Coaching Changes: Nothing significant. While there were quite a few rumors in the offseason that Kiffin would be canned, the rumors haven't panned out. Coaching stability is one of the hidden factors that really helps out fantasy owners.
Before we get to the skill positions, let's look at the line. It's far more important than most fantasy players think. The 2007 Oakland offensive line was much better than it is was given credit for. It is not a great pass protecting group, but they were very good run blockers. They had the sixth most rushing yards in the league despite trailing many games.
LT-Barry Sims started all 16 games, and was cut in the offseason.
C-Jeremy Newberry started 14 games, was not re-signed.
T - Kwame Harris - A very disappointing bust from the 49ers, the Raiders are being eco-friendly by trying to recycle. Good luck with that.
C- John Wade who started in Tampa Bay the last 6 seasons is expected to battle Jake Grove (who hasn't been able to win the job, previously) for the starting spot.
On paper, this is not a stellar group. They didn't really improve or get worse. They are thin at tackle, and if injury hits they could be in a heap of trouble. But, it can't be discounted that they make holes for the running game.
Quarterback: Cue the band, roll out the carpet, release the doves, it is now the beginning of the Jamarcus Russell era. Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper are gone. Until Russell has some success in the NFL, he should not be drafted as anything but a flier. That's my stance on all young QB's. Do not touch until they show something.
Running Back: Lamont Jordan was the leading rusher in the NFL before injuries slowed him down, then he was replaced by Justin Fargas who promptly went for 1,000 yards. Throw first round pick Darren McFadden into the mix, and recall that Michael Bush (4th rounder in 2007) spent 2007 on the PUP list, but has tremendous talent.
This is a Grade A clusterfudge. Whoever gets the bulk of the carries (if anyone) could have a monster year. Don't presume that McFadden will be the guy. It's hard to speculate which guy to draft at this point. Just keep an eye on who wins the battle coming out of training camp. Whoever does could be a sneaky good RB2.
Wide Receiver: The safest bet is Ronald Curry. Curry is one of the most athletic players in the NFL. He started at point guard for the North Carolina basketball team and QB for the football team. As a WR, he has gotten 55+ rec and 700+ yards each of the last two seasons despite playing behind Jerry Porter and Randy Moss. Now that the riff-raff has cleared out, Curry should be in line for his best season. Look for him to approach 1,000 yards.
The safe bet is Curry, the gamble is Javon walker. He has the ability to make some big plays, and paired with Russell, he could get quite a few bombs tossed his way. However, I don't trust him. Off-season puff pieces may say his knee is healed and he's healthy, but I'll believe it when I see him running and cutting in a game. He has a high ceiling, but I wouldn't draft him as much more than a WR4 or 5 right now. No other WR's merit consideration.
Tight End: Zach Miller had 44 catches for 444 yards and 3 TD's as a rookie. There may be a slight improvement in 2007, but usually an offense dictates the production of the TE, so what you see is pretty much what you get. They did think highly enough of Miller to send Courtney Anderson packing.
The importance of defense has more to do with fantasy football than simply one position that can be filled based on matchups. A defense affects how its offense plays. If the defense is porous, then the offense will often be forced to play catch-up, throwing the ball more. A strong defense gives the offense patience, so it will tend to play conservatively, running the ball more.
Oakland had a decent pass D and an absolutely pitiful run D in 2007. No one allowed more yards per carry (4.8) than the Raiders. That let opposing teams just trample them and the clock once they got a lead. Unfortunately, Oakland's biggest move of the offseason was to acquire defensive back DeAngelo Hall, who is a decent player but won't help much against the run
Defensive line changes:
DT-Warren Sapp retired
DT-Tommy Kelly-spent most of 2007 out injured. A talented player. He's better than Sapp, so getting him back is a net plus at the DT position even with the loss of Sapp.
DT-William Joseph signed away from the Giants. Another First round bust reclamation project for the Raiders.
DE-Chris Clemons (situational pass rusher) Signed with the Eagles.
DE-Kalimba Edwards signed from Detroit where he was never productive. A new system couldn't hurt but he is the starter at the moment. That's not a good thing.
DE-Greg Spires signed from Tampa Bay. He's there for depth, little else.
They made some changes, but I really don't see how this unit will be much better than in 2007. Likely, the Raiders will continue to struggle to stop the run and get pressure on opposing QB's.
Nothing significant. This unit is above average. The starters are young and stay healthy. Thomas Howard and Kirk Morrison would get some looks for the Pro Bowl if their defense as a whole would improve. I wouldn't expect that though.
CB-DeAngelo Hall comes over from Atlanta pushing Stanford Routt to the Nickel corner.
CB-Fabian Washington lost his starting job to Routt midseason then got shipped to Baltimore after Hall was acquired.
S-Gibril Wilson is the man who won the "I just played for a Super Bowl winner" sweepstakes. He's not worth what he signed for, but he does help Oakland out. He'll play Strong Safety with Huff moving to Free Safety and Stuart Schweigert goes hits the pine.
Overall the secondary, already a strength, got better. I can't help but feel that they put their efforts in wrong place, however. They're mending cracks in one part of a damn while ignoring the gaping holes that let water gush through in another.