By Sam McPherson
The best part about fantasy football is that an average fan can build her or his own roster and be the end-all, be-all decision maker for the team.
So with the 2014 NFL season basically over for the 0-8 Oakland Raiders at this point, it’s time to play “keeper selection” time with the Silver & Black’s current roster—and decide who stays and who goes for 2015 and beyond.
Anticipating that a new general manager and a new permanent coach will be in charge come January, let’s give this a whirl.
Keepers on Offense
The Raiders offense starts and begins with Derek Carr. The rookie QB is pretty good, and he’s only going to get better when the roster around him improves. Oakland should keep backup Matt McGloin, too, who is young, cheap and can play well enough in short stretches.
Running back Latavius Murray is young and explosive; sadly, Oakland isn’t giving him touches right now, preferring to hand the ball off to ineffective veterans instead. That needs to change in 2015. Keeping fullback Marcel Reece for his veteran presence is a strong option.
Carr needs a few receivers he can rely on and build a successful rapport with for the next few seasons. Wide receiver James Jones has been the only consistent threat amongst the WR corps this year, and he’s only 30. Jones has a lot of miles left in his legs. Tight end Mychal Rivera is young and starting to produce every week, while WR Brice Butler has averaged almost 15 yards per catch his first two seasons in the league.
Keepers on Defense
There are four linebackers the Raiders definitely should keep: Sio Moore, Nick Roach, Khalil Mack and Miles Burris. The quartet could form the basis of a very good defense if supported properly on the line and in the secondary.
The problem is that Oakland doesn’t have those players right now: The team has six sacks and three interceptions, total, through half a season currently. And while those are just “counting” stats, the Raiders don’t have a lot of talent worth keeping on defense right now, either.
Strong safety Tyvon Branch will be 29 next season, and he’s played just five games in two seasons now thanks to injuries. If healthy, he can be an anchor in the secondary—but that’s a big if. Also, cornerback T.J. Carrie is worth keeping due to his second role as an potentially explosive kick returner.
Only bring free safety Charles Woodson back on a single-year contract, because he’s old—and the defense still needs a veteran presence on it.
Drop These Offensive Players
This list is long, so hang on. Start with quarterback Matt Schaub; the Raiders have a cheaper veteran already to backup Carr. And toss out running backs Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew; these guys are on the downside of their careers.
The receiving corps is full of below-average players no one will miss: Andre Holmes, Denarius Moore, Rod Streater and Kenbrell Thompkins. This quartet is hardly productive on any consistent basis. It’s time to clean house and bring in fresh, hungrier blood on cheap contracts.
Drop These Defensive Players
Corner Tarell Brown started on the successful San Francisco 49ers teams from 2011-13, but he’s going to be 30 next season—and Brown already is slipping. He needs to go, as does fellow CB Carlos Rogers—who will be 34 next year.
Defensive ends Justin Tuck and C.J. Wilson are deadweight on the line, as is nose tackle Pat Sims. None of them are very good, and the team can spend its money on younger, cheaper players to get the same kind of crappy production, in truth.
Any Change Is an Improvement
The Oakland organization needs to get young, hungry, cheap and better in a hurry. It needs to cut the fat, trim the payroll and get better by injecting new blood and new life into the roster—immediately.
There are some parts worth preserving, of course, but there’s nowhere to go but up after the disastrous season 2014 has become. The Raiders need to draft wisely and spend wisely in the offseason to re-populate the roster.
It could be a fun task for any GM, even amateur ones like us.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.