Up until a couple weeks ago, the Raiders didn’t have a starting running back. Since then they added Isaiah Crowell who has some 51 NFL starts under his belt and who averaged 4.8 yards per carry for the Jets last season. He may be able to be the starter in Oakland, but as Mike Mayock noted, Crowell is on a one-year “prove-it” deal, so he is not considered the long term answer at this time.
Crowell should be a valuable addition, but even with his starting experience, he has never been considered a true every-down workhorse back. The team has Jalen Richard, but Jon Gruden likes him mostly as a receiver out of the backfield as opposed to part of a two-headed monster.
The answer could be in this draft. These guys best fit the bill.
David Montgomery, Iowa St – Round 2-3
Height: 5-10, Weight: 222
There is no running back in this class who has a more impressive skillset top to bottom than David Montgomery. He has the size, speed, agility, instincts, pass blocking, and yards after contact to be an every down NFL starting running back. Not to mention, he had some breathtaking jukes that made defenders look downright ridiculous. It wasn’t a now-and-then thing either. He forced an incredible 100 missed tackles according to Pro Football Focus; best in this draft.
The big question mark here is if the Raiders would take him at 35 overall and if not if they would make trades to get another second round pick or back into the third round. He is expected to go in the lower second/upper third round range and if the Raiders could find a way to get him there, they would get probably the best all-around back in this draft.
Miles Sanders, Penn State – Round 3
Height: 5-10, Weight: 211
I wouldn’t say there is a huge drop-off from Montgomery to the next tier where Sanders resides but it doesn’t take much. The Penn State Nittany Lion has decent size with outstanding speed (4.49 40) and agility (6.89 3-cone) to go with it. He has all the traits of a back capable of carrying the load for an NFL team, with no glaring weakness that would force him to head to the sideline in certain situations, whether it be short yardage or passing downs.
Elijah Holyfield, Georgia – Round 3-4
Height: 5-10, Weight: 217
John Gruden has said many times that he values pass blocking great deal and that’s an area in which Holyfield excels. He doesn’t have great speed (4.78 40) and yet he averaged an impressive 6.4 yards per carry for the Bulldogs last season. Where he lacks is as a receiver, but the Raiders have Jalen Richard for that.
Bryce Love, Stanford – Round 5
Height: 5-8, Weight: 200
Any team who can afford the patience to wait for Bryce Love to recover from his torn ACL could be gettin an outstanding talent in this draft. Love suffered the injury in his final game at Stanford, upending what figured to be his heading to the NFL as a highly regarded day two selection. Now the injury could cause him to be out anywhere from part of training camp to sitting out his entire rookie season. If he did return for camp, you’d have to assume he would require some time to return to the form he showed in college that had him average 6.8 yards per carry with 30 touchdowns.
Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska – Round 5-6
Height: 6-0, Weight: 235
He’s a load at 6-0, 235 pounds and yet can still move and gain separation. His senior season was a breakout one, averaging 7.0 yards per carry and putting up 12 touchdowns. He had just 26 more carries in 2018 than in 2017 and yet more than doubled his yards total and four times as many touchdowns. You always want to see the best numbers as the latest ones, though NFL teams typically want to see something that suggest steady progress to know it isn’t a fluke. He also struggles in pass protection, which could be an issue when it comes to being a 3-down back. With the potential he’s shown, he is absolutely worth a pick in the 5th or 6th round.
Editor’s note: Yes, we realize the Raiders don’t currently have a selection in rounds 3 and 6. If a prospect is listed in that round it’s either with the assumption the Raiders would trade into that round or take them in the following round should they still be on the board.