This might be Fargas’ first and last season as a starter in Oakland, but no matter what his future holds, he deserves to go into this upcoming season as the Raiders lead back. Knowing what Fargas offers is why he’ll get the nod Week 1. Head coach Lane Kiffin is smart enough to know that he doesn’t need to start young Darren McFadden to get the rookie plenty of touches. Although McFadden likes blocking, and is fairly decent at it, Fargas is far more stronger (27 reps at the 2003 NFL combine, 13 reps for McFadden 3 months ago), experienced, and confident to take on the every down duties of a No.1 running back. Look for the drafting of McFadden to light a fire under Huggy Bear’s son, and for him to do everything he can to keep the Raiders from taking him off the field. Next Up: securing the starting spot with a strong training camp.
No.2 Darren McFadden
I see the 4th overall pick involved with many facets of the Raiders offense this season; very similar to how the New Orleans Saints used Reggie Bush during his rookie year. McFadden flashed his athleticism during May and June, but things will be far different when practice begins a week from today. Instead of trying to get McFadden acclimated to a starting roll, the Raiders need to get him familiarized with the plays that fit his physical gifts, and not his football IQ. He’s got plenty of time to become a wise runnign back, experienced and knowledgeable; this season he needs to read and react without hesitation. I believe McFadden will one day run between the tackles with ease, and block rushers with force, but right now he just needs to tap that amazing athleticism. Yes McFadden will get 10 or so textbook carries a game, but screen passes, sweeps, off-tackle running plays, and even the occasional spot at QB will be where he’ll shine year 1. Next Up: even though he won’t be the featured back in ‘08, training camp should show him how important he will be to this offense.
No.3 Michael Bush
Power is the key to this unproven talent. Bush did as well as any other running back during the last two months, but having dealt with little to no contact throughout that time, it’s hard to say where he’s at. I’d like to see Bush carry the ball around a dozen times every game, but wouldn’t be surprised if he got more. McFadden is going to get his carries and spots no matter how well Bush or Fargas perform in training camp, but Bush could push Fargas from the starting role all the way down to 3rd string. I’m not saying this will happen, just that if Bush does emerge with all the skills that he had before his devastating injury at Louisville, then it’ll be hard for Kiffin to not give him the ball 20 times a game. He’s definitely the wild card in the Raiders back field, with the talent to supplant either of the running backs ahead of him. Although I’ve heard little on Bush’s abilities to pick up NFL rushers, but would be surprised if the 6’3” 250lbs RB has, or ends up having trouble with pass blocking. Next Up: full pads and power rushing starts on July 24th.
Louis Rankin – The undrafted free-agent from the University of Washington did pretty well during OTA’s and mini-camps, but don’t expect him to crack the roster. I expect the rookie to push current practice squad running back Quinton Smith off the team.
LaMont Jordan – Yes I put Jordan behind Rankin for a reason, because the UWub product is far more valuable. I posted some comments from Warren Sapp earlier this offseason on Jordan, and for me, that was the last straw. Jordan should be gone before the start of the season one way or another. I think the Raiders should trade him kind of the way the Denver Nuggets just traded Marcus Camby; for nothing. Why take any kind of cap hit if you can trade him? The Saints, Patriots and the Chicago Bears have all met with the Jordan, but the Raiders want a draft pick. I think, like Camby, the Raiders should send him to either the Bears or the Saints for pretty much nothing. I read one article by a complete moron (Jordan Walters, WagerWeb.com) who thinks the Raiders would be acting like jerks if they held onto LaMont until the last weeks of training camp. But it’s the opposite; they would be treating Jordan with the same amount of respect that he showed the Raider franchise. LaMont Jordan, a commitment to failure.
No.1 FB Justin Griffith – I can’t just keep writing the same praises over and over; can I? Sorry if you’ve heard this already, but Griffith does everything well. He blocks as well, if not better than any other pass catching fullback in the league. His speed (4.5 40) and athletic ability overshadow most linebackers who try to cover him, and has the strength to chip any rusher from his path to the quarterback. Training camp just marks another chance for him to improve his skills.
No.2 FB Oren O’Neil – The second year fullback did well last season, providing the Raiders with a prototypical lead blocker. O’Neil did very well with run blocking, and although he has a lot to improve on in pass protection, he has the skills to overcome last years’ setbacks.