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Summer Snapshot: Oakland Raiders

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Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

As the countdown continues to September NFL action, ESPN Fantasy takes a closer look at each franchise as it trains and goes camping. Here is what fantasy owners should be watching for over the summer. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What’s changed? Perhaps franchise quarterback Derek Carr will never be a star, but at least the Raiders will give him a better chance to succeed this season. Carr’s rookie campaign wasn’t so awful statistically, as he finished as fantasy’s No. 19 passer thanks mainly to volume and being fortunate with interception rate, but his weaponry was poor. No Raider reached 700 receiving yards. Alabama product Amari Cooper will. He was chosen with the No. 4 overall pick and will be paired as a starting wide receiver with former San Francisco 49ers enigma Michael Crabtree. The third round brought tight end Clive Walford, an athlete who could take the starting job from Mychal Rivera. And pass-catching running back Roy Helu was added for third-down work and Carr checkdowns. Carr’s tape should look better this season, or else.

Who’s motivated? Well, Latavius Murray better be. While he’s the obvious guy leading the depth chart at running back, both Helu and former first-rounder Trent Richardson are here to help. Commence laugh track for the latter name now. Murray broke out in Week 11 against the Kansas City Chiefs, breaking off a 90-yard touchdown jaunt, but otherwise wasn’t all that special. Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew are gone, and it remains to be seen if better competition has arrived. Richardson, now well-traveled and disappointing, gets one final chance and if he isn’t motivated by now, he’ll never be. Meanwhile, Crabtree begins his seventh season on the other side of the Bay, and with basically one standout season on his record. He really needs another.

Whose stock could fluctuate? Murray and Cooper are probably the lone Raiders that will be chosen in most drafts, and each could see their stock affected this summer. Murray’s really on the hot seat, because he was a sixth-round pick and Richardson, for all his flaws the past two seasons, used to have skills. He could find them again. For now, Murray is a borderline top-20 running back, perhaps more of a flex choice, but he’s more likely to drop the wrong direction based on word from Raiders camp this summer. It sounds like I’m down on him, but it’s more about expectations. He’s not exactly proven, and likely won’t play much on third down. Cooper’s more likely to rise in the rankings as rookies generally get overrated. For now, he’s ranked a round after Murray. That should change.