The Oakland Raiders offense in 2019 will look totally different from the one they trotted out last season. Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook are gone, while Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams are now in Black and Silver. The pass catchers are not the only players who will be different.
Marshawn Lynch is at the time of writing still a free agent, while crickets are accompanying the name of Doug Martin. Isaiah Crowell is ticketed to take on a bulk of the vacated carries. But after signing his restricted free agent tender this past week, the Raiders have ensured that Jalen Richard will return for the coming season. This signing offers more fantasy value than that of Crowell, believe me.
As already stated, Crowell should see the lions share of the 262 carries left behind by Lynch and Martin. But rush attempts are not where Richard really makes his bones in the NFL. He was one of the most productive receiving backs in the NFL last season, and as I write this the odds look pretty good on him returning to his role with the team in 2019. There a whole host of factors that make his current ADP of RB55 on Fanball look like an absolute bargain.
2018 – Now Everyone Knows His Name
Richard first came to some peoples attention back in 2016, when he posted 491 yards on just 83 attempts for the Raiders while chipping in with 29 receptions for a further 194 yards. His rushes fell to 56 in 2017, while his receiving workload remained similar. This time he had 27 catches, but an increased mark of 9.5 yards per grab helped him amass 256 yards. Last season, he had 55 rushes for 259 yards and a score, but his work as a pass catcher exploded. Here’s how he ranked among NFL RBs in key receiving categories.
Richard’s 68 receptions tied with Marcus Allen for the fourth-most receptions by an RB in a single season in Raiders history. Most impressive stuff, especially when you consider that he only 41.5 percent of the Raiders offensive snaps. Richard had a 28.3 percent Opportunity Share, according to PlayerProfiler, which was 66th among all NFL RBs last season.1 Despite limited opportunities, he was ridiculously efficient whenever he got the ball in his hands. He was No.2 among all RBs with a seven yards per touch average. Below we can see players who enjoyed a comparable season to Richard in 2018.
Richard finished the season RB29 in PPR scoring, which was roughly on par with his No.22 rank among all RBs with 1.15 fantasy points per opportunity. This ranking would no doubt have been higher but for one notable omission. Richard failed to score a single receiving touchdown last year.
Since 2010, there have been 24 instances of an RB seeing at least 80 targets, catching at least 60 passes and amassing at least 600 receiving yards in the NFL. Twenty-three of those 24 players scored at least two touchdowns through the air that season. The only player without at least two scores? Jalen Richard.
As previously mentioned, Richard is currently being drafted as a high-end RB5 in best ball drafts. This represents good value, considering the stability of his role on the Raiders. Crowell is the clear favorite to operate as the “lead” back, but it isn’t likely that the Raiders will look to use him as an every-down workhorse. True, he does have a 40-catch season on his resume. But in the two seasons since then, he has 49 receptions total.
We also should not overlook the chemistry that Richard already has with Derek Carr, something that his new teammates will have to develop. Carr’s adjusted yards per attempt when targeting Richard last season was his fourth highest with any player he targeted at least 40 times. The other three players are no longer on the Raiders roster.
Obviously Brown is going to hoover up a whole host of targets, while Williams will occupy defenses as he looks to go deep behind them. These players will open up opportunities for other players closer to the line of scrimmage. That’s Richard’s playground.
The bookmakers don’t have too much faith in a huge improvement for the Raiders in the coming year, with their win total currently set at six. This should lead to more negative game scripts for the team, and as a result more opportunities for passing down work for Jalen Richard. If he can repeat his production of 2018, but maybe visit the end zone once or twice, he could seriously flirt with RB3/Flex numbers on a weekly basis. His current ADP would make him an absolute bargain. That is if the Raiders don’t use some of their ample draft capital to secure a high-end replacement. But only they know if this is on the cards, don’t they?
- The percentage of the total team running back carries and targets. (back)