Crimson Tide in the NFL: Former Alabama playmakers looking for breakout seasons in Oakland
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As the week of college football begins, we count down the final three segments of our 2015 NFL previews for former Alabama players.Today we bring our focus back to some of the offensive skill positions. With our final five players, we will give you a rundown of what to expect from a fantasy football standpoint. Today we focus on two players in Oakland, that hope to be the bright spot on the Raider offense. Amari Cooper comes into Oakland looking to start his career while Trent Richardson looks to hold on to a roster spot and revive his career. The Raiders are once again expected to finish last in the AFC West this season but Cooper and Richardson want to beat expectations.
Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders, Wide Receiver
6’1″, 211 pounds
4 years, $22.67 million
Cooper is entering into his rookie season after being drafted fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders in April. Cooper was the star in Tuscaloosa last season, catching 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns. He finished his career with 31 scores for the Crimson Tide and helped Alabama win two SEC Championships. After his senior year, Cooper won the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the nation’s best receiver, and was unanimously selected as an All-American. He enters into the NFL with high expectations and one of the frontrunners to win the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Cooper comes into try and help an Oakland offense that finished 31st in scoring offense and 32nd in total offense in 2014. He has already shown his playmaking abilities in the preseason and could be the go-to guy in the offense. Raider quarterback Derek Carr’s favorite receiver last season was James Jones and he is gone now. Carr will have Cooper to go along with Andre Holmes and new signing Michael Crabtree. The offense put a huge focus on the passing game last season, attempting 629 passes, and it looks to be the same gameplan going in to 2015. Cooper should find a home quickly in Oakland and possibly help bring the Raiders back to being a winning franchise.
Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice said that the Raiders found their “new Tim Brown” with the selection of Amari Cooper. Brown holds franchise record for both receptions and receiving yards for Oakland so it’s safe to say Cooper would have a good career if he comes close to Brown’s numbers. The hype and high expectations is fun for both Oakland and Alabama fans but realistic expectations may need to be set so Cooper doesn’t become a bust.
In three preseason games, Cooper has eight receptions for 128 yards after a terrific performance against the Cardinals on Sunday night. Cooper has already become a highlight reel for the Raiders, burning Patrick Peterson Sunday night for a big first down catch-and-run.
Fantasy: According to ESPN.com, the average draft position for Amari Cooper is 49.6. Cooper went 43rd in my league full of Alabama fans last night and he could still make a case to go even higher than that. Cooper is going to be the main offensive weapon in the Raiders system and with the amount of pass plays that Oakland calls, Cooper will be on the field for all of them. Defenses will try to lock down on Cooper and touchdowns may not come often but Cooper is still an easy starter on any fantasy team going in to 2015.
Trent Richardson, Oakland Raiders, Running Back
5’9″, 225 pounds
2 years, $3.85 million
Trent Richardson was a star at Alabama. As a five-star recruit from Pensacola, Florida, Richardson went into Tuscaloosa with a lot of hype and he lived up to it during his college career. He finished with more than 4,400 all-purpose yards and 43 touchdowns before leaving after his junior season. Richardson ended up being selected third in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns and played one full season, rushing for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns before being traded to Indianapolis. He played his next 29 career games for the Colts, 20 starts, only averaging 3.1 yards per carry and six touchdowns on more than 300 carries. A lot of people said that Indianapolis just wasn’t the right fit for Richardson but he is now in Oakland and doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
Richardson was listed as the number two running back entering the preseason but missed the first week of training camp before returning for the preseason opener against St. Louis. Richardson has faced a lot of scrutiny from fans, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry and 1.5 yards per catch. He is now facing an issue that may be out of his hands. There have been many rumors that Richardson will be cut before the season starts, which would be understandable with the amount of running backs Oakland has at its disposal. Latavius Murray will be the starter for the Raiders and Roy Helu, Jr. would be a solid backup. Oakland may not need Richardson and if he doesn’t show improvement, it will make it a much easier decision for the front office.
Fantasy: Richardson doesn’t provide much value as a fantasy player entering the 2015 season but that does not mean it will stay that way all year. If he makes the team in Oakland, an injury to Murray would open up the running back competition. If Richardson gets cut, there are several teams that could pick him up and immediately put him in a spot to make a difference. However, if you want to pick a Raiders offensive player on your fantasy team, pick Murray and any of the receivers before picking a backup running back.
Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.