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Sun, Feb 7, 2016

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Raiders backfield a black hole to avoid

By Larry Hartstein | Senior Analyst
RB Maurice Jones-Drew isn't guaranteed the starting job with his new team, the Raiders. (AP Images)

The three-year, $7.5 million contract the Raiders gave Maurice Jones-Drew includes just $1.2 million guaranteed, and the team can cut MJD next offseason without penalty. He did not get starter's money.

He got the kind of deal that says he'll compete with Darren McFadden, not be handed the starting job. Coaches might rotate them to try to prevent them from breaking down. Or they could give second-year back Latavius Murray meaningful snaps too, if they really want to let talent decide.

This backfield is shaping up as one huge mess. Will the aging MJD, the injury-plagued McFadden or the unproven Murray emerge? We haven't even mentioned Marcel Reece. He'll bleed Fantasy value from the other backs with his pass catching (84 receptions last two years).

Jones-Drew averaged 3.4 yards per carry last season. McFadden has been even worse, averaging 3.3 each of the past two years. In fact, McFadden ranked 54th among 55 RBs in Pro Football Focus' 2013 rankings. His 1.9 yards after contact per carry barely edged Willis McGahee's 1.8.

As of now, Jones-Drew makes CBS Sports rankings in Flex territory (29th-33rd), with McFadden lower still and Murray not among the top 60. Murray lost a lot of his appeal when Oakland added Jones-Drew. But Murray still is worth a late-round flier: the running backs above him are no lock to last the season.

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