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Raiders 2016 Draft Pick or Pass: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

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The No. 1 running back on everyone's board, Ezekiel Elliott would appear to be a good fit in Oakland at pick No. 14, but would drafting a running back this early fit into Reggie McKenzie's plan?

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

It's amazing to see the evolution of running backs in the NFL Draft. In 2012, Trent Richardson was taken No. 3 overall (GULP), with two other running backs (Doug Martin and David Wislon) both coming off the board at the end of the first round.

The following year, general managers seemingly overreacted in the opposite direction as the landscape of the running back position was changing. In 2013, no running back was taken in the first round, although the first two off the board (Giovani Bernard and Leveon Bell) have both been successful. 2014 followed the same trend, with no backs coming off the board until picks No. 54, 55 and 57 (Bishop Sankey, Jeremy Hill, Carlos Hyde).

At the time, it seemed as though the running back position had officially been removed from first round consideration.

Then, in 2015, Todd Gurley happened. Coming off an injury, no one knew where he would be picked, but when the Rams selected him at No. 10 it was clear very quickly what an amazing player they had selected, as Gurley would go on to rush for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns despite seeing 10+ carries in only 10 games.

Which brings us to 2016 and this year's unanimously crowned top running back: Ezekiel Elliott.

With Latavius Murray the only real option at running back right now, people have suggested that if Elliott is still around at No. 14 (many people believe he won't be), that he could be a perfect fit in Oakland. So, what do our writers think?

Jeff Spiegel

Drafting a running back in the first round is a scary proposition — no matter how good the guy looked in college. Since 2008, when the Raiders used the No. 3 pick on Darren McFadden, here are the running backs selected with a first round pick: Jonathan Stewart, Felix Jones, Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Johnson, Knowshon Moreno, Donald Brown, Beanie Wells, CJ Spiler, Ryan Matthews, Jahvid Best, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, David Wilson, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon.

Of those 16 running backs, I'd say teams were happy with six — maybe seven — of those picks. The other 9-10 times? Disaster. And while it's easy to look back and say, "of course Knowshon Moreno was going to be bad" — obviously at the time things weren't that clear.

Which brings me to Elliott. Is he worth the pick?

In 90% of scenarios, the answer for me is no. I just simply don't like taking running backs in the first round — it's too risky of a position to take for a team picking in the middle of the first round when you need to nail this pick. On top of that, the Oakland offense is in really good shape — it's the defense that needs the help.

With all that said, from what I hear and read about Elliott, he falls in the 10% "exception" category.

Urban Meyer said Elliott is the best player he has ever coached when he has the ball in his hands, and Pro Football Focus says he is the most complete running back prospect since 2007 when Adrian Peterson came out of college. He can block, he can catch, and, of course, he can run the ball too.

For the Raiders, this pick makes sense because it's also a position of need. While Latavius Murray seems to pass the eye test for me, at some point I have to look at his disappointing stat lines and wonder whether I'm just missing something. Is Murray a fine NFL back? Sure. But is he great? No — something Elliott many believe will become.

Ultimately, while I find it hard to believe Elliott would still be there at No. 14, if for some miraculous reason he is (and no, I'm not in favor of trading up to get him), I'm grabbing him with a big fat grin on my face.

Verdict: PICK


Ezekiel Elliott is, simply put, the best running back prospect I have seen since Adrian Peterson. He isn't quite the inhuman freak of nature that Peterson was and still is, but he's close. He reminds me of a mixture of Eric Dickerson and Tyrone Wheatley.

If you're looking for a three-down back, Elliott is as good as it gets. He can bludgeon defenders inside and also catch passes out of the backfield very well. He has the speed to take it to the house any time he touches the ball. If there's one problem with Elliott's game, it's that he doesn't shy away from contact and looks to hit someone on every play, whether that's on a block or carrying the ball. He has a bit of Larry Csonka in him.

Zeke has a similar profile to Latavius Murray, at six feet and 225 pounds. He also runs a similar 40, at 4.47. However, his ability to shrug off contact and get the tough yards is a skill Murray hasn't quite developed yet so I feel he would be an excellent fit on Oakland's power scheme. Zeke obviously played in an Urban Meyer spread in college, but his great vision and decisiveness in hitting the hole quickly and taking off would truly bring Oakland's offense to a new level. Murray is a home run threat on any play, but so is Elliott and he can wear down a defensive front over the course of a game.

Even though the running back position has been devalued over the last few seasons, we saw what a highly drafted back can do for a team in last season's Rams, who would have had no offense whatsoever if not for Todd Gurley. That's the type of player Elliott is. I have serious doubts as to whether he will be available when the Raiders pick, and I suspect some team will trade up for him. If not, teams like the Bears, Eagles and Giants could use a good running back and will have Elliott under serious consideration.

With Oakland having no real holes in the starting lineup, this draft can be one of sheer depth and luxury. The Raiders have severe running back depth problems, but Elliott would turn that into an area of strength and could give Oakland one of the best running games and passing games in the league. The offense could be truly elite.

Elliott might be my second favorite player in this draft. In the unlikely event he is there when the Raiders pick, he has to be the selection.

Verdict: PICK.

Tyler Green

With the devaluation of the position, running backs selected in the first round of the draft have become a rarity. The only reason a running back should be taken that early is if they are a blue-chip player and a game changer. The three players in this category are Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, and Leonard Fournette.

If Elliott falls to the Raiders at 14th overall, he would be the top player on their board, as he is arguably the best offensive player in the entire draft. The addition of a star running back would solve the team's lack of depth at the position, and would give Oakland a scary backfield with Elliott and Latavius Murray. The Raiders ranked 28th in rushing yards last season, adding Ezekiel Elliott to the offense would solve that problem.

Verdict: PICK

Marcus Krause

Yes, the Raiders already have Latavius Murray, and yes running backs are rarely worth a 1st round selection. It doesn't matter, because Ezekiel Elliott would be a dream pick for the Raiders. Elliott is an absolute beast and I consider him a must draft if he is still there at 14.

The 1-2 punch of Elliott and Murray would probably be the best backfield in the NFL, and the Raiders have already beefed up their offensive line to have a better running game this year as well. While I doubt he will still be there (since he is arguably the best offensive player in this draft), if he is, then there is no question the Raiders should take him at 14th overall.

Verdict: PICK

Levi Damien

Jack Del Rio has made no secret he wants to add a running back to complement Latavius Murray. There are a handful of backs in this draft who could do that, some of whom could still be on the board in the third and fourth round or even later (Murray was a sixth round pick, after all).

Elliott would be more likely to replace Murray than complement him. He is the one back in the draft who is a surefire top prospect. He has no flaws in his game that I can see. He is a freight train with speed and agility. He had two straight seasons with over 1800 yards and 27 touchdowns. No other back in college football can come close to that. If he is on the board at 14 (which I seriously doubt), you take him and get ready to watch your offense be taken to the next level.

Verdict: PICK