This is the 32nd in a series of opinionated fantasy football columns that will be posted daily in July and August, providing fantasy owners with some insights to consider as they prepare for their drafts. You can get an in-depth preview of the upcoming fantasy football season with the purchase of the Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide 2010, available now in newsstands and bookstores, or online at PFWstore.com.
Oakland has been a wasteland for fantasy receivers in recent years. No Raiders wide receiver has gained more than 727 yards in a season since the 2005 campaign, when Randy Moss was still wearing Silver and Black. Last season, while compiling pedestrian numbers in each category, rookie Louis Murphy led Oakland wide receivers in receptions (34), yards (521) and touchdowns (four) as the team cycled through three different starting quarterbacks.
The offense's failure to score touchdowns through the air has rendered the receiving corps irrelevant in fantasy drafts. The Raiders scored just 23 passing touchdowns combined in the past two seasons, while Drew Brees threw 34 TD passes in 15 games in '09.
Offensive ineptitude helped lead to significant offseason changes, however, and it's not unreasonable to expect a long-awaited leap from the aerial attack toward something resembling respectability. Hue Jackson was hired as offensive coordinator, QB JaMarcus Russell was released and QB Jason Campbell was acquired in an effort to strengthen a unit that produced 17 total TDs in 16 games.
With the offense in the firmer, albeit unspectacular hands of Campbell — who is expected to be named the starter before long — there might be an Oakland wide receiver worthy of a roster spot on fantasy teams for the first time in a while.
Murphy, who should only get better, showed promise as a rookie, and ’09 first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, after a disappointing rookie season (nine catches, 124 yards) has drawn positive reviews this offseason. He's expected to improve, and has potential because of his speed, not his hands. Chaz Schilens, if he can stay healthy, also could be a name for fantasy owners in deep leagues to remember. At 6-4 and 225 pounds, Schilens has the size and length to become a dangerous red-zone target.
Owners won't have to reach for any of those three. The Raiders are still regarded as a team to stay away from by many who will be drafting players. While there's a chance they won't be much more productive in '10, at least one of the three should emerge as a top target for Campbell, who is an upgrade over the dreaded Russell-Bruce Gradkowski-Charlie Frye combination that started at quarterback for Oakland last season.
Murphy, Heyward-Bey or Schilens should come at the low cost of a late pick and there actually can be a legitimate case made for drafting one of them late, unlike one year ago.
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