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Fantasy Football: Can Derek Carr build on his sneaky-solid 2020 campaign?

Nov 15, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) looks to pass against the Denver Broncos during the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2021 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.

As Hall of Fame former NFL head coach Bill Parcells once said: You are what your record says you are. This means the Las Vegas Raiders were technically a dirt-average team behind their 8-8 performance in 2020, but that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.

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Taking the difference in points per game rank between every NFL team’s offense and defense reveals some of the more one-sided squads. The following list denotes those with at least a double-digit ranking difference between the two sides of the ball; these are the teams had dope offenses but terrible defenses:

  1. Raiders (10th-ranked scoring offense, 30th-ranked scoring defense: -20)
  2. Tennessee Titans (-20)
  3. Minnesota Vikings (-18)
  4. Buffalo Bills (-14)
  5. Green Bay Packers (-12)
  6. Detroit Lions (-12)
  7. Dallas Cowboys (-11)

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The main reason why the Raiders offense was so lethal in 2020: Mr. Derek Carr. What follows is a breakdown on just how good Carr was last season as well as what to make of his fantasy stock ahead of 2021.

Carr quietly had the best season of his career in 2020

The rising eighth-year quarterback posted career-best numbers across the board last season that ranked him among the league’s best signal-callers in most major efficiency categories:

  • PFF passing grade: 86.5 (No. 8 among 44 qualified quarterbacks)
  • QB rating: 101.4 (No. 11)
  • Yards per attempt: 7.9 (tied for No. 6)
  • Adjusted completion rate: 78.5% (tied for No. 9)
  • Big-time throw rate: 6.8% (tied for No. 5)
  • Turnover-worthy play rate: 2.8% (tied for No. 13)

Nobody had a higher adjusted completion rate than Carr (53.3%) on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield. He tied Aaron Rodgers with an absurd 99.9 PFF passing grade on these downfield passes. Carr fell off a bit and ranked just 22nd in PFF passing grade when under pressure, but only Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Josh Allen, Tom Brady and Ryan Tannehill were better when kept clean.

Credit to Carr for coming out on top in plenty of close games in his ill-fated 2016 MVP campaign; we just witnessed the best version of him yet. Not a numbers person? Watch the film.

The truth of the matter is that Carr and company have never been close to the main problem in Las Vegas or Oakland. Overall, the Raiders defense has finished 32nd, 22nd, 20th, 20th, 32nd, 24th and 30th in points per game allowed since 2014. Sheesh.

Not helping matters is the reality that suddenly the offensive side of the ball looks worse than usual ahead of 2021.

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