Summer Sleeper: Oakland Raiders

Eric Olinger


With less than a month before all training camps open around the NFL, we’re continuing our annual series focusing on a few sleepers from all 32 teams in the NFL. You can find all of the Summer Sleeper articles here.

These sleepers all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but all merit a little more talking about here in the Premium Content section. Some of these players are deep dynasty sleepers who could merit a spot on your bench in a deep league, while others are players who may contribute a little faster than the deep prospects, but deserve more attention than they may be getting. By definition, a sleeper could mean something a little different to everyone, but we’re simply doing the best job we can to unearth one player from each team who fits the category in some way, shape or form.

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We’ll never insult you with a comprehensive list of “sleepers” which include such such dynasty mainstay names as Toby Gerhart, Christine Michael or Cordarrelle Patterson. You’re all too good for that.

While many of these players will undoubtedly fizzle, there’s more value in looking more closely at these deeper prospects and players. We invite you to keep an open mind and either or re-assess your value on those who may be rostered in your league or consider adding a few of these deeper prospects we focus on this Summer who are free agents in your league – after all, some are destined to pan out, too.

Feel free to add your own comments about our choice for the designated sleeper, or nominate one of your own!

Latavius Murray, RB OAK

Even though Murray is currently buried on the depth chart behind veterans Darren McFadden, newly signed Maurice Jones-Drew and journeyman Kory Sheets, Murray is the Raiders running back I’m most willing to invest in. Jones-Drew is 29 and well in the decline phase of his career. McFadden cannot stay healthy and is constantly dinged up. Kory Sheets is, well, Kory Sheets.

Latavius Murray is a 6’2” / 230 highlight waiting to happen. He has legitimate sub-4.4 wheels and an Olympian-like 10-foot-4 broad jump. What I’m trying to say is, he’s explosive.

His rookie season was over before it ever got started. He injured his ankle during rookie training camp and spent 2013 on injured reserve. The move seemed odd at the time because of the timing of his injury and the lack of severity. The Raiders weren’t exactly overflowing with running back talent either. When McFadden went down in week nine, Murray was healthy sitting on the shelf.

The Raiders will field a veteran group across the offensive line this season and are expected to lean heavily on the run. This strategy works fine when you have a runner, or runners, who can handle heavy workloads. Unfortunately for the Silver and Black, McFadden has missed 19 games over the last three seasons and Jones-Drew is coming off a season where he limped to an averaged of 3.4 yards per carry – a full yard less than his career average. Rarely do 29-year old runners find the fountain of youth on new teams.

Also new to the team are former Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub and former Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones. Jones will allow Rod Streater and Denarius Moore to settle into their much more natural roles as secondary and tertiary options. This team isn’t going to be a bunch of high flyers, but Schaub is much better than his 2013 tape showed. Prior to last season he was a very consistent producer under center. At the very least he will be able to keep the eighth man out of the box and give the team’s runners a chance to make something happen.

For people who are unfamiliar with the former University of Central Florida Knight, just check out this highlight video and try to keep your tongue in your mouth. His cuts are razor sharp, his vision is great, he can catch the ball and his speed isn’t fair for a man his size. Even if he can’t beat Jones-Drew or McFadden outright for a piece of the running back gig, all he has to do is wait for one of them to fall apart and inevitably land on the injury report.

At just 24 years old, Father Time is on Murray’s side. His current average draft position is 174.3 in the round #15 as the RB58, just ahead of DLF whipping boy Jonathan Stewart at RB59. Comparatively, Darren McFadden has an ADP of 148.8 as the RB49 and Maurice Jones-Drew has an ADP of 157.5 as the RB53. This tells me a couple of things. First, draftniks aren’t sold on any Raiders runner. Second, people are fed up with Jonathan Stewart. Third, I will gladly stash Murray at the end of my dynasty roster in the round #17 over a beaten down older runner a round or two earlier. If we’re looking to identify and unearth sleepers, there might not be a higher upside lottery ticket than Murray. If he stinks, you’re not out anything.

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eric olinger
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