It's difficult to get an accurate read on the Raiders from this preseason. Carson Palmer threw some lovely passes but had several of them picked and did not, as I recall, throw a touchdown; Darren McFadden didn't play much, Jacoby Ford was erratic at best and starting center Stefen Wisniewski was injured. What we did see was an offense that much like last year was able to pick up key first downs and move the ball consistently. in addition, when Darren McFadden had the ball in his hands he was as dynamic as he has been since his college days at Arkansas.
So what does that mean for this week against the Chargers? On paper it seems as though San Diego will have difficulty moving the ball. Several of their star offensive players are injured and the healthy ones are not very good. Oakland's offense will have the ball a lot. We don't yet know if Dennis Allen and Greg Knapp will favor a balanced attack or a run heavy or pass heavy offense. Considering Oakland's personnel, they have the ability to do whatever they want so my best guess would be "whatever is working at the time".
So with that, here are your Raiders to start this week:
START: Darren McFadden. If you were fortunate enough to land this guy anywhere past the ninth pick overall, you got a steal. If he is healthy all year (knock on wood) he will contend for top fantasy player overall. There will be a handful of games this year where McFadden should be considered for top overall fantasy player and this is one of them. San Diego used to have a great defense, but it's a shell of what it used to be. Shawne Merriman and Jamal Williams are gone with random scrubs and underachieving top picks replacing them. Promising linebacker Melvin ingram is injured already, although he may play. McFadden could completely embarrass this defense and rack up serious fantasy points.
START: Carson Palmer. He is probably a backup for you, but if your QB is facing a tough matchup (PIT, BAL, SF, CHI) consider starting Palmer. San Diego has exactly one good secondary player, Quentin Jammer, who is hurt and coming off a horrible 2011. I expect Palmer to air it out early and often and try to find the weak links on the Chargers. PROTIP: there are lots of them. Even if Palmer throws a pick or two, he will likely rack up the yardage and throw a few TDs, which should be enough to have a good fantasy score.
START: Darrius Heyward-Bey. Currently, DHB is listed as the number one receiver on the depth chart. He showed good hands and speed during the preseason and has been getting the regular reps with Palmer. I expect at least ten receptions from him on Monday night and possibly a touchdown. He likely fell far in your draft, but is a solid WR3 and possibly WR2 if he continues his steady production from last year.
And now, the Raiders to avoid.
SIT: Denarius Moore. Moore will be a solid threat and a good fantasy starter but not this week. He was injured through most of training camp and simply hasn't had the playing time to get reps and to get in football shape. Darrius Heyward-Bey has, as I predicted, eclipsed him on the pecking order and while Moore may catch a few balls, he is no sure bet to remain healthy or make a serious impact on the game. Keep an eye on his production going forward because he will step it up, but sit him down for this game.
SIT: Jacoby Ford. Ford is a dynamic playmaker who has blazing speed and quickness, but he looked utterly lost this preseason. In the Cowboys game he dropped a couple passes on the opening quarter and couldn't catch a deep pass that resulted in an interception. His best hope is using his speed from the slot to get lost in open spaces in the coverage, but we will need a week to see how the scheme facilitates that outcome for him. Even if he is targeted frequently he needs to prove he can catch the ball and make plays with his athleticism before earing the trust of his fantasy owners.
SIT: Brandon Myers. He's definitely not a fantasy starter and is the clearest option for an upgrade on the entire team. He may catch a few outlet passes and move the chains but he's not in the first, second, or third tier of fantasy tight ends.
So there you have it. Go forth, armed with knowledge, and beat whomever it is you are playing this week.
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