A year ago at this time, the Raiders were largely considered one of the worst passing teams in the NFL. Darrius Heyward-Bey was a third-year receiver going nowhere and Denarius Moore was an unknown fifth-round rookie. Thanks to the arrival of QB Carson Palmer the Raiders passing game took flight, and Heyward-Bey and Moore took off. The two combined to catch 45 percent of the team's touchdown passes, and Heyward-Bey came within 25 yards of the 1,000-yard mark.
Suddenly, there was hope for Oakland's passing attack.
The team reshaped its receiving corps this offseason, selecting Arizona's Juron Criner (fifth round) and dealing Louis Murphy to Carolina for a conditional pick. But nothing changed atop the depth chart; Heyward-Bey and Moore have seemingly locked up the Raiders two starting jobs heading into camp. Now the question fantasy owners want an answer to is: Which one will emerge as the team's No. 1 target?
Why Heyward-Bey is the best choice: Speed kills, baby! The 4.3 he clocked at the Combine -- helping him to become a top-10 pick in 2009 -- finally paid dividends last season when Heyward-Bey posted three 100-yard games, including two in the final month. His rare combination of size and speed packaged with the chemistry he developed with Palmer last year makes Heyward-Bey a prime candidate to break out for fantasy owners. He's a better target for Palmer in the short and intermediate passing game right now, and was the target of 115 throws last season -- the most by a Raiders receiver in several years. Heyward-Bey is also no slouch when it comes to challenging coverage down the field. He caught a pass of 30 or more yards in each of Oakland's final four games last season.
Why it's Moore: Whereas Heyward-Bey was slow to get out of the gate, Moore made an impression in his first season. He was thrown to 39 fewer times than his counterpart but caught more touchdowns and almost as many passes of 20-plus yards (12, which amounted to 36 percent of his catches). He, too, finished the year strong, with 94 yards against Kansas City and 101 against San Diego in Weeks 16 and 17, respectively. And unlike Heyward-Bey, who spent the summer apologizing for his DUI arrest, Moore has steered clear of off-the-field issues. Moore is still on the rise; if most receivers blossom in year three or four, it should be fun to see where the former University of Tennessee star goes from here.
Don't forget about: Jacoby Ford
In two years of limited action Ford has logged three 100-yard games. He's a home run hitter when healthy, and his 17.0-yard career average per catch is proof he can burn by opposing defenders any time he touches the ball.
Who fantasy owners should pull for: Moore
There is more room for Moore to grow. Palmer saw the potential for greatness last year. "He kind of did a little bit of everything," the veteran passer told reporters. "I think this year he can kind of really put it all together and kind of be a complete player."
We kind of think so, too, Carson. Moore's November effort against San Diego -- 123 yards and two touchdowns -- showcased the kind of raw talent he brings to the table. With a bit more experience he could become a dangerous weapon for fantasy owners.