have the requisite parts. 

"We just ran into a buzzsaw for about seven-and-a-half minutes," Gruden said.

Fantasy football first-round picks to skip in your league's 2019 draft

USATSI/NBC Sports Bay Area

Fantasy football first-round picks to skip in your league's 2019 draft

Your fantasy football league might not be won or lost in the first round, but you can’t exactly afford to screw it up. 

Missing on your first selection can set your draft back, and leave you with a not-so-sturdy foundation heading into the season. You don’t want to reach and pick someone you could have drafted in the later rounds, nor do you want to select someone with significant red flags. 

With those considerations in mind, here are the players you should avoid selecting with your first-round pick in your fantasy football draft. 

Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon

If there are three words you remember from this piece, those should be: Avoid. The. Holdouts. 

As of this writing, neither Elliott nor Gordon have reported to their respective teams’ training camps. Any Le’Veon Bell fantasy owner -- including this writer -- can tell you firsthand how wasting a high pick on a player in an uncertain contract situation can torpedo a season. Season-long holdouts no longer are unprecedented, and must be considered when contemplating picking one of the two. 

If Elliott and Gordon were in camp with the Cowboys and Chargers, respectively, you wouldn’t draw any side eyes drafting either player in the first round. Elliott would be much more of a lock than Gordon, but you could make a case for either at the very least.  

If you’re thinking about taking one of them in the first round, steer clear until they’re in camp. 

Any QB

Your quarterback undoubtedly will end up being your highest scorer, but picking one can wait until the second or third round (at the earliest). 

The skill positions are the ones to focus on in the first round, especially given the amount of talent available. Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey and David Johnson are primed for big years, and you’d be better off taking a flyer on Bell in the back-end of the first round than reaching for, say, Patrick Mahomes with your first pick. 

The drop-off between the first and second tier of quarterbacks isn’t as large as it is at running back or wide receiver, so you really want to make sure you nail that first pick. Missing at one of the skill positions is going to hurt more than missing at QB. 

JuJu Smith-Schuster

There’s a void to be filled out wide in Pittsburgh after the Steelers traded novice painter/star receiver Antonio Brown to the Raiders in the offseason. Smith-Schuster stands to benefit, as he already was one of the better receivers in fantasy football playing with Brown and should be in line for more targets without him. 

The next-gen Steelers are going to air it out as long as Ben Roethlisberger is quarterback, but Roethlisberger turned 37 in March and is coming off of the worst year of his career in terms of yards-per-completion. With one fewer option for Roethlisberger to throw to, Smith-Schuster is going to receive a lot of attention from opposing defenses. 

Smith-Schuster is ready for a bigger role in his third NFL season, and would be a great pick early in the second round. You’ll have surer No. 1 options at receiver in the first, though. 

Travis Kelce

Now that Rob Gronkowski has retired from the NFL in order to party poolside/pursue an acting-and-wrestling career/do Gronk Things, Kelce has taken the reigns as Tight End Worthy Of First-Round Consideration. 

49ers tight end George Kittle just set the single-season receiving-yards record for the position, but his Chiefs counterpart has the benefit of catching passes from Mahomes. That understandably makes him tempting in the back end of the first round, but you’ll be better off waiting.

With so many strong running backs and a handful of dominant receivers to choose from in the first round, the previously-mentioned drop-off at those positions means you should not wait. Go ahead and make Kelce your second pick, especially if your second comes shortly after your first.

Your favorite player from your favorite team

The temptation is there. You’re sitting with your friends, wearing the jersey of your favorite player on your hometown team, and you have to make sure you pick him. You wouldn’t be a good fan otherwise, right? 

No, you would. If your favorite player feels like a reach in the first round, they probably are! Unless that player is one of the top running backs, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., DaVante Adams or Julio Jones, they surely will be available after the first round. 

This rule also applies if you’ve already named your team after a player. You don’t have to draft Jimmy Garoppolo with the fifth overall pick just because your pre-draft team name is “Jimmy GQ.” 

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2019 Pro Bowl: Raiders tight end Jared Cook replaces Chiefs' Travis Kelce


2019 Pro Bowl: Raiders tight end Jared Cook replaces Chiefs' Travis Kelce

MOBILE, Ala. -- Raiders tight end Jared Cook had a career year in 2018. It didn’t come with many wins, but he was excellent as Derek Carr’s primary target in the passing game.

Cook either led or tied for the team lead in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. He was solid as an in-line tight end or in receiving spots outside and in the slot.

The 31-year-old was certainly worthy of a spot in the Pro Bowl, and wanted that honor for the first time in his career. He didn’t get in on the first ballot, but is now part of the team.

Cook will replace Kansas City’s Travis Kelce on the AFC squad, the NFL announced on Monday. He will practice and participate in festivities leading up to Sunday’s Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

Cook won’t receive the Pro Bowl bonus earmarked for him if he had made the first ballot, but the veteran tight end will be recognized among the NFL’s best at his position. That’s just after he had 69 receptions for 896 yards and six touchdowns.

The Raiders now have their first member of the Pro Bowl after a disappointing 4-12 season.