The 2019 season was rough for the Las Vegas Raiders in terms of Fantasy Football value. Rookie running back Josh Jacobs was the only player worth rostering in most formats. He returns to the team as their fantasy MVP in 2020, but there are others to watch this year. The team drafted two wide receivers, Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards. With their roles unclear, they are players to watch during the team’s first game against the Carolina Panthers.
Josh Jacobs, Bryan Edwards, and Henry Ruggs bring value in Week 1
Will Josh Jacobs Get More Targets?
Jacobs is the most rostered Raiders player in Fantasy Football. However, questions remain on his workload beyond running the ball. Even though the Alabama standout was touted as an above-average pass-catcher coming out of college, he was not used in that role as a rookie with the Raiders. All in all, he only had 20 receptions for 166 yards.
Jacobs is currently being taken as the ninth running back off the board in fantasy drafts. He averaged 14 points in half-PPR leagues, which was the 13th best running back in terms of points-per-game. We wouldn’t be surprised if there is an uptick in targets.
Jacobs himself claimed his goal was to catch at least 60 passes in 2020. However, many scoffed at this declaration, as the team drafted the dynamic Lynn Bowden Jr., who was expected to play a receiving back role. Then, Jon Gruden and company signed a pass-catching specialist in Theo Riddick.
In the end, all the dominos fell in Jacobs’ favor, with Las Vegas trading Bowden to the Miami Dolphins after things didn’t work out. They also cut Riddick. This leaves only Jalen Richard as a threat to Jacobs’ workload.
Still, fantasy team managers shouldn’t get too comfortable yet. Richard has been one of the better scat backs in the league. Jacobs is a lock to continue to get carries but keep an eye on his targets against the Carolina Panthers to see if he is really going to worth the fantasy draft capital spent. Tahir Whitehead, a familiar face for the Raiders, is starting for the retired Luke Kuechly. Because of this, it wouldn’t be a bad time to pepper Jacobs with targets.
Will Bryan Edwards be Fantasy Relevant?
The Bryan Edwards hype train is moving ahead at full steam. What started as a quiet footnote among beat reporters for the team, slowly spread into fantasy football circles. Edwards is now going as high as the second round in dynasty rookie drafts. He is also a trendy final pick in redraft leagues. Draftniks even made the bold prediction that Edwards will be the top-scoring rookie wide receiver in fantasy this year.
General manager Mike Mayock and the team let it be known that they want to see Edwards on the field as soon as possible. Many were initially surprised when the team announced that Henry Ruggs might start the year in the slot, leaving the door open for Edwards to start outside opposite of Tyrell Williams. This was more about the team wanting their three best guys on the field, with Williams getting in as the vested vet. However, Williams went to the Injured Reserve list, which moved Ruggs back to the outside and put Hunter Renfrow back in with the starters in the slot.
The Panthers don’t exactly have the best cornerback room, so Week 1 could be a good opportunity for Edwards to show the NFL what he’s got. Donte Jackson returns to the team as the veteran but had a terrible 55.6 grade by PFF for 2019. Eli Apple was supposed to play opposite of him. However, the Panthers placed him on IR. 2020 fourth-round rookie Troy Pride will start in his place.
While it is a little premature to start Edwards right out of the gate, if he puts up a good stat line, he might be a hot commodity to trade for or to claim on the waiver wire.
Can Henry Ruggs III Act as More Than a Home-Run Threat?
It is rather odd that Edwards seems to be getting more hype than Ruggs, considering the latter was the first wide receiver taken not just by the Raiders, but in the entire 2020 NFL draft. Ruggs getting his name called a lot higher than Edwards by default, but overall there is not much buzz around him. ESPN ranked Ruggs as the WR48, compared to Edwards, who is the WR74.
Ruggs is the safer option since his first-round pedigree means the Raiders should at least do some force-feeding. And there is no question about Ruggs’ explosiveness. He had the fastest 40-yard dash time of any player during the 2020 NFL combine. So, many expect Ruggs to be a home run hitter. This is good, but these types of players are also unreliable. One week they can have three catches for 100+ yards and a touchdown, and then the next week, one catch for 15 yards and no touchdowns.
The fact that Las Vegas was willing to put Ruggs in the slot is telling. They must have faith that he can run a bevy of routes and absorb some volume. For fantasy team managers, this is what needs to be monitored in Week 1. His actual stat sheet is not important. Look at Ruggs’ target count. And look at where he is lining up on the field. This will tell a lot about his season-long value.
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