Anyone who witnessed the Las Vegas Raiders’ running attack during the 2020 campaign could tell it was a bit off. It wasn’t as menacing nor imposing as it was the year before, and this was due to a myriad of reasons. The offensive line was banged up and never got to be 100% healthy for any meaningful stretch of time.
There is no doubt that addressing the issues at right tackle and at the left guard is of the utmost importance. Nevertheless, while Josh Jacobs is an offensive focal point moving forward, the player slots behind him deserve a look.
More than a look, the Raiders need to upgrade those slots this offseason. Devontae Booker played admirably when needed, and shined when he received a decent workload. Though Booker’s stretch from Week 8 through 9 was impressive, his touches trended downward for the rest of the year.
This certainly could’ve been as a result of head coach Jon Gruden progressively abandoning the run game.
Veteran Jalen Richard regrettably saw his impact greatly diminish last year behind Booker. ’30’ has long been one of quarterback Derek Carr’s favorite targets, but 2020 might’ve been Richard’s final run as a Raider. He posted career-low numbers in rushing yards, receiving yards, and rushing attempts.
Is it time the Raiders upgrade at running back?
Booker is set to become a free agent this offseason and Richard is signed through 2021, but he can easily be cut. The Raiders could certainly go after a proven commodity such as Le’Veon Bell as long as the money’s right. Bell’s sample size showing with the Kansas City Chiefs showed he could be relied upon as a number two back.
The key is the money with Bell, and he’s far removed from his days as a Pittsburgh Steeler so this could easily be fool’s gold.
Naturally, if you want new blood, you go to the tree and not the bushel. The Raiders could use a mid-round pick in April on a running back depending on what they do in free agency. Las Vegas should be walking away with a duo early on of either an interior lineman, edge rusher, safety, or cornerback, in no particular order.
Luckily for the Silver and Black, there are plenty of intriguing prospects to be had after the third round that merit consideration. UCLA’s Demetric Felton could be a nice change of pace back considering his skills as a receiver. In 2019, during Felton’s Junior year, he hauled in 55 passes for 594 receiving yards while averaging 10.8 yards per catch.
North Carolina’s Michael Carter also comes to mind as a potential complement to Jacobs. Like Felton, Carter also proved to be two-dimensional in college. He accumulated 25 receptions totaling 267 yards and two receiving touchdowns.
If the Raiders have financial woes, one plausible solution could be to retain Richard considering his familiarity with Carr and Gruden’s offense. The team’s brain trust then drafts a player like Felton and Carter and just like that, the Raiders have a rejuvenated backfield.
With defense taking such precedent, players like Najee Harris won’t be realistic options. So, the latter scenario could go a long way to helping an offense that’ll need to restore the 2019 version of the run game.