Editor’s note: Scott Bair will provide daily content previewing the NFL Draft, including position breakdowns, news stories, mock drafts and more. Here, he analyzes draft prospects at receiver, and whether the Raiders should select one.
Latavius Murray did the lion’s share of Raiders rushing duties, probably more than he or the coaching staff expected. He took 79 percent of the team’s carries, a whopping 266, third most in the NFL. Many of them were stellar, but too many were ineffective as the season wore on and his per carry average plummeted.
Ineffectiveness made the Raiders became reliant on Murray. Roy Helu and Taiwan Jones underwhelmed, making running back an offseason upgrade worth exploring. Murray needs a reliable partner to improve the running game.
Head coach Jack Del Rio said running back wasn’t a “glaring need,” but upgrades were explored in free agency. They didn’t sign anyone and are hoping for more from Helu especially, but the NFL draft should be a spot were talent is added.
Impactful talent is available in throughout the draft. The Raiders could certainly pluck one to help provide carry balance and take some load off Murray.
Who’s here: Latavius Murray, Roy Helu Jr., Taiwan Jones, Marcel Reece, Jamize Olawale, George Atkinson III
Draft needs: The Raiders could use some help here. Exactly how high a pick would the front office use on a rusher? Will they look for elite talent atop the draft? Will they mine talent from lower rounds, as they did snagging Murray in the sixth round three years ago? General manager Reggie McKenzie could look for value lower down the list, finding a back complimentary to Murray’s skill set. They could go for a top talent and try to upgrade as well. It will be interesting to see when they pluck a running back, or if they stand pat and focus on other areas. Either strategy is possible, though a rushing selection seems likely at this stage.
Good fits: Running backs are rarely options early in the first round. Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott is such a transcendent talent. He’s widely considered a top-flight talent capable of an immediate impact, with the vision, burst and powerful to be a dominant rusher. He’s linked to teams above the Raiders– Dallas (No. 4) and Philadelphia (No. 8) seem supremely interested – but he would be hard to pass up at No. 14 overall. The Raiders are expected to take the best player available, and this top 10 talent would certainly fit the bill when the Raiders are on the clock.
The Raiders could look for rushers in the next round, especially someone contrasting Murray’s slashing style. Alabama’s Derrick Henry is a bruiser tough to bring down with momentum on his side, and could provide thunder to Murray’s lightning.
There is plenty of value later in the draft and UCLA’s Paul Perkins seems like an impactful talent available in the third or fourth round. Draft analysts say he’s a competitor and a natural runner who can make people miss. He would do well as part of a committee, and the Raiders could use one.
Cal’s Daniel Lasco has visited with the Raiders, and is an athletic player who could help as a rusher or a receiver and provide value
Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams could be a strong pick with explosiveness who can be a third-down back with bigger-than-expected size. He missed 2015 with injury, but has impressed during the pre-draft process.
Alabama’s Kenyan Drake could be a later-round value. He has injury issues, but could be a solid third-down back the team needs. He also has experience returning kicks, a talent the Raiders are looking for.