Can you believe the draft is finally approaching? Just 17 days until the big day when every team reaches for the stars and every team things they nailed it. The Raiders have 11 picks in the upcoming draft and quite a few needs to fill with those picks.
One are they could look is running back in an outstanding and deep class.
Running backs were devalued for a few years there, but in the last couple years the value has rebounded. With Marshawn Lynch returning for his second and likely final season with the Raiders and some uncertainty among the rest of the backs on the roster, this could be a great time to add some talent.
These are the backs I could see the Raiders taking a hard look at and the round I could see them making that pick.
SaQuon Barkley, Penn State -- Round 1
Whose radar is this guy not on? The consensus best player in this draft. He can do it all. Including making moves that seem to defy logic and reason. He is 6-0, 233 pounds and moves like LaDainian Tomlinson crossed with Ezekiel Elliott. There seems little chance he will be on the board when the Raiders pick at ten, but if he were, how could they possibly pass him up? He would team up with Marshawn Lynch this season and take over as the feature back for the foreseeable future.
Nick Chubb, Georgia -- Round 2
There’s a lot to like about Chubb. He’s just a shade smaller than Barkley at 5-11, 227 pounds, matched him in bench press reps (29) and was just behind him in most other combine drills as well. Chubb has been incredibly consistent in his career at Georgia, including putting up 1547 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman and 1345 yards and 15 TD’s as a senior despite sharing a backfield with Sony Michel. Many see Michel as a better prospect. But I don’t.
Chubb is stocky, with thick, muscular legs that allow him to make quick, powerful moves and drive through defenders. He was averaging 8.1 yards per carry in 2015 when he tore the PCL, MCL, and LCL in his knee, but returned to have two productive seasons thereafter. He also didn’t fumble the ball once last season.
Royce Freeman, Oregon -- Round 3
Gruden has liked his thunder and lightning backfields in the pros. Well, Freeman is thunder with some lightning too if you need it. The 5-11, 229-pounder racked up 5621 yards rushing and 60 touchdowns for the Ducks over four seasons.
He is the definition of a workhorse back. A powerful runner, who was also among the best at the combine with a 6.90 3-cone drill. He forced 51 missed tackles last season according to Pro Football Focus. There was only one back who had more with fewer runs and that’s the man directly above.
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State -- Round 4
He has some gaudy numbers last season that are impossible to ignore. Most notably his school record 2248 rushing yards averaging 7.8 yards per carry. He also had 23 rushing touchdowns and forced an insane 86 missed tackles.
What gives you some pause is the level of competition playing in the Mountain West Conference. Then again, he also played well against Pac-12 schools Arizona State and Stanford and lit up the Senior Bowl with 64 yards on 9 carries and added a 73-yard touchdown catch. Also just last season, Donnel Pumphrey started and ran for 2133 yards with 6405 yards in four seasons there. Penny is not a flashy runner who won’t wow you with his shiftiness on film. I mention all these things mainly to explain why a player with the season he had could actually still be available on day three of the draft. And if he is, he’d be worth a look.
John Kelly, Tennessee -- Round 5
I really like Kelly. He is so fun to watch. A violent runner always looking to lay a stiff arm on a defender and consistently gets extra yards after contact. He is 5-9, 216 pounds of power and aggression. The way Jon Gruden talks about what he loves about Marshawn Lynch is how you’d expect him to speak of Kelly’s running style. He forced 37 missed tackles on 189 runs. That’s one fewer forced missed tackle on 29 fewer runs than SaQuon Barkley. And playing for Tennessee you can bet Reggie McKenzie took notice.