Recently, the SBNation mothership did a four-part series ranking each NFL team’s offensive skill groups. The Raiders’ strongest group, the wide receivers, came in sixth (which might be a little low) but the running backs group came in 17th.
This is not a ranking of which team has the best running back, but rather which team has the best group of them overall. The 49ers came in first, with their group of Matt Breida, Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman and fullback Kyle Juszczyk. That’s three guys who are mostly fungible and one of the better fullbacks in football. We don’t know which of the three main backs will carry the load (if any), but since the Niners have basically nothing at WR (with apologies to Deebo Samuel) we know they will run a lot.
In second place is the Patriots with their stable of Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead and James Develin. Good luck getting any fantasy production out of this group, because Bill Belichick picks one of them at random to get 20 carries each game and for all we know he’ll bring back Jonas Gray and he’ll get five touchdowns in Week 1.
The Raiders’ running backs group, ranked 17, is listed as Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington and Doug Martin. When you look at the other running back groups, this one compares favorably, particularly if Chris Warren steps up and seizes a role in the rotation. Josh Jacobs has a ton of potential as a feature back and Doug Martin has a fairly high floor in the Raiders’ system as he performed well when given a major role in the offense last year.
Oakland is sandwiched between the Jets at 16 with Le’veon Bell and a bunch of scrubs (although since that piece was written they’ve resigned Bilal Powell) and the Lions at 18 with Kerryon Johnson and pass-catching savant Theo Riddick.
The Raiders have some potential to outperform their ranking here if Josh Jacobs turns out to be as good as the coaching staff thinks he will be and if Warren displays some of the form that got Raider Nation so excited about him in the 2018 preseason, though it’s hard to count on things we haven’t seen in the NFL regular season. Also, a lot of the running back group’s success will depend on the offensive line’s blocking, so hopefully we see some improvement and good health from Kolton Miller and the nasty blocking Oakland is banking on from Richie Incognito and Trent Brown.
We know the Raiders will pass a lot with all their shiny new receiver toys, but a solid running game could open up the downfield offense even more. If, as this ranking suggests, the Raiders have even an average running game, the offense will be incredibly hard to stop on a consistent basis.