Since their Super Bowl appearance 10 years ago, the Raiders have been one of the league's most inept franchises. A team that has constantly remained in flux - selling off first-round draft picks for aging superstars (Richard Seymour), or spending first rounders on huge busts (JaMarcus Russell), the Raiders have not had a winning season since 2002, and have won five games or less in every year in that span except for 2010 and 2011. Suffering their second consecutive 4-12 season, not much has gone right in Oakland since their Super Bowl trip.
That said, many of their players continue to be, to some extent, fantasy draft-day darlings - names like Darren McFadden and Denarius Moore had some fantasy hype in both 2012 and 2013, and in the case of McFadden, this lead to him being an end-of-the-first, top-of-the-second round pick in 2012. Though neither guy was extremely fantasy relevant, there were some bright spots on the Oakland offense, and there are some reasons to be cautiously optimistic about this seemingly forever-doomed franchise.
The Raiders were actually fairly decent, all things considered, running the football. Rashad Jennings was particularly effective. Of all players with at least 160 rushes (10 rushes per game), Jennings tied for third in Rushing Net Expected Points per rush with Knowshon Moreno and Fred Jackson, and ahead of Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte and Marshawn Lynch. In fact, as a team, the Raiders ranked better than the median (13th) in Adjusted Rushing NEP per rush.
Jennings also ranked eighth among that group in Success Rate (the percentage of rushes that contributed positively towards his NEP). Though McFadden was the more touted back, Jennings had an extremely nice season, all things considered.
The Raiders also had some success catching the ball. Of players with at least 64 targets (at least four targets per game), Rod Streater tied for 13th of 55 qualifying players in Reception NEP/target. Basically, when Streater had an opportunity to make a play, he made said plays count at a better rate than a large majority of his compatriots.
Streater also tied for sixth among this group in Success Rate, indicating that his plays, by and large, were positive for the team, at a rate even better than touchdown-machine Josh Gordon. Additionally, amongst running backs with at least three targets per game (indicating some sort of involvement in the passing game), Marcel Reece ranked right in the middle (13th of 26 qualifying players) in Reception NEP per target, and 6th out of that 26 in Success Rate catching the football.
You should probably expect that, with a 4-12 team, it was not all roses for the silver and black. Darren McFadden was one of the league's worst backs - of all players with at least 100 rushes, McFadden ranked 43rd out of 47 in Rushing NEP per rush, and dead last in Success Rate. Many excuses have been made for McFadden - from scheme, to injury, to a bad offensive line - but the fact of the matter may just be that McFadden is simply not a top NFL back. Were Jennings to have been equally or similarly awful, perhaps a reasonable argument could be made that McFadden simply needs better blocking, but with how good Jennings looked and played, it's hard to envision McFadden having any verifiable excuse here.
Many of the problems, however, stemmed from the quarterback position, where the Raiders were dreadful. Though Oakland was a bit better than average rushing the ball, as noted above, the Raiders ranked 23rd of 32 in Adjusted Passing NEP per pass.
The Raiders had two starters this year who alternated in a terribly confusing set of circumstances. I wrote about Matt McGloin earlier this year, stating that I believed him to be a replacement-level quarterback, at best. That proved true - of all quarterbacks with at least 160 passes thrown (10 per game, but low enough to account for backups who played significant time to be included), McGloin ranked 23rd among 42 qualifying quarterbacks in Passing NEP per pass - about in the middle, all things considered. He ranked 32nd among that same group in Success Rate, which is certainly bad, but not as bad as the guy who started the year.
Terrelle Pryor started the season as Raiders starter, and boy was he lousy. In terms of Success Rate, Pryor finished 33rd, one spot below McGloin by about .22% (which is probably insignificant in the grand scheme of things). Pryor, however, finished 37th among the 42 quarterbacks in Passing NEP on a per pass basis, putting him ahead of only Kirk Cousins, EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, Matt Schaub, and Matt Flynn.
In fairness to Pryor, he is much more of a rusher, and he did finish 11th of this group in total Rushing NEP. But that value added is nowhere near what it needed to be to make Pryor a viable quarterback. On the one hand, I do see the value of Oakland giving both guys a shot - just so the coaching staff is clear that the franchise quarterback every team seeks is not currently on the Oakland roster. On the other hand, Oakland needs to do a large-scale reassessment of their quarterback position, particularly in this upcoming draft.
The Raider defense was also abysmal, especially for a team that hired a defensive coach in Dennis Allen. Though Oakland played four games against two of the toughest offenses in the league (San Diego and Denver), even adjusting the numbers for strength of competition should leave the Black Hole wanting more.
Though Oakland was pretty middle-of-the-pack, ranking 18th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per rush, they ranked 29th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per pass, ahead of only Atlanta, Jacksonville, and Houston. The Raiders not only failed to sustain drives due to incompetency (or, at best, bare minimal competency) at quarterback, they were unable to stop drives, and teams were able to pass all over the place.
What Should They Do?
First and foremost, Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen must consider taking a quarterback with the number five overall pick in this coming draft. The quarterback position in Oakland has not been good since Rich Gannon left, and combing the market for other team's scraps is not going to turn Oakland into the offense they need to be to win games in a very strong AFC West. The draft is supposed to be pretty strong with quarterback talent, and though they probably won't have their pick of the litter at five, they should have some decent options available to them.
The Raiders should, also, be ready to cut ties with Darren McFadden. Though it hurts to see yet another first-round draft pick go, it's pretty clear that McFadden probably will never contribute to an NFL team on a consistent basis. That's not to say Rashad Jennings is the next Adrian Peterson or anything, but with how effective Jennings was this season compared to how completely ineffective McFadden was, it should be obvious who this team needs to work with moving forward. Jennings, right this moment, is simply the better player, and McFadden will likely cost way more than he's worth at this time.
The Raiders also should probably consider revamping their secondary. Though DJ Hayden struggled in his first year, things could have been worse. The fact is the Raiders need a lot of help covering receivers. Their rush defense was barely adequate, but with such a porous pass defense, it's going to be tough for them to stop the likes of Peyton Manning or even Phillip Rivers on a consistent basis in the near future.