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Raiders passed on deep running back class, will need to revisit position next year

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Oakland Raiders

There are several schools of thought with regard to how the Raiders could have or perhaps should have approached the running back position this offseason. Primarily there are two sides of the coin -- to draft or not to draft.

What they ended up doing was not drafting a running back this year. It could be that’s just how the draft happened or they may have deciding going in that they were set at the position.

You could say they had players in place. Marshawn Lynch is returning as the starter and they added Doug Martin to compete for the change-of-pace back job. But you could say that for most any position on the team. They always look to have options at each position heading into the draft both for unpredictability as well as to cover themselves should the player(s) they like not be on the board when they pick.

There was a lot to like about this class of running backs. It was one of the deepest I can recall. The consensus top player at any position in this draft was running back Saquon Barkley, and the talent continued throughout the first five rounds of the draft, with backs going lower in this draft than they would have in most any other class.

No way should the Raiders have gone after a running back in the first round, and by the time their pick came up in the second round, most of the top backs were off the board. The one back who was still on the board even after the Raiders traded down to 57 was LSU’s Derrius Guice. But the Raiders had their sights set on defensive tackle PJ Hall. Guice went two picks later.

In the third, the Raiders traded up to pick 65 get offensive tackle Brandon Parker. Meanwhile Oregon’s Royce Freeman was selected by the Broncos with the 71st pick. At the end of the round, the Raiders went for the risk/reward in defensive end Arden Key.

Just ahead of their pick at 110 in the fourth round, NC State’s Nyheim Hines came off the board. Then in the fifth the Raiders took a chance on DT Maurice Hurst and got their punter in Johnny Townsend. Three picks after Townsend, Tennessee’s John Kelly — whose violent running style has drawn comparisons to Beast Mode — was selected. Had the Raiders not traded away a fifth round pick to jump up and get Parker in the third, they may have had a shot to get Kelly as well if they wanted.

It’s possible the Raiders had some running backs on their board, but most of them were gone just ahead of when they may have considered them. And had they not traded up a couple times, they may have had a selection available to get a running back.

Or, they just didn’t intend on drafting at the position at all. We may never know.

The benefit to drafting one is there would be an heir apparent in place when Marshawn Lynch exits stage left, likely after this season. The drawback is you’d be essentially losing a season of that back’s four year rookie contract getting only spot duty behind Marshawn.

What they are left with is a three-way competition for the back-up job between Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington. All of whom are coming off the worst seasons of their careers. Martin in particular has averaged just 2.9 yards per carry the past two seasons. Competition great in theory. But it can be a bad word when it means picking the lesser of the evils.

The Raiders even cut last year’s 7th round pick running back Elijah Hood in favor of undrafted tryout back, Chris Warren III.

So, barring any unforeseen moves, the Raiders had their running back competition in place since early March and will kick the can to next offseason. At which point they won’t be preparing for the future, but with an immediate need with Marshawn, Martin, and Richard’s contracts all up and a draft class unlikely to offer the kind of depth we saw this year.