Thursday night's NFL season opener between the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints looked like a Pac-12 game or a demo of Madden 12. And for the Bay Area NFL teams hoping that the uncertainty caused by the lockout and fresh ideas from new coaching staffs would lead to a football renaissance around here, last night's game was a hard slap in the face.
The best teams in the NFL have passing offenses that work to precision. Offenses that succeed on passing plays with a higher degree of difficulty than anything teams were doing in 2005, let alone 15 or 25 years ago. Real football and fantasy football are almost interchangeable nowadays, at least when you're looking at teams that play the sport at its highest level.
Putting two local teams together and trying to make the "best" team is nothing new. People do it every year with the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics ("I'd take Pablo Sandoval at third, Jemile Weeks at second, Carlos Beltran in right, Coco Crisp in center..."). But instead of going position by position with the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, what would a fantasy draft look like if you could only choose from the Bay Area's two NFL squads to put a team together? Would it even measure up to a team you could put together in a standard 10-team fantasy draft in today's pass-happy NFL? Let's find out, and for this draft we'll consider a "team" to have the standard 15-players with a QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, WR/RB, K, D format.
With the No. 1 overall pick in the Forty-Raiders fantasy draft, SB Nation Bay Area selects...
1. Darren McFadden -- RB, OAK
Tough call here, but McFadden's production last season (1,664 total yards, 10 TD) and his age (24) give him the edge.
2. Frank Gore -- RB, SF
Jim Harbaugh's the guy everyone's hoping brings the West Coast Offense back to Candlestick, but Harbaugh's RBs at Stanford were extremely productive. Gore's hip injury raises major doubts, however.
3. Vernon Davis -- TE, SF
Tight ends are never taken in the first round of a fantasy draft, and rarely in the third round. But in terms of value when you're looking at these two teams, Davis leads the pack after the two lead tailbacks are off the board. And he also happened to lead all current 49ers and Raiders receivers in yards (914) last season, and tied the next pick in this draft in TD with 7.
4. Braylon Edwards -- WR, SF
While the Raiders are touting one of their most talented WR groups in recent memory, Edwards is easily the most proven guy among these two rosters, he's the undisputed No. 1 wideout for the 49ers and he's going to play hard to reach the incentives in his 1-year deal and set himself up for a better contract after the season's over.
5. Jacoby Ford -- WR, OAK
A popular "sleeper pick among fantasy draftniks, Ford may have the highest ceiling of any WR on either team. He also picked up a couple rushing touchdowns last year, but it'll be tough to match the 3 kickoff returns for scores he has last season with kickoffs moving from the 30 to the 35-yard-line.
6. Jason Campbell -- QB, OAK
It speaks volumes that in this era of three-flies-up football -- where QBs are taken in fantasy drafts earlier than ever before -- that a QB goes 6th here. And even that's probably a stretch. Campbell's solid but unspectacular, a guy that if you draft in your real fantasy draft he better be your No. 2 guy at the position.
7. Michael Bush -- RB, OAK
If McFadden goes down (and he probably will), this goal line vulture is a good backup to have.
8. Michael Crabtree -- WR, SF
His ability to avoid the preseason is almost Favrian, and time's running out before the "bust" talk morphs from whispers to megaphone status. The foot problems are a major red flag, though.
9. Louis Murphy -- WR, OAK
The Raiders' leading receiver other than the departed Zach Miller in 2010, Murphy could become a solid fantasy player if he finds the end zone more often (2 TD in '10).
10. Kevin Boss -- TE, OAK
You could make an argument for Delanie Walker here with Harbaugh's known love for tight ends, but Boss can be counted on for 500+ yards and 5-6 scores and he's the Raiders' No. 1 option at the position after Miller's departure.
11. Kendall Hunter -- RB, SF
Peter King thinks Hunter could end up with 800 all-purpose yards this season. If Gore goes down early, you might be able to add onto that. The Niners' best candidate for offensive rookie of the year in quite some time.
12. Alex Smith -- QB, SF
If you have Smith as the No. 2 QB on your actual fantasy team, you're either a very optimistic Niners fan or your team was autopicked. But you need two QBs, so he's our choice here. Who knows, maybe Harbaugh will make him into a full-fledged fantasy star. Okay, somebody take this Kool-Aid away from me, I'm feeling woozy....
13. Darrius Heyward-Bey -- WR, OAK
This late in the draft it's worth taking a gamble on DHB, if for nothing else than the fact that the offensive talent has dried up. Again, Walker may be a smarter pick here.
14. San Francisco 49ers - DEF
Flip a coin here, but the 49ers seem to have a better pass rush than they've had in recent years and the Raiders haven't stopped anybody in the preseason. But again, this is a total toss-up.
15. Sebastian Janikowski -- K, OAK
This could go either way, as well. Janikowski has a bigger leg, David Akers is a little more accurate. Give the nod to SeaBass since his home field doesn't feature gale-force winds.
Your SBNBA Forty-Raiders
Bench: Crabtree (WR)
Bench: Murphy (WR)
Bench: Boss (TE)
Bench: Hunter (RB)
Bench: Smith (QB)
Bench: Heyward-Bey (WR)
In terms of free agent pickups, you might want to keep an eye on Walker, Anthony Dixon and Josh Morgan from the Niners; Denarius Moore, Derek Hagan and Taiwan Jones for the Raiders.
Can that team win a title in a normal fantasy league? Probably not, unfortunately. While nobody really knows what's going to happen this season, if the 49ers and Raiders miss the playoffs again this season you'll probably be able to point to a lack of offensive firepower on both sides.