Oakland Raiders Running Back Breakdown and Position Analysis
There are very few positions on the depth chart that could waver anywhere between the team's strongest position and their weakest, but, for the Oakland Raiders, that's exactly where the running back position lies.
If healthy, Darren McFadden remains Oakland's most dangerous weapon.
Having played just 19 games in the past two seasons, however, he's also their most fragile player.
Behind McFadden are two newcomers—veteran Rashad Jennings and rookie Latavius Murray, making the Oakland backfield something of a mystery.
Once considered to be on the track to stardom, Darren McFadden has battled the injury bug throughout his career, never playing more than 13 games in any of his five seasons.
Then again, Run-DMC is still just 25 years old.
How many games does Darren McFadden play for the Raiders this season?
McFadden's best year came in 2010 when he broke the 1,000 yard mark for the first (and only) time, rushing for 1,157 yards with seven touchdowns. He also had an astonishing 5.2 yards per carry.
The following year, McFadden actually improved his rushing average to 5.4 yards per carry, but another injury derailed his season after just seven games.
So what can Oakland expect from the insanely talented, yet incredibly fragile, McFadden?
For one, they can expect to learn a lot about his future with the team.
As a free agent after this season, McFadden has a lot to prove heading into the offseason about whether he can stay healthy for an entire season.
The good news for Oakland is that they're slated to have plenty of cap space, so signing a healthy and productive McFadden doesn't figure to be an issue.
On the flip side, however, if McFadden were to go down injured once again, who do the Raiders have waiting in the wings?
Coming in to back up McFadden is fifth-year man Rashad Jennings out of Liberty, who has spent all four seasons of his career backing up Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville.
While fantasy football owners know Jennings well, having seen plenty of action behind the fragile MJD, Jennings hasn't always been as effective as most would have hoped.
In three seasons with the Jaguars (Jennings missed the entire 2011 season), Jennings has amassed 944 yards and seven touchdowns.
In 10 games last season, however, Jennings averaged just 2.8 yards per carry on 101 carries.
The similarities between Jennings and last season's veteran addition, Mike Goodson, are numerous, and I think as far as expectations go, Goodson is a good place to start.
Both guys were career backups who had shown flashes of potential but not enough to earn them a starting job anywhere.
Like Goodson, Jennings will be a serviceable fill-in for McFadden should he go down with an injury, but I have little hope for Jennings to make a major impact this season.
Sitting third on the depth chart is Oakland's sixth-round pick from Central Florida, Latavius Murray.
Having played four seasons at Central Florida, Murray is coming off the best season of his career in which he rushed for 1,106 yards with 15 touchdowns. He also added four receiving touchdowns.
While no team expects a whole lot out of a sixth-round pick immediately, there is always hope that Murray could be this year's version of a guy like Alfred Morris.
At 6'2", 233 pounds, Murray will provide the big back that Oakland has long been lacking in the power running game.
Despite his size, however, the aspect of his game that stuck out to coaches during rookie camp was actually Murray's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
With the size that he has, if Murray can establish himself as a reliable third-down back, the rookie could find himself on the field more often than expected.
While many are hoping that Murray turns into a diamond in the rough, we have to remember that there's a reason he lasted until the sixth round.
Yes, the reports are positive about him after rookie camps, but, ultimately, he's nothing more than a guy to watch during the preseason to see how he performs.
If he can impress the coaches in real games against real opponents, it's feasible to think he could play himself into the role of backup.
Then again, it's only May, so we've got a long way to go.
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