Laying out a fool-proof plan to replace Latavius Murray
The Oakland Raiders can follow this three-step plan to replace Latavius Murray, if they lose him to free agency this offseason.
Latavius Murray will be a tough player to replace, if the Oakland Raiders are unable to re-sign him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next month.
If they do end up losing Murray to another team, the Raiders can effectively replace him in three simple steps.
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Step 1: Build up Washington, Richard to take on larger roles in Year 2
The biggest thing the Raiders need to do is prepare DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard for bigger roles in 2017. They were both change-of-pace backs as rookies; now they need to step up and lead the charge. There may be games in which they are expected to carry the majority of the load on the ground.
Washington proved he can handle this last season, starting two games in place of an injured Murray and exploding in Week 16 for 99 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Running behind Oakland's massive offensive line, he may be able to hide the fact that he is slightly undersized.
Richard is built just like Washington but hasn't had the opportunities to prove that he can carry a heavy workload. His duties included a lot of returns and receiving. It will be interesting to see whether the Raiders cut back on some of that stuff moving forward to keep him fresher and give him more carries.
Step 2: Sign an older big back in free agency to a team-friendly deal
The second thing the Raiders need to do is sign a veteran running back that will come at a cheaper rate than Murray, who is 26 years old and coming off back-to-back seasons in which he led the team in rushing. For a short-term replacement, Oakland should be on the lookout for a back who has a similar build but is a little bit past his prime.
LeGarrette Blount should be the team's top target. If the Raiders can sign him to an affordable deal, they will experience little to no drop-off in production at the running back position. Blount eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career, finishing with 1,168 yards on the ground this past season, and led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns.
Blount would be just as effective as Murray in short-yardage and goal-line situations, but he wouldn't be as good at catching passes out of the backfield. If the Raiders are looking for a more well-rounded back, perhaps a reunion with Rashad Jennings is the better move. He is a similar-sized back who can do a little bit of everything.
Step 3: Draft a large running back in one of the later rounds
Lastly, since backs like Blount or Jennings aren't long-term solutions, the Raiders need to select a big running back in one of the middle to late rounds of this year's draft. This player can spend his rookie season following in the footsteps of whoever the team signs in free agency this spring.
A top target for the Raiders should be James Conner, who was named ACC Player of the Year before injuring his knee and getting diagnosed with cancer in 2015. He returned to the Pittsburgh Panthers, however, for the 2016 season, accumulating 1,394 yards from scrimmage and scoring 20 offensive touchdowns before declaring for the draft.
Another prospect to keep an eye on is D'Onta Foreman out of Texas. If he slips a round or two the Raiders may want to scoop him up, as he's coming off a season in which he rushed for over 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. He's a bruiser who could definitely fit into Oakland's plans at the running back position.
Here's a table that compares size, age and NFL experience for all the running backs mentioned in this article.
|Latavius Murray||6-3||225 lbs.||27||4 years|
|DeAndre Washington||5-8||204 lbs.||23||1 year|
|Jalen Richard||5-8||207 lbs.||23||1 year|
|LeGarrette Blount||6-0||250 lbs.||30||7 years|
|Rashad Jennings||6-1||231 lbs.||31||8 years|
|James Conner||6-2||235 lbs.||21||N/A|
|D'Onta Foreman||6-1||249 lbs.||20||N/A|
Follow Kevin Boilard on Twitter: @247KevinBoilard
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