• Inside the Locker Room
With Bay Area NFL Correspondent Eric Gilmore
Was Darren McFadden’s 2010 season merely a fluke or a sign of things to come?
McFadden’s breakout season was a sign of things to come, assuming he can stay healthy, which is no guarantee. He started a career-high 13 games last season but still missed three entire games with assorted injuries. In his first two seasons he started a combined 12 games. McFadden thrived under Hue Jackson, who relied much more on a power running scheme than the zone blocking that former coach Tom Cable favored. McFadden ran with the quickness, power and decisiveness he was known for in college at Arkansas. He was clearly in a comfort zone in Jackson’s system. He rushed for a career-high 1,157 yards and seven TDs and also caught 47 passes for 507 yards and three scores.
How much improvement can we expect from Jason Campbell now that he will actually be under the same offensive system for two years in a row?
It’s realistic to expect some improvement from Campbell in his second season in Hue Jackson’s system, but it’s unlikely that he’ll make a meteoric jump. He has started five seasons in the NFL and has thrown 1,966 passes. That’s a pretty large sample size, and his career passer rating is a middle-of-the-road 82.6, which is probably close to what you’ll get this year. He was benched at halftime of a Week 2 game against the Rams last year, and Jackson said that the benching was his decision. The fact that the Raiders did not give Campbell a long-term contract — he’s entering the final year of his deal — tells you they’re not completely sold on him.
Is Jacoby Ford just another in a long line of fast Raiders, or can he be the real deal?
Hue Jackson absolutely loves Ford and expects him to have a huge season. Last year Ford was expected to contribute primarily as a kick returner, and he certainly did that, returning three kicks for TDs. But he developed into one of the team’s best wide receivers, making a number of big catches and taking advantage of his blazing speed. He was much more productive than former No. 1 pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, a speedster who has struggled to catch the ball or even get open. Ford, despite being undersized at 5-9, looks like he can be the real deal, both as a return man and a receiver.
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: @GB, DET, @KC
Not the best news in the world to see Darren McFadden heading out to Green Bay and Kansas City, sandwiched around a home date with Detroit, in the fantasy playoffs. The Lions and Chiefs each allowed at least 21 points per game to the RB position but should be improved. And Kevin Boss will have to face off against the fifth- and second-best defenses against the TE in Detroit (7.7 ppg) and Kansas City (7.5 ppg).
• Athlon Best Bets
Sleeper: Jacoby Ford, WR
Deep-Sleeper: Michael Bush, RB
Overvalued: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR
Top Rookie: Taiwan Jones, RB
Bounce-Back: Chaz Schilens, WR
Top IDP: Tyvon Branch, DB
• Try to Avoid
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR
Oakland could field a good fantasy offense in 2011, but Heyward-Bey won’t be a big part of it. Jason Campbell will look to Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy and the tight end TBD as his primary pass-catchers.
WAIT UNTIL: NEVER
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
Al Davis loves speed, and that’s exactly what he got when the Raiders selected Jones in the fourth round and Denarius Moore in the fifth. Jones will likely serve as Oakland’s third down back and on special teams, but an injury to Darren McFadden or Michael Bush will make him worth a pickup off the waiver wire. Outside of Jacoby Ford, the Raiders are unsettled at receiver, which gives Moore an opportunity to earn playing time. However, it would be a surprise to see Moore have much fantasy value this season.
More Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets and Rankings:
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 280
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 240 w/ IDPs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense/Special Teams