Prior to the start of the 2019 season, the Raiders looked to make a big splash at receiver. The team traded for Antonio Brown, who was supposed to solidify a marquee player in the receiving corps. It never worked out, though many saw it play out on Hard Knocks.
Prior to the 2020 season, the Raiders hit the receiver position hard in the draft, snagging Henry Ruggs III out of Alabama and Bryan Edwards out of South Carolina with their first two picks. That was supposed to boost the position for the Raiders, but it didn’t materialize as the team finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs, again.
Will anything change for Raiders’ receivers in 2021?
Ruggs was the first receiver taken in the 2020 draft but he had an uneven rookie season at best. He saw 43 targets in 13 games, catching 26 for 452 yards and two touchdowns. That production saw him finish as WR94. Edwards fared even worse, seeing only 15 targets in 12 games he appeared in, catching 11 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown.
Among the receivers returning for the Raiders in 2021, Hunter Renfrow had the best finish. He saw 77 targets in 2020, catching 56 passes for 656 yards and two touchdowns. He finished as WR59. Meanwhile, the Raiders’ top option at receiver in 2020 was Nelson Agholor, who signed this off-season with the New England Patriots. Agholor saw 82 targets, catching 48 passes for 896 yards and eight touchdowns. He finished as WR34.
While the receiver group is mostly the same, the team did sign a veteran that could become the team’s top option.
The key addition among Raiders’ receivers this off-season was veteran John Brown. Brown played his first four seasons for the Arizona Cardinals, stopping in Baltimore in 2018 before heading to Buffalo for the past two seasons. In 2020, with Stefon Diggs on the squad, Brown saw his role diminished. Brown appeared in only nine games, seeing 52 targets, which he turned into 33 receptions for 458 yards and three touchdowns. That saw him finish as WR84.
The year prior, Brown was the main option for Josh Allen and the Bills. He saw 115 targets, catching 72 passes for 1,060 yards and six touchdowns. That was good enough to finish as WR20. Brown is the most experienced receiver on the Raiders’ roster, and likely the best. He saw 97 targets in 2018 in Baltimore and more than 100 targets in his first two seasons in Arizona. Brown could easily slide into the team’s top receiver slot and produce.
When it comes to the passing game, the Raiders’ best option remains Darren Waller. The tight end saw 117 targets in 2019 and 147 targets last year, as he finished as TE2 with 107 receptions for 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s one of the league’s best tight ends and will remain the top option for the Raiders and Derek Carr.
The team also added running back Kenyan Drake, who figures to be a part of the passing game. All that will not only diminish targets for receivers but swing the focus of the offense in other places. Which doesn’t mean the team won’t need receivers to compete. But which one is the best value?
Currently, Ruggs is going as WR50 in PPR and WR54 in Standard. While not incredibly high, it’s an indication people still believe he will be a contributor. To make that leap pay off, he’d have to take an enormous step forward in 2021, putting up numbers better than what Renfrow recorded in 2020. Brown, meanwhile, is going as WR60 in Standard and WR64 in PPR. He’s a better value than Ruggs, and the receiver I’d rather target. While I don’t expect him to repeat his 2019 highs, I think he’ll easily slip into the top pass-catching role for the Raiders in 2021 and could land around the same place Agholor did last season.
A final note is on Edwards. When he was drafted last year, I thought Edwards had a chance to become the guy for the Raiders. I stashed him in a number of leagues but sadly we didn’t see much in 2020. His ADP has dropped to WR84 in PPR. While I’m not confident he has a big leap in 2021, I’m not giving up hope for the future. If you see Edwards on the waiver wire in your dynasty leagues, or available for a Fourth-Round pick, I’d still snatch him up, especially if you have space to stash him on your bench or Taxi Squad.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.