With Latavius Murray leaving in free agency, the Oakland Raiders need a new running back. Everyone from Adrian Peterson to Dalvin Cook has mentioned as a possible replacement, but one thing is for sure, they need a new number one back. A controversial replacement is Stanford stand-out, Christian McCaffrey.
Christian McCaffrey Is the Oakland Raiders Missing Piece
The Bad Stuff
It’s almost a guarantee that without even reading this article, the most common comment will be that Christian McCaffrey is too small to be the feature back. The second most common comment will be that he only did ten repetitions at the combine this year.
This implied weakness, paired with his size, have led people to say that McCaffrey is only a two-down back, like a Reggie Bush or a Brian Westbrook. With Latavius Murray leaving, fans would prefer a bigger, more physical back, and McCaffrey is not that.
This article is not trying to convince the reader that McCaffrey is a big, bruising back, because he isn’t. Instead this article is about convincing the reader that McCaffrey is good enough to make Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders overlook that. Starting with the honest truth that the Raiders don’t need a bruising back.
The Back Next Door
The Oakland Raiders already possess a bruising back. It’s not Jalen Richard or DeAndre Washington, but Jamize Olawale. Olawale is 6’1, 240 pounds, and a capable ball-carrier. His longest run was only 17 yards, but the Raiders didn’t really use him like a running back often either.
If the Raiders really need a physical change of pace back, they don’t have to go out and get one. All they have to do is maximize the potential of the bruising back they already have. This leaves the Raiders open to using the other talent for what they really are.
Richard and Washington
The duo of rookie rushers combined for 958 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, with an additional 309 yards and two touchdowns added through the air as well. The duo were effective, but not necessarily dominant. The team still leaned on Latavius Murray for the bulk of the work, giving him more touches than any other back.
But that’s the secret. Last year, with carries and catches, Murray only averaged 16 touches per game. The biggest criticism of McCaffrey is that people don’t believe he can handle 30 touches a game, but the reality is that he wouldn’t have to. Between Olawale, Richard, and Washington, McCaffrey would probably only get what Murray got per game last year. Even in college, McCaffrey touched the ball far more than he would as a member of the Raiders, with 30 touches per game.
Christian McCaffrey can’t do more than ten reps on the bench press, but that’s about the only bad drill he had at the combine. When you compare McCaffrey’s combine to Le’Veon Bell, the best running back in football, it’s not even close.
Le’Veon Bell is arguably the best running back in the NFL today, but McCaffrey’s combine destroyed his. McCaffrey had a faster 40, cone drill, and shuttle time than Bell, and McCaffrey’s broad jump and vertical blew Bell’s away. The only way that Bell was better than McCaffrey was on the bench, and like Shannon Sharpe said, “Are they changing the ball to 225 pounds? If the ball weighs 225, I’m concerned.”
McCaffrey’s cone drill time of 6.57 was the third best at the combine this year. What does the code drill measure? Quickness and agility. McCaffrey ran a 6.57, which was faster than Amari Cooper, Odell Beckham Jr, and Julian Edelman, three of the quickest players in football. In fact, McCaffrey was over a second quicker than Beckham. That’s a kind of athleticism that simply can’t be taught.
What He Brings
In 2015, Christian McCaffrey had arguably the greatest collegiate season of all time. He had 3,864 all purpose yards. That’s the all-time record. In 2015, McCaffrey had over 2,000 yards rushing, 645 receiving yards, and 1,200 yards returning. He scored multiple times on the ground, through the air, and as a returner.
McCaffrey could bring that same explosiveness and versatility to the pros, and more importantly, to the Raiders. McCaffrey doesn’t just give the Raiders a rusher, he gives them so much more. He gives them a slot receiver, a kick returner, and a reliable option for Derek Carr out of the backfield.
It’s true that Latavius Murray was a big back, but he didn’t play like it. He didn’t run over defenders, and he rarely broke off big runs. He was tied for 17th in the league when it came to runs of at least 20 yards. That wasn’t even the most on the team, that honor went to Washington, who had half as many carries. On the season, Murray’s longest run was only 42 yards.
Christian McCaffrey is a home run hitter. When he gets into open space, he has the speed and ability to take it to the house every time. He understands the pro game, and could be an impossibly versatile weapon in Oakland’s offense. Christian McCaffrey could be the missing link that pushes the Raiders from contender to champion. Not to mention, it would be great to see the son of a Denver Bronco wearing Silver and Black.