Raiders Draft

Why Drafting a Running Back in the Mid Rounds Will Pay Dividends for the Raiders

Raiders Draft: Night 2 of the 2020 NFL Draft Combine featured a dynamic running back batch. While the wide receiver class was the talk of media and pundits alike last Thursday, the running backs proved that they deserve some conversations as well. While some say taking a running back in the first round is questionable in today’s pass-happy NFL, you will not find many in Raider Nation that regret 2019 24th overall pick Josh Jacobs. As great as Jacobs was as a rookie, preservation and management of his workload will be a critical facet to sustain and maximize his career.

With that being said, ample assistance was on display in Indianapolis on Friday night.

The Raiders need more thunder behind Jacobs, and Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday night showed that there is plenty in the upcoming running back draft group.

A.J. Dillon – Boston College Eagles

 

♦ Height: 6-0 3/8”

♦ Weight: 247 pounds

♦ Hand: 9 5/8”

♦ Arm: 31 5/8”

♦ Wingspan: 77 5/8”

First up is a running back from general manager Mike Mayock’s Alma Mater, Boston College. On Friday night, Dillon weighed in as the heaviest running back in the group at 247 pounds. Combined with being six feet tall, you would assume that he may be slightly less athletic than his peers. but he defies logic as he was the top performer in the vertical jump and broad jump at the running back position. In addition, he also ranked top five in the bench press as well. That type of athleticism, mixed with physical strength proved to be a challenge for defenders as he averaged 5.2 yards per carry in his three-year collegiate career. Simply put, he’s a freight train you don’t want to be on the wrong side of.

As the Eagle’s all-time leading rusher in both yardage (4,382) and rushing touchdowns (38), Mayock’s affiliates from Boston College will have every detail on the New London, Connecticut native. If the Raiders want pure physicality behind Jacobs, A.J. Dillon provides an enticing solution between rounds three and five.

Related: Last PFF mock had the Raiders going offense and defense in the first round

Clyde Edwards-Helaire – Louisiana State University Tigers

 

♦ Height: 5-7 2/8”

♦ Weight: 207 pounds

♦ Hand: 9 5/8”

♦ Arm: 29”

♦ Wingspan: 70 5/8”

Instead of brute force and sheer size Dillon, LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire can provide a punch in much smaller form. As the second smallest back in this upcoming draft class, Helaire had a top top five placement in the vertical jump, which was followed by a top 10 finish in the broad jump on Friday night. He had a good start and then moved on to quickly remind everyone why he was the Tigers starting running back once he the position drills started.

For the record, the drill listed above is new to the Combine as of this year; however, Edwards-Helaire made it look effortless. He didn’t stop his domination at that drill though.

In the route above, you can see his fluidity and crispness, which was a mainstay of his game in his three years at LSU. Also, his smooth footwork enabled him to average 8.6 yards per reception. While most think his smaller stature relegates him to a receiving role, he did rush for 1,414 yards with 16 touchdowns in 2019. Simply, he is a man that plays larger than himself.

All in all, Edwards-Helaire is the whole package and is capable of doing any task required at a high level if given the chance. His low center of gravity mixed with his elusiveness at 207 pounds makes him a tough assignment to bring down no matter where he’s at on the field. Another player with a championship pedigree will be high on the Raiders draft board and has the potential to be one of their third round selections.

Zack Moss – Utah Utes

 

♦ Height: 5-9 3/8”

♦ Weight: 223 pounds

♦ Hand: 9 2/8”

♦ Arm: 31 2/8”

♦ Wingspan: 75 4/8”

In terms of size, Moss is in between Dillon and Edwards-Helaire. The cousin of former wide receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss is seeking the re-establishment of their bloodline in the NFL. However, he didn’t have the greatest of showings on Friday night. He finished in the top 20 of the 40 yard dash and bench press. Outside of that, he had a relatively quiet night and suffered an injury midway through the workouts but still continued. Nonetheless, a run of the mill combine performance does not tell Moss’ whole story. Throughout his four year career at Utah, he amassed 4,067 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry in his college career. Impressive numbers, but what’s more convincing is the manner in which he runs with the football. The Hialeah Gardens, Florida native possesses excellent ball carrier vision and lower body strength that wears down opponents over the course of a game.

When you watch him run, he constantly moves forward despite initial contact. Versus BYU in 2019, the last task their defense wanted was to struggle with bringing down Moss in the fourth quarter. The ability to wear down a defense can be overpowering, just ask any team that played against Titans running back Derrick Henry in the second half of the 2019 season. Moss has the potential to be the perfect back to come in and grind yards out late in games when Jacobs needs a quick substitution. Look for him to be a round four to five round target for the Silver and Black.

Raiders Draft Honorable Mention: Sewo Olonilua – TCU Horned Frogs

 

♦ Height: 6-2 5/8”

♦ Weight: 232 pounds

♦ Hand: 10”

♦ Arm: 32 1/8”

♦ Wingspan: 78 1/8”

Olonilua is a physical specimen, and his size is noticeable at first glance. On Friday night, he was the bench-press runner up with 25 repetitions. He has the speed as well, as he finished with a 4.66 second 40-yard dash. Not earth-shattering speed, but still impressive for his size. When he is focused and patient, he is a problem.

The problem with Olonilua, more often than not, is the fact he is a very raw runner. Not polished in the sense his ball carrier vision is questionable and that he received a felony drug charge in May of 2019. Hence, the reason for an honorable mention. For a team to take a chance on him before the fifth round of the draft is a risk. His off-field issues could push him to the point where he isn’t even drafted.

Raiders Draft: In Review

The first three backs listed above all have redeeming qualities and would be more than suitable backups to Josh Jacobs and Jalen Richard. The ability to preserve Jacobs will be pivotal to the Raiders success for years to come and it would be in the team’s best interest to select one of them should they not sign a back in free agency. At the occurrence of failing to sign a back in free agency or draft one before round five, Sewo Olonilua is a calculated risk that may yield production.

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