Last season, the Raiders only had one player who should have been drafted in the first ten rounds of your fantasy draft- Darren McFadden. He was a top-10 fantasy pick and before he went down was playing so well that he was making a case as the top overall player in fantasy. After McFadden went down, the Raider offense changed its identity with the addition of Carson Palmer and McFadden's fantasy stock fell. What does this mean for you as a fantasy player? One thing: McFadden is going to be criminally underrated in drafts this season. Each of the league's top running backs has durability issues- Adrian Peterson is coming off a devastating knee injury, Arian Foster was hurt last year, Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL only six months ago and Jamaal Charles is also coming back from an ACL tear. What this means is that nearly every first-round running back is a complete question mark and Darren McFadden is as good a gamble as any of them. and maybe a better one because he had a foot injury rather than an ACL or concussion issue. If he falls past pick ten, he is a steal in your draft.
This year, the Raiders have two more players who should be drafted early. The second Raider player to be selected in your draft should be Carson Palmer. As a Raider, he threw for over 2700 yards in half a season, meaning he could easily eclipse 5,000 passing yards and 30 TDs in the 2012 season. Those are Philip Rivers-like numbers, and Rivers is the sort of underrated fantasy player that wins titles. Rivers typically goes in the fourth round, but Palmer can likely be had later than that. If you miss out on the top tier of Rodgers, Brady, Manning, Stafford or Romo, wait until round six and pick up Palmer. He will make you look like a genius and you can use your top five picks on backs and receivers with impunity.
The final premier Raider player to consider early on is Darrius Heyward-Bey. His lack of scoring prowess will prevent him from being considered a true WR1 on your team like Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson or Mike Wallace, but he will be a solid WR2 or WR3 in the tier of Roddy White, Greg Jennings and Brandon Marshall. Heyward-Bey amassed nearly a thousand yards last season despite playing half of it with Jason Campbell, and I boldly predict he will score at least seven touchdowns in his upcoming campaign. He is clearly the Raiders #1 receiver and with Palmer under center he will finally be treated like it. He shouldn't be in the top ten receivers drafted, but any time after round eight would be a smart time to target him. If there is a run on top WR in, say, the fourth round as there often is, he could be a good value in the sixth or seventh. Don't reach for him, but know that he will probably be underranked due to his previous lack of touchdowns in comparison to similarly skilled receivers.
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