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NFL Scouting Combine 2019: Three running backs to watch

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NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL combine on-field drills kick off today in Indianapolis. Offensive lineman, specialists, and running backs get to show off their athleticism by participating in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and other athletic tests. Athletes also get a chance to separate themselves from the pack by taking part in position specific drills.

The Raiders are talking to Marshawn Lynch to see if he’ll come back for one more season but regardless of Beast Mode’s status the Raiders need to build up their backfield for the future. Some people say running backs don’t matter, others point out that winning teams have young backs drafted early. The reality is that the RB position is among the toughest to predict. Here are a few Raiders fans should keep their eyes.

Miles Sanders, Penn State

Height: 5’10 5/8

Weight: 211 lbs

Miles Sanders only had major playing time in 2018 after backing up Saquon Barkley for the previous two seasons. Sanders shouldn’t be knocked for this and his lone year of starting production yielded solid results even if Penn State imploded. Sanders was easily the best player on PSU’s offense in 2018.

But the reason you should be paying attention to Miles Sanders today is because the performances his teammates gave last year this time. Barkley, Troy Apke, Mike Gesicki, and Daesean Hamilton all turned in impressive athletic testing in 2018. 3 players jumped over 40 inch verticals, 4 players ran the 3 cone drill under 6.9 seconds. When so many players from one school are able to test well it suggests Penn States strength and conditioning program is top notch. Miles Sanders has a chance to prove it today.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Barnes, Kansas State

Height: 6’0 3/8

Weight: 226 lbs

Barnes is already off to a great combine after breaking the bench record for running backs yesterday with 34 repetitions of 225lbs. Barnes wouldn’t just be a workout warrior if his success carries over to the on field drills today. At Kansas State this past season he rushed for 1355 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per touch.

Mike Mayock said during his combine press conference that Raiders will be “big, fast players, who can run and friggin’ love the game of football.” Barnes is one of the biggest backs in Indianapolis and certainly the strongest. His 40 time will tell us fans if he’s Raider material toay.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Karan Higdon, Michigan

Height: 5’9 1/8

Weight: 206lbs

Higdon is relatively slight and resembles more the running backs that the Raiders used last season. You might be surprised to find out that Higdon runs the hardest of any back on this list. While he is the size of a scat back, he plays like a power back and its obvious when you watch a Michigan game that Higdon loves contact.

Higdon got a chance to meet the Raiders staff at the Senior Bowl so they already know him well. If he can prove his athleticism is elite it could make Mike Mayock overlook his relatively shorter stature.