If ESPN ever makes a “30 for 30” on the career of
Derek Carr, it’ll be entitled “Solid but Unspectacular.”
Over his eight years as the starting quarterback for the Raiders,
the 31-year-old has posted a 57-70 record, made one postseason
appearance, passed for between 3,925 and 4,125 yards five times,
and thrown for over 30 TDs in a season exactly once. His yardage
spiked a year ago, throwing for a career-high 4,804 yards in the
NFL’s first-ever 17-game season, but the TDs (23) stayed
the course while he also set a new highwater mark in INTs (14).
Carr’s opportunity to change that narrative begins now with the
Raiders acquiring perennial All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams
from the Green Bay Packers before the draft. The duo played together
during their time as Fresno State and have maintained a strong
friendship over the years, so don’t expect there to be many issues
getting on the same page. Adams joins holdovers Darren Waller
and Hunter Renfrow to give Las Vegas one of the NFL’s most formidable
Now the question becomes whether Carr can elevate his game to
another level. He’s already working from behind the eight-ball
in fantasy circles since he’s an old-school pocket passer,
having averaged just 93 yards per season on the ground. That means
he’ll need to post passing numbers like Tom Brady, Aaron
Rodgers, and Matthew Stafford to enter the QB1 zone. While not
the worst quarterback to roll the dice on for a leap, Carr is
better served as a quality QB2 on draft day.
A first-round pick in 2019, Jacobs has watched his rushing yardage
dip each season, going from 1,150 yards as a rookie down to 872
last year (despite playing in two more games). The Raiders effectively
put the Alabama product on notice by not exercising his fifth-year
option, meaning he’ll be playing for his financial future
in 2022, which is always a powerful motivator. How much he’ll
be featured under new head coach Josh McDaniels remains to be
seen, however, as the longtime Patriots offensive coordinator
oversaw the addition of a lot of new pieces on offense.
One thing working in Jacobs’ favor is his improved work
as a receiver out of the backfield, posting a career-high 54 receptions
for 348 yards last year; he has yet to find the end zone as a
pass catcher, though, logging 107 catches without a score in his
three-year career. The addition of Adams, who is another high-volume
receiver, is a bit of a Catch-22 for Jacobs as the running back
will likely see less attention defensively, but at the same time
that’s another very large mouth for Carr to feed.
Even though his production has dipped, Jacobs’ averages
of 1,280 total yards and 9.3 TDs per season with the Raiders are
still solid. That seems like a reasonable target for 2022 as well,
which makes Jacobs well cast as a quality RB3 or maybe even a
low-end RB2, depending on league size.
Drake inked a two-year, $14.5 million contract with Las Vegas
before last season. At that time, it was believed the plan was
to pair Drake with Jacobs as a one-two punch, but after totaling
34 touches over the first three games of 2021, the former Cardinal
would see double-digit chances only twice in his remaining nine
games. Drake’s season came to a halt Dec. 5 courtesy of
a fractured right ankle. The injury required surgery, but the
veteran is expected to be ready for camp.
One thing to note about McDaniels is that he has shown a tendency
to feature multiple backs to the point that in 10 seasons as OC
with the Pats, his offenses featured just two 1,000-yard backs,
most recently in 2016. That at least gives Drake some hope of
recapturing the form he showed at times in Arizona, which might
be enough to invest a late-round pick on.
Slapped with the franchise tag by the Packers, it was a foregone
conclusion that Rodgers’ longtime No. 1 target would be
back in Titletown... until it wasn’t. Unable to reach a
long-term contract, Green Bay traded arguably the NFL’s
preeminent receiver to the Raiders for first- and second-round
picks. It was a huge splash for Las Vegas, giving them the type
of true No. 1 receiver they’ve lacked since the days of
Tim Brown and Jerry Rice (depending on your opinion of Amari Cooper).
While it’s a boon for the Silver and Black, it’s
hard to view this as a positive for Adams. Yes, he and Carr came
up together at Fresno State, but in no universe would anyone put
Carr in the same stratosphere as the four-time MVP. Rodgers and
Adams had a connection formed by years of practicing and playing
together, and Adams effectively served as the de facto No. 1 read
on most routes -- he certainly hasn’t had to share the field
with anyone as talented as Waller (or maybe even Renfrow) since
truly breaking through for the Packers in 2018.
Without question, Adams remains a WR1, but whether he can match
the 108 catches, 1,328 yards, and 11.8 TDs per year he’s
averaged over his last four seasons remains to be seen. A year
ago, he deserved to be the first receiver taken in drafts. Now,
he probably fits better around No. 5.
When last season began, the Raiders’ receiver room featured Henry
Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, Zay Jones, Willie Sneed, and Renfrow. Of
that group, only Renfrow remains. In a season that featured the
Ruggs tragedy, Jon Gruden’s bizarre dismissal, and a lengthy injury
to Waller, Renfrow was a constant. His 103 receptions were nearly
twice as many as anyone else, and he caught nine of Carr’s 23
TD passes. Not bad for a guy whose combine picture routinely makes
the rounds on Twitter for his lack of physique.
Obviously, the addition of Adams is the headliner, but Las Vegas’
overhaul didn’t stop there as they also brought in Keelan Cole
(28-449-1 w/ NYJ last year), Demarcus
Robinson (25-264-3 w/ KC), and Mack
Hollins (14-223-4 w/ MIA). If nothing else, that trio should
bring more stability than what the Raiders dealt with last year.
There’s no doubt Renfrow will still be a major factor offensively,
but it’s hard not to envision his numbers taking a dip assuming
good health from Adams and Waller. Draft Renfrow as a quality
WR3 and you should be in good shape.
After closing 2020 being targeted 55 times in his final five
games, Waller opened last season with a 10-catch, 105-yard, 1-TD
showing on Monday Night Football during which he was targeted
19 times. For whatever reason, that proved to be the high point
of his season; he’d see double-digit looks just one more
time (Nov. 7) and top 100 yards once (Nov. 21). A knee injury
suffered Thanksgiving Day all but ended his season -- he returned
for the finale -- and he finished with a disappointing 55-665-2
line. For comparison, he posted 43-654-4 in that five-game stretch
to finish the previous year.
There were reports that the Packers tried to acquire Waller as
part of the Adams deal, but the veteran remains in Vegas. With
Adams on the outside and Renfrow operating out of the slot there
should be room for Waller to make things happen. He doesn’t
have the track record to be selected ahead of names like Travis
Kelce or Mark Andrews, but you’d be hard pressed to find
anyone with a higher ceiling at the position for 2022 than Waller.
If you’re in a gambling mood you could make him the first
TE off the draft board, but around TE5 is the safer call.