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Who Is Oakland Raiders' Most Underrated Playmaker?

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2015

Roy Helu
Roy HeluNoah Berger/Associated Press

It’s clear running back Roy Helu stands alone as the Oakland Raiders' most underrated playmaker after spending significant time dissecting his game tape.

Running back Latavius Murray is expected to take over the lead role in the backfield, per SFBay.ca writer Sergio Portela, but Helu has the tools to contribute in a multitude of ways as the No. 2 RB on the depth chart. Raider Nation shouldn’t count Trent Richardson out of the RB committee. However, Helu shows a tremendous amount of potential when breaking down his game in film study.

There’s a reason Helu compiled nearly identical rushing and receiving yard totals in his four-year career. Now, let’s go to the film to find out why.

Film Study Session 1 

In a Week 13 game against the Indianapolis Colts, Helu exhibited quickness, good decision-making, vision and athleticism all in one play: 

Helu is lined up next to quarterback Colt McCoy in shotgun formation.

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Credit: NFL Game Rewind

He breaks into his route and spots a weak point in the defense.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

He decides to fake the defender out of his cleats by making a snap decision to break inside rather than extend the route outside.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Helu makes the catch but doesn’t crumble at the sight of four Colts defenders. He’s looking for the touchdown.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

He reaches his destination with a quick hurdle to evade the safety. Six points on a 21-yard reception.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Film Study Session 2

Helu displays more good decision-making and vision with some power running against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17:

He is lined up as the featured RB in this particular formation.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

He takes the handoff and runs right in an end-around for wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Instead, Helu fakes the handoff and keeps running right. He saw an opening and improvised.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

He breaks it outside and turns on the afterburners to attack the running lane.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Three Cowboys defenders are unable to corral Helu as he runs through their weak arm tackles.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Finally, he drags cornerback Orlando Scandrick across the first-down marker on a 14-yard run.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

The key to unlocking Helu’s potential like a video game cheat code focuses on getting him in space, whether it’s a designed run or pass. He has the speed to attack running lanes with urgency and uses his finesse or power to grind out the extra yards.

Why Helu Deserves More Touches

In comparison to Helu, no RB has done more with less as a playmaker. Here are the production numbers of the top five receiving RBs in 2014.

Top 5 Receiving RBs in 2014
PlayerTargetsReceptionsYardsYards After Contact Per Attempt
Le'Veon Bell100838542.44
Matt Forte1181028082.20
Fred Jackson82664942.26
Roy Helu44424773.43
Shane Vereen72534471.83
Source: Pro Football Focus

Helu stands out among the five RBs listed above for three reasons. First, he was targeted far less than the other four players but still produced high-end receiving yards for a RB. Secondly, Helu’s hands are impeccable, and he catches just about everything thrown his way, hauling in 42 of the 44 targets. He's nearly automatic when he’s the intended receiver. Finally, he’s incredibly elusive with ball in his hands.

Helu led the league in yards after contact per attempt among RBs with at least 60 touches, which combines rushing attempts and receptions. Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, aka Beast Mode, averaged 2.96 yards after contact per attempt. The guy hoping to reinvent himself as Beast Mode 2.0, Richardson, averaged 2.09 yards after contact in his best year with the Cleveland Browns.

The Raiders should take a long look at the No. 2 spot as an open competition between Helu and Richardson if Murray holds on to the lead role. 

Logically, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will attempt to muster up some of that exceptional talent Richardson displayed at Alabama behind a bigger offensive line. However, he shouldn’t ignore what Helu brings to the table.

For any doubters on Helu’s ability to move the chains in a variety of positions, take some time to view his film and statistics.

In three out of four games shouldering the load with 20-plus carries, he amassed 100 yards or more. As the film study illustrated, he’s a dynamic offensive weapon as a high-IQ, quick and elusive ball-carrier as well as a reliable receiver.

What are your thoughts on Roy Helu? You can follow Maurice Moton on Twitter and give your input!

Advanced statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com and Pro Football Focus.

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