Pros, Cons, and a Summary of DeAndre Washington
- Shifty runner, elusive in the open field
- Excellent footwork and lateral agility
- Impressive burst/acceleration
- Great vision, often cuts back to find a lane
- Decisive runner, one cut and go
- Outstanding balance
- Contributes in the passing game
- Capable and willing blocker
- Severely undersized at 5’8″, 204 lbs.
- Spread offense; needs to adjust to an NFL scheme
- Questionable ball security
- Route-running can be lackadaisical
- Struggles running between tackles
- Handful of drops as a receiver
- Long speed is good but not great
Washington is an interesting player, with a quality all-around game that helped him produce two outstanding seasons as Texas Tech’s starting running back.
With nearly 1,500 rushing yards and a 6.4 yards per carry average, along with 41 catches, it’s difficult for a running back with those numbers in a Power 5 conference to fly under the radar, but Washington managed to do just that.
Most of that is thanks to his small stature, which at 5’8″ and 204 lbs., is certainly a concern when projecting his success at the next level. There have been success stories of running backs of similar size, but they are few and far between.
But after watching five games for this breakdown, I think Washington has enough ability to take his chances of being a successful NFL running back seriously.
What stands out the most is how shifty and elusive he is. In the open field and in 1-on-1 situations, Washington often made would-be tacklers look foolish. His excellent footwork, change of direction ability and lateral agility all contribute here as well.
Washington has great burst, and he uses it to shoot through holes or to quickly cut up field. His ability to slow down or stop, and then to re-accelerate is quite impressive and very fun to watch.
He also has great vision, often finding a lane and using a quick cut to find his way over. If a run is up the middle but it’s clogged up, he can quickly diagnose the situation and create extra yards by bouncing the run to the outside.
One thing in particular I really liked is how decisive of a runner Washington is. He doesn’t waste his time dancing around and running east/west. He finds his lane, makes a cut and gets upfield.
Washington can contribute in the passing game as well. He caught 124 passes in four seasons at Texas Tech, and certainly will be utilized on passing downs in Oakland.
While he has plenty of strengths, there are several things he needs to improve on.
Most of Washington’s positive runs took place outside of the tackles. Running up the middle isn’t his forte, as it’s tough for him to power through traffic. He can squeeze through a tight lane — which is a benefit — but overall, this isn’t going to be where Washington makes his money.
Statistically, ball security isn’t that much of an issue — only two fumbles on 421 rushing attempts in 2015 — but on film, he can be careless with the football, keeping it too far from his body. Combined with just 9″ hands, it’s a surprise he didn’t fumble more often. So this is something that he’ll need to be mindful of as he transitions to the NFL.
He’ll also need to adjust to running in an NFL scheme. Virtually every single run in his college career came out of the Shotgun, so this is something that will take some time getting used to.
Even though he was quite productive as a receiver, a lot of that was by design of Texas Tech’s offense. His routes had a tendency to be lazy, and he also struggled a bit with dropped passes.
With 4.49 speed, he has good but not great long speed. That’s a quality 40-yard dash time, but that does somewhat limit his “home-run hitting” ability, so to speak. He didn’t break off too many huge runs at Texas Tech, so that isn’t something to expect in the NFL.
And lastly, there is the concern with his size. This is likely the biggest reason why he fell to the fifth-round, as NFL teams love physical tools, and players without them tend to fall in the draft. His lack of size did seem to hurt him some in college, but it likely will be a bigger factor at the next level, with bigger, stronger, faster players on defense.
One area where this will be true is in blocking. Washington is a capable and willing blocker, but picking up NFL edge rushers is a whole ‘nother story. So that will be a tough adjustment to make. It will also be interesting to see how his ability to break tackles translates.
While we are on the subject of size and speed, let’s take a closer look at a few things.
The only running back Reggie McKenzie has drafted during his time in Oakland is Latavius Murray — who is an athletic freak — so there aren’t any thresholds to use as a baseline to compare Washington to previous running backs McKenzie has drafted.
However, Washington was a senior — something McKenzie values — and he is an EXOS athlete. The Raiders have staff members that were previously employees of EXOS (an athlete training and performance company). This is something I explained in further detail in a different article.
With that being said, I am curious about Jack Del Rio’s influence on this pick. Washington is physically and athletically quite similar to Maurice Jones-Drew, who the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted in the second-round while Del Rio was the Head Coach.
They are nearly identical in size, with MJD having the slight edge in four categories, while Washington has slightly better numbers in four other categories.
As his athletic chart towards the top of the page points out, Washington also draws comparisons to DeAngelo Williams, Ray Rice, and Brian Westbrook. So there are several running backs with similar profiles that have had a lot of success in the NFL, so that definitely gives some reason to be optimistic about Washington’s future.
During the Senior Bowl, Washington got to prove himself against top talent, and really stood out all week long.
And obviously Reggie McKenzie is a big fan of his. Per the team’s website:
"“DeAndre, he’s more than just a third-down back. He can pound it up in there. The Raider Nation will find out fast just how physical he is. We think he’s a complete back, and when he gets out in space, he can make you look silly. He can catch the ball, but he can run between the tackles as well as well as bouncing it outside. We think he’s the total package as a runner. We really like him.”"
So the team thinks Washington can be more than just a complementary back, and I definitely agree with that. He has a nice all-around game, with his size being the biggest obstacle he needs to overcome.
He’ll immediately step in as the #2 RB and should see plenty of work on third-down, and likely on special teams. As a shifty, elusive player, he might even see some reps in camp as a kick or punt returner.
Oakland might have been the best place Washington could have ended up. With an elite offensive line and a dynamic passing game, he should have plenty of opportunity to thrive when he’s on the field.