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Should Raiders just roll with Chris Warren III at running back? Read this before answering

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

I can say with the utmost certainty that every time the subject of what the Raiders should do at running back has come up this offseason, multiple responses have been that the team doesn’t need to sign anyone or use a draft pick on anyone because they’ve got Chris Warren III.

The primary questions surround either re-signing Marshawn Lynch or Doug Martin, bringing in a proven free agent running back, or selecting a running back high in the draft.

In each instance, several fans chime in to say there’s no need for any of that. The Raiders are good to go. Just hand the keys to CWIII.

The fans got stars in their eyes watching the undrafted rookie tear up the preseason last year to lead all backs with 292 yards. Hey, I get it. I didn’t just see him tear it up in preseason games, I watched him absolutely destroy Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis in their joint practices during training camp. He’s a load, there’s no doubt about it. And he was a force to be reckoned with in four preseason outings.

That being said, I try to stay grounded in reality in situations like this. After all, we are talking about the preseason here. Not only that, but none of the teams the Raiders played last preseason even fielded their full starting lineups.

With that in mind, let’s look at some raw numbers. In particular how often preseason numbers translate to the regular season.

For this we will focus on rookie running backs.

How often does a rookie running back lead the preseason in rushing yards? Almost always. Nine out of the past ten years a rookie running back has led the preseason in rushing yards.

How often does that mean we can expect big things from that back? Well, let’s take a look.

Warren’s 292 yards was the second highest preseason total in the past ten years. The highest was Anthony Dixon who had 300 yards in 2010. He then had 934 yards... over his entire career. Only once in his six years in the NFL did he surpass the 300 yards he had in that stellar preseason.

But, as I said, there were nine rookies who led the preseason in rushing the past ten seasons. What of the others?

Rookie RB preseason leaders

Player Year Preseason yds Career yds Seasons Starts
Player Year Preseason yds Career yds Seasons Starts
Anthony Dixon 2010 300 934 6 2
Chris Warren III 2018 292 0 1* 0
William Powell 2012 249 217 2 1
Lorenzo Taliaferro 2014 243 339 3 0
Kendall Hunter 2011 231 1204 5 1
Khiry Robinson 2013 228 788 4 3
Mack Brown 2016 227 111 2 0
Tyrell Sutton 2009 191 139 2 1
Zach Zenner 2015 183 685 4* 6
Total -- -- 4417 24 14
Average 83.3 2.67 1.56
*Active player

None of the nine rookie running backs who led the preseason in rushing the past ten seasons went on to become a full time starting running back.

They average 1.56 starts in 2.67 NFL seasons.

Aside from Warren, there’s only one of them who is even still an active NFL player — Zach Zenner.

Only one of them (Kendall Hunter) surpassed 1000 yards...in his career (1204).

They average 83.3 yards per season.

Let’s open it up a bit. And include all the best rookie running back preseason performances.

The next two best rushing performances were from Henry Josey (225) and Ryan Nall (223). Neither have played a single NFL regular season snap.

You have to get to the 10th best preseason performance in the past ten years to find a running back who has had a successful NFL career. That’s 2016 2nd round pick Derrick Henry who last season — his third in the NFL — surpassed 1000 yards for the first time (1059), giving him 2293 career rushing yards.

Aside from that, you could go down even to the top 20 and still find no other NFL success stories. Even if you remove Chris Warren from the mix, 11 of the top 20 never even reached that first preseason rushing total over their entire NFL career.

Let’s wrap this up.

I like Chris Warren. I like him a lot, in fact. I think he could be a valuable asset as a bruising short-yardage back for the Raiders. What I am not ready to say is that the Raiders are set at the running back position based on a single preseason performance. He hasn’t shown nearly enough to warrant that kind of confidence from anyone making real decisions as to what’s best for an NFL team.

Adding a starter is still a must. Whether that’s bringing back Marshawn Lynch, signing Isaiah Crowell (who is visiting today), drafting a running back (though preferably not over defense high in the draft), or a combination of those things.

All right, so let’s pose that question again...

Poll

Should the Raiders just roll with Chris Warren III at running back?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Yes, based on what I saw from him last preseason I’m still convinced he is the workhorse the Raiders need
    (696 votes)
  • 78%
    No, we haven’t seen enough from him yet so bringing in a proven starter is still a must
    (2479 votes)
3175 votes total Vote Now