Nov 20, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) scores on an 11-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Running Back: Projected Starter – Latavius Murray
Latavius Murray got limited use last season, for one reason or another. When he finally got his opportunity, he burst onto the scene in a big way. He was the first player in the entire NFL to score a rushing touchdown against the Chiefs, and he did it twice on four carries, racking up over 100 yards. No player can maintain those types of video game numbers, and his yard per carry came down to 5.2 by the end of the season. (note: Any running back in the NFL would love the season average to above 5 ypc).
I believe Murray was the player with the biggest impact on the offense last season, and it can be seen in the Raiders’ three wins. In the first win against KC, Murray was able to give the Raiders a big enough lead on four carries for the defense to hold strong and give Derek Carr the chance to pick up his first game winning drive.
In the wins against San Francisco, and Buffalo, Murray had 23 carries in each game. Murray didn’t score, but he made the run game threatening and forced defenses to respect it, opening up the field for Derek Carr and the passing game.
Is there an upgrade needed at this position? I don’t think so. At this point, Murray has shown he deserves a shot to be the feature back of the Raiders.
Will there be an upgrade available? Free agency could have an upgrade coming in the form of DeMarco Murray from the Cowboys. Murray is coming off of a 2000 yard season for the Cowboys, and finished the season averaging 4.7 yard per carry, and 15 touchdowns.
He’s pushing the age where running back production usually drops off, but he’s most likely got a few good seasons left in him (assuming he can stay healthy). Given the Cowboys’ salary cap situation, and that Dez Bryant is also going to be a free agent, it may be very possible that Murray becomes a cap casualty.
If the Raiders were to pick him up, I believe they would have the most dangerous back field in all of football. Combining the two Murray boys with Reece, and the Raiders would have the run game that some people were expecting MJD and McFadden to provide last year.
If Reggie McKenzie does decide to go after a running back in free agency, D. Murray is really the only option. There are a few older players who could come onto the team and keep L. Murray fresh, but if that’s the plan, then Reggie might as well just resign McFadden for another year. Once Murray began taking the bulk of the snaps, McFadden’s production in terms of yards per carry went up from 3.38 in the first 10 games, to 3.9 in the last 6. Twice in that stretch McFadden averaged 6 ypc or above.
This year’s crop of incoming rookie running backs does have a few interesting prospects, and with the perceived value of running backs trending down lately, there may be a few the Raiders could pick up later in the draft. I’m talking about third round talent and later when it comes to running backs, because lets face it, Reggie McKenzie wants to keep his job and if he drafts a running back at number four in the first round, or early in the second round, I’m betting Mr. Davis would have Reggie’s termination made public before Roger Goodell could even announce the player’s name.
Mike Davis out of South Carolina could fall to the third, or possibly fourth round. He’s graded as a second round talent, but he had some nagging (not too serious) injuries that slowed his performance down, and a few key fumbles that could drop his draft stock. He’s patient, shows good burst, and agility, while still being strong enough to shed tackles in the second level. If Reggie chooses to add depth to the running back position, Davis would be a strong addition.
Next: Offseason Upgrades: Fullback