Oakland Raiders Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Running Back
The Oakland Raiders running back position will be host to one of the roster’s most heated competitions over the course of preseason action.
Veterans Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden should see the majority of the carries, but the talented, younger backs on the roster will be in the mix for snaps as well.
Ideally for the Raiders, the competition here—and throughout the rest of the roster—brings out the best in those involved.
Here is a full breakdown and depth chart analysis of the Raiders running back position heading into the 2014 season.
No. 4: Kory Sheets
Coming to the Raiders as a free-agent addition from the Canadian Football League, Kory Sheets will be an interesting player to watch throughout training camp and the preseason.
In the 2013 season, he tallied 1,598 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 15 games, helping his Saskatchewan Roughriders to a Grey Cup title.
With the CFL being the three-down league that it is, and thus often centered around the passing game, rushing numbers like that become all the more noteworthy.
While a transition from the CFL to the NFL can be a difficult one, there are a number of players that have seen their careers take off after a few years north of the border.
Unfortunately for Sheets, he joins a rather crowded backfield in Oakland. However, depth at running back is extremely important for any team, and he will have every opportunity to show what he is capable of now back in the NFL.
No. 3: Latavius Murray
After spending his rookie season on injured reserve, Latavius Murray will have the opportunity to push his way into the running back rotation in 2014.
A sixth-round selection out of Central Florida, he possesses a rare size and speed combination, having run a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at 6’2”, 225 pounds.
In his final season in college, Murray tallied a total of 1,106 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground, with another 231 yards and four touchdowns in the passing game.
As is the case for Sheets, it will be tough for Murray to earn significant snaps over the two veteran backs ahead of him on the depth chart, but that’s what preseason competition is for.
Murray undoubtedly has the physical ability, but it remains to be seen whether or not he can translate that into on-field production in the NFL.
No. 2: Darren McFadden
Talent has never been the issue for Darren McFadden in his six-year NFL career, but rather his ability to stay on the field consistently.
Of course, injuries are a tough thing to control, and especially so as a running back, but teams need to be able to rely on their best players over the course of a season.
Having said that, McFadden is still just 26 years old and—given that he has yet to put together a full season—he likely has more left in the tank than he otherwise would.
Yes, the Raiders opting to bring him back for the 2014 season was somewhat surprising, but it was the right move considering the low-risk, high-reward deal he got.
With Maurice Jones-Drew now in the fold, and even the other running backs further down the depth chart, McFadden can be used as part of a potentially deep rotation at the position.
Sharing carries in such a situation should help to keep McFadden fresh, while the ongoing competition for that starting role should have him at his best throughout this season.
Starter: Maurice Jones-Drew
Heading into his ninth NFL season, at 29 years old, Maurice Jones-Drew joins the Raiders looking to prove he still has plenty left to offer.
Although he has struggled with some injuries in recent seasons, he has still shown flashes of the productive player he established himself as in the years prior.
Now past those injuries and entering a wide-open running back competition, Jones-Drew will have the opportunity to earn the Raiders’ starting job heading into the regular season.
Although this backfield is likely in for a fluid rotation regardless, that chance to compete is something that was attractive to Jones-Drew when joining the Silver and Black.
At this point, Jones-Drew projects to see the most snaps of any back in the group based on his vision, power and ability as a pass protector in the backfield.
Either way, he and McFadden’s running styles complement each other well, and if both can stay healthy throughout the season, the Raiders could have quite the productive group of running backs to carry the offense.