It's at this time of the year that the NFL rosters are bloated to 80 active players and in the case of the Raiders, a few inactive players waiting to become part of the mix. Between now and September 5th, the date when all 32 NFL team must trim their rosters to the 53 man limit, there is going to fierce competition in several key groups.
One of those groups is running back. For the Raiders, this position is stocked with talent and they are going to find themselves in a quandary with how to solve it. Mind you, this is one of those problems that is a good thing to have and I wish the same could be said about defensive tackle, but that another story for another day.
Now I know that it is this time of the year and certain players look good in camp or in the preseason games which may end up not translating to the field when it comes time to play the games for real. Further, roster crunches usually solve themselves through injury, trades or decline in performance.
Well, here's the dilemma for the Raiders: Unless they change the construction of their roster, the Raiders will only keep five running backs, of which two will be fullbacks and 3 will be the halfbacks.
Here is the current Raiders roster of running backs:
- Lorenzo Neal, FB
- Oren O'Neal, FB
- Luke Lawton, FB
- Justin Fargas, HB
- Darren McFadden, HB
- Michael Bush, HB
- Louis Rankin, HB
- Gary Russell, HB/FB
- Nick Miller, APP (All Purpose Player)
Likely four from the above list will be gone when the roster is paired to 53. The only one that I am certain of today, (baring injury) is Luke Lawton. The obvious keepers are Neal, O'Neal, McFadden and Bush. That leaves three to choose, and six months ago, I never would have thought there would be chance the Raiders could get rid of Justin Fargas. But now, with the über young talent that is Rankin, Russell and Miller, the Raiders may have no other choice.
Those three players will not make it through waivers and sneak on to the Raiders practice squad. They either make the Raiders 53, placed on IR or they will be on some other NFL team.
But how can the Raiders get rid of Fargas? He is the epitome of team player. Cut his arm and silver & black blood will pour and he is a two-time Commitment to Excellence Award winner. He is also 29 years old, which just so happens to be the age the many NFL running backs start to really decline and break down. Fargas, with his crash-test-dummy style of play is no stranger to injury and with his age and history, he is to be considered a high risk on the injury scale. So the question then becomes, are those intangible qualities worth more to the Raiders than production? Those qualities along with Fargas' injury risks, are they important enough to the Raiders to let the talents and youth of Rankin and Russell go? Think about it. Should McFadden or Bush miss any playing time due to injury, do you want Fargas in there or do you want to see Russell or Rankin?
Louis Rankin is 24 years old and is a younger version of Fargas. Gary Russell is 22 years old and is a power runner that can and will play both HB and FB. Nick Miller is 22 years old and can seemingly play everywhere on the field. With all that youth and versatility, it just may be to good to pass up and not find a way to keep those players.
Fargas has been a great team player and leader on the field and has served the Raiders well, but it now may be the time for the young gunners to come and take the reins now.
Can the Raiders afford to keep Fargas at this stage of his career at the expense of young and promising talent already on the roster?
What do you think the Raiders will do with Fargas and their running backs by the time their roster is trimmed to 53?