2022 Las Vegas Raiders | Weapons Galore

by Robert Lorge · Best Ball Plays & Strategy

Fantasy managers have a problem when figuring out the Las Vegas Raiders in 2022. They didn’t have this problem in 2021 when it was the Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller show. There was no third target in Las Vegas that demanded Derek Carr‘s attention. Nothing could be further from the truth going into the 2022 campaign – not with the acquisition of Davante Adams, who is arguably the best receiver in the NFL. 

There are too many mouths to feed. It’s something fantasy managers are very familiar with. The question is how much truth is there to it? Can there truly be too many mouths to feed if all players have displayed high-quality fantasy seasons? Certainly, they can all co-exist, right?

The arrival of a super-alpha will have fantasy managers wondering if all three of these players can still provide fantasy managers with real, tangible value in 2022. The expectation should be that Adams, Waller, and Renfrow are the top-three target earners in Las Vegas. Will that be enough to keep all of their heads above fantasy football water? Let’s take a look. 

How Will the Chips Fall in Las Vegas?

Davante Adams

Derek Carr had the No. 5-most attempts and passing yards in 2021, so on the surface, it looks like there is plenty of opportunities to go around. There are, however, some red flags for one member of the tripod. That member is most certainly not Davante Adams. Fantasy managers should expect Adams to lead this group. He specifically wanted to go to Las Vegas to team up with his quarterback from Fresno State, but that isn’t the reason Adams will end up being the apple of Carr’s eye. No, the reason is much simpler – there isn’t anyone in Las Vegas that is in his stratosphere. 

Adams has been the most efficient receiver in the NFL for the past several seasons and has proven himself to be one of the most exceptional target-earners in the league. In 2021, the former Fresno State standout had a 31.6-percent target share, which ranked No.2 in the league. His target per route run was even higher – 35.3-percent and that was second to no one. 

That wasn’t the only place where Adams displayed his superiority. He has been the most devastating red-zone weapon in all of football since 2016. Since that time, no player has more receiving touchdowns than the five-time Pro Bowler. Just last year, Adams had a 25.9-percent red zone target share and generated 28 red-zone targets, No. 3 in the NFL. So, if Adams is not the one with the red flags, who is?

When fantasy managers look at Adams above, there is a lot of potential in how Adams was used. He can make plays down the field, evidenced by his 1,520 air yards, which was No. 10 in the NFL. While his average depth of target wasn’t nearly as impressive, he still managed to finish with 23 deep targets. Not only did Adams dominate his target share, but his targets were incredibly valuable in that he was targeted down the field. 

Waller and Renfrow

Waller also presents with a very strong and fantasy-friendly type of utilization. There’s no denying the importance of volume, but what kind of volume it is should not be overlooked. As you look at Waller’s 2021 statistics, fantasy managers should feel confident in the kind of targets the one-time Pro Bowl tight end will be getting. 

Shifting to Renfrow, fantasy managers are able to see several red flags when looking at how the former Clemson Tiger was utilized. His air yards, average target distance, and a number of deep targets all paint a picture of a player who is highly dependent on volume because there simply weren’t many plays down the field. 

The three-year pro averaged just 10.1 yards per reception, which was No. 85 among qualifying receivers. It’s not hard to see how this could go south for Renfrow in a hurry, especially with target-hog like Adams soaking up some of Renfrow’s much-needed volume. 

One of the things that often gets lost during Waller’s injury-riddled 2021 season was that he was actually Carr’s preferred target when he was on the field. 

Darren Waller Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Hunter Renfrow Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

With Waller’s statistics the image on top and Renfrow on the bottom, it’s easy to see the difference between each player’s volume stats. Waller bested Renfrow in each of these three subsequent categories, which clearly establishes him as Carr’s clear No. 1 target between the two of them. What happens when Adams is added to the mix? It’s simple – Renfrow becomes the No. 3. 

More Red Flags

There are actually a few more red flags fantasy managers need to be cognizant of when looking at Renfrow’s fantasy potential in 2022. Last year, he recorded 24 red-zone targets, which ranked No. 6 in the NFL. He had 20 red targets in 2019 and 2020 combined. That is certainly not ideal when forecasting his 2022 season. 

He ended up scoring nine touchdowns on 128 targets, a 7.0-percent touchdown rate. In years one and two, he scored just six times on 148 targets, a 4.1-percent touchdown rate. Never mind the addition of Adams, fantasy managers would be expecting a negative regression regardless. 

However, when you factor in Adams’ addition and Renfrow’s own regression in these two categories, there’s no denying his outlook becomes bleaker. After all, there’s been no better red-zone weapon since 2016 than the former Packer. 

Waller’s Regression

We cannot talk about regression without also talking about Waller – except in his case, his regression is of the positive variety. Last season, Waller caught just 59.1-percent of his targets. In his two other seasons as the starting tight end for the Raiders, he never finished with a catch percentage below 73-percent, a 14-percent difference. 

While fantasy managers should attribute some of that decline to Waller not being 100-percent healthy in 2021, some of this blame needs to be put on Carr who struggled to target him compared to 2019 and 2020. In Waller’s first season as the starter, he had a catchable target rate of 87.2-percent and a true catch rate of 88.2-percent. In that season, he had a catch percentage of 76.9-percent. While his catchable target rate dipped in 2020, down to 80.7-percent, his true catch rate actually went up to 91.5-percent. His catch percentage was 73.8-percent. 

However, in 2021 you see dramatic decreases in all three categories. We already referenced his 59.1 catch percentage, but his catchable target rate was just 75.3-percent – 5.4-percent lower than 2020 and 11.9-percent lower than 2019. His true catch rate was just 78.6-percent. Waller’s catch percentage isn’t the only area positive regression should be expected in 2022. 

He caught just two touchdowns out of 93 targets, a 2.2-percent touchdown rate. The previous year his touchdown rate was at 6.2-percent. The numbers indicate Waller will score more in 2022 and Renfrow will score, less. 

Back to Adams

Adams has not had a target share below 29-percent since 2017. Since becoming the Raiders’ starting tight end, Waller has never recorded a target share below the one Renfrow posted last season, which was subsequently the highest of his career. While it is too optimistic to expect Adams to command a target share similar to the one he had in Green Bay, because there is more target competition, he is still going to command the largest target share between this trio. Fantasy managers should still be valuing Adams as a top-five receiver entering the 2022 season. His target share and red zone utilization will all be there and with the number of pass attempts Las Vegas had last year, he will once again be one of the most heavily targeted players in the NFL.

Based on what we’ve seen from Waller and Renfrow’s respective careers to this point and even how they were used in 2021, Waller will be the No. 2 target for Derek Carr. In the 11 weeks, Waller was active last season, he out-targeted Renfrow, 82–71. Waller’s target share and role in the passing game give him a safe floor for fantasy managers and he should still be valued as a top-five tight end. However, when you factor in the value of Waller’s targets compared to Renfrow, it becomes obvious which player has more fantasy appeal. 

This leaves Renfrow as the man fantasy managers need to worry about. As referenced before, Renfrow will be 2022’s version of Tyler Boyd. The similarities between these two situations are endless. Both teams added an absolutely dominant receiver, in this case, Adams will be starring as Ja’Marr Chase. Boyd and Renfrow are similar in that they both are primarily slot receivers. 

Boyd vs Renfrow

In fact, let’s look at just how similar Boyd and Renfrow were in 2021.

As football players, how they operate on the field, and how they’re used is fairly similar. Prior to Chase’s arrival, Boyd was a dependable fantasy asset, especially in PPR-scoring leagues because the volume was there. Last season, that volume dried up and with it, so did his fantasy value. That’s what is in store for Renfrow in 2022. The combination of less volume with negative regression is a scenario fantasy managers should be steering clear of in 2022. 

There is a lot to be excited about in the 2022 Las Vegas Raiders. This offense will end up being one of the top-10 passing attacks in the NFL and Renfrow will be a part of that. However, his on-the-field value will not translate to fantasy football success. Fantasy managers looking to get a piece of this offense should focus their attention on Adams and Waller.