Once considered a reliable fantasy wide receiver, Jordy Nelson’s fantasy outlook in 2018 is considered confusing and risky. Nelson totally disappeared last season outside the top 40 WR’s after finishing as a top-three fantasy wide receiver in 2014 and 2016. To add to the confusion the 33-year-old WR has a new home in Oakland and will need to learn a brand new offense with a team undergoing a ton of changes this offseason. Even though the Raiders invested in Nelson this offseason offering him a $15 million contract with $13 million guaranteed, should you?
Raiders Offense in 2018
After an impressive 2016 season where the Raiders went 12-4, Oakland struggled heavily to get their offense rolling in 2017, finishing 6-10. Those struggles led to the Raiders firing head coach Jack Del Rio and landing the white whale of coaches this offseason in Jon Gruden.
How will Gruden impact the Raiders’ offense after not coaching since 2008?
Gruden has stated this offseason that he is “trying to throw the game back to 1998.” Not sure if that’s good or bad considering the offense Gruden was in control of in 1998 was mediocre. To give you an idea of the productivity of every offense under Gruden, here is a full list.
Jon Gruden’s Team Passing Rank in NFL as a Head Coach: (Attempts – Yards – TDs)
- 1998: 16th – 21st -14th
- 1999: 23rd – 11th – 8th
- 2000: 25th – 15th – 6th
- 2001: 11th – 4th – 4th
- 2002: 11th – 15th – 14th
- 2003: 3rd – 6th – 5th
- 2004: 20th – 14th – 11th
- 2005: 20th – 25th – 23rd
- 2006: 11th – 26th – 28th
- 2007: 25th – 16th – 20th
- 2008: 6th – 11th -19th
That’s a 10 year average of finishing 17th in attempts, 16th in yards and 17th in touchdowns. If you want another comparison last season the Raiders ranked 15th in attempts and 16th in yards and passing touchdowns. But the offense isn’t just about Gruden.
Derek Carr will need to have a bounce-back season after struggling in 2017 tossing 23 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. In his entire career, Carr has never passed for 4,000 yards in a season and has 103 touchdowns and 44 interceptions. Despite never passing for 4,000 yards I expect Carr to have his best season in 2018 due to a solid offensive line that improved this offseason with the addition of Kolton Miller in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft plus all the weapons they added this offseason.
Nelson wasn’t the only receiver that the Raiders added this offseason, Oakland also added Ryan Switzer from the Cowboys and Martavis Bryant from the Steelers. With the additions also came with some receivers exiting like Michael Crabtree. The Raiders team and offense looks different than it did last year but there is some talent on the offense.
Jesse Jones wrote a very detailed fantasy breakdown of the Raiders offense with Jon Gruden back in charge. Check it out here.
Jordy Nelson History
The 11-year veteran has been solid for fantasy owners and reliable in terms of staying on the field. Besides 2015 where he missed the entire season with a torn ACL, he has never played less than 12 games in a season. During his time with the Packers, he totaled 7,848 yards and 69 touchdowns. But his 2017 is what is making people nervous as he had 53 receptions, 482 yards, and six touchdowns. Those are numbers that shouldn’t excite you. But before 2017 Nelson was an absolute fantasy stud. Before his rough 2017, Jordy had three great seasons.
- 2013: 85 rec – 1,314 yds – 8 TDs
- 2014: 98 rec – 1,519 yds – 13 TDs
- 2016: 97 rec – 1,257 yds – 14TDs
History has a tendency to repeat itself and for Nelson will he repeat his solid fantasy production from 2013-2016 or his 2017 season?
Why Jordy Nelson Could Succeed
Perhaps Nelson’s downfall of a season was due to poor quarterback play. I say this because Nelson was good last year with a solid quarterback. He averaged 11.7 yards per catch with six touchdowns in only five games. I would consider Derek Carr a solid quarterback and this offseason Carr is already impressed with Nelson and his work ethic.
“Jordy is very detailed,” Carr said. “He wants to do everything exactly how you want it done. I see why Aaron loved throwing him the ball. He knows if you’re comfortable, you’ll throw it to them.”
The Raiders receivers struggled last year with drops, in fact, according to PFF, the Raiders had 38 dropped passes last season which was tied for the second most in the NFL. If Nelson can prove to be a reliable option for Carr that may lead to more targets, which means more fantasy production.
Why Jordy Nelson Could Fail
When it comes to why he could fail, well he wasn’t very productive last season and now he is 33 years old and seems to have lost a step. As good as Derek Carr is, he isn’t Aaron Rodgers and last season without Rodgers Nelson didn’t score a single touchdown and averaged a sorry 7.1 yards per reception. In the games without Rodgers, he averaged 5.5 targets, 3.9 receptions, 27.5 yards, and zero touchdowns per game. That’s a 16 game pace for 88 targets, 62 receptions, 440 yards and zero touchdowns.
Going to a new team at age 33 learning a new offense, building chemistry with a new quarterback is no easy task. Plus the team is under a new head coach who hasn’t coached in the NFL for 10 years. The odds are definitely stacked against Nelson.
When it comes to drafting Nelson in 2018, I am going to stay away and let someone else draft him. I think it was a good real-life football move for the Raiders adding Nelson to help the young receivers and quarterback Derek Carr develop but in terms of fantasy, I’m not interested.
Nelson will be the WR2 on this Raiders team and that hasn’t meant great fantasy production for past WR2s in Gruden’s offense. In the 11 years, Gruden was a head coach, his WR2 has had 45, 39, 41, 83, 61, 45, 33, 32, 33, 57, 47 receptions. The outlier season with 83 receptions was Jerry Rice. That’s an average of 51.6 receptions for the WR2 in a Jon Gruden led offense and if you exclude the outlier season of Rice, it comes to 48 receptions. The Raiders last season didn’t have a single player with over 700 receiving yards and tight end Jared Cook led the team in yards with 688. Nelson is currently going around the middle of round six and that price tag is simply too high for me. I guess if Jordy Nelson was a movie for me in 2018 it would be Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
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