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Evaluating the Oakland Raiders’ Backfield

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Oakland Raiders Running Game 2016

This season, the Oakland Raiders have established themselves as one of the most explosive offensive teams in the NFL.  They are currently ranked in the top 5 in scoring (27.2 points per game), rushing (127.8 yards per game) and total offense (404.1 yards per game).  Deservedly so, Derek Carr and Amari Cooper have garnered many of the headlines for the Raiders, who find themselves with a 7-2 record and fighting for their first AFC West title since 2002.  Because of this, the Raiders’ ability to run the ball effectively has been an underrated element of their offensive success.  Oakland’s combination of Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington, and Jalen Richard has taken the pressure off of Carr and brought balance to the offense.  Unfortunately, this balanced attack has been frustrating for many fantasy owners looking for more stable production.  Luckily, it appears that after nine weeks, the individual usage of each running back is becoming more predictable and their roles more defined.

Lead running back Latavius Murray came into this season with high expectations after being drafted by many fantasy owners as an RB1.  Thanks to a recent surge in production, Murray is doing his best to meet those lofty expectations.  He is averaging 13.9 fantasy points per game, which currently ranks 11th best among all running backs in fantasy scoring.  He has also scored 8 rushing touchdowns, which is tied for 5th in the league, behind only the league’s most elite running backs such as David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliot.  Murray also leads the Raiders’ backfield in carries (89), targets (24) and red zone opportunities.

Latavius Murray Rushing Receiving
Year Age Team G GS Rush Yds Y/G TD Y/A Fmb Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD Ctch%
2014 24
15 3 82 424 28.3 2 5.2 1 23 17 143 8.4 0 73.90%
2015 25
16 16 266 1066 66.6 6 4 4 53 41 232 5.7 0 77.40%
2016 26
7 6 89 393 56.1 8 4.4 0 24 18 103 5.7 0 75.00%
Career 38 25 437 1883 151 16 13.6 5 100 76 478 20 0 2.263
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While Murray has now fully entrenched himself as the Raiders’ top option, his overall upside is slightly limited.   In the seven games that he has played, Murray has averaged only 38.1 snaps per game.  This places him just 21st among running backs, a far cry from top tier bell cows like Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson who see over 60 snaps per week.  It is evident that rookie DeAndre Washington (19.9 snaps per week) and Jalen Richard (14.8) will continue to cut into Murray’s workload, preventing him from emerging as a true top flight RB1.  Further evidence of Murray’s low ceiling is the fact that he is only carrying the ball 12.7 times per game which ranks just 27th in the league among players who have appeared in 5 or more games.

The good news for Murray is that his usage is on the upswing.  Over the first four weeks of the year, Murray averaged only 10 carries per game.  During this stretch, the Raiders seemed eager to get both Washington and Richard involved early in the year.  Perhaps this was done to keep Murray fresh for the stretch run or maybe it was done to see exactly what they had in their younger running backs.  Fantasy owners had even more reason for concern when Murray missed two games with a toe injury.  However, since returning to the lineup in week 7, Murray has averaged an improved 16.3 carries per game.  He has also scored 5 touchdowns and added 8 receptions.  In his last game, Murray ran wild against the Denver Broncos, rushing for 114 yards and 3 TDs on 20 carries.

It goes without saying that Murray has the most value of the Oakland trio.  Even with Washington and Richard cutting into his weekly usage, fantasy owners can confidently deploy him as a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2.  With Murray’s role apparently stabilized, it is important to evaluate how Washington and Richard will figure into the Raiders’ plans.  Washington will have solid value as the true handcuff for Murray.  He led the team in carries during Murray’s two-game absence and has out-snapped Richard over the course of the season.  Despite the fact that Richard has shown more impressive play-making ability, Washington is the player Murray owners should be targeting in the case of an emergency.  Richard is a player whose real life value will never be reflected in his fantasy numbers.  He gives the Raiders an explosive change-of-pace back as evidenced by his 6.6 yard-per-touch average.  In terms of fantasy relevance, however, Richard is only a flex level flier for extremely desperate teams who may be dealing with a number of byes or injuries.  Diligent fantasy owners should keep a close eye on this situation as the Raiders continue to produce elite fantasy numbers on a weekly basis and having the right piece of their backfield may provide crucial value as the fantasy playoffs approach.

Raiders SPLIT ATT YDS YD/A LONG 20+ TD YDS/G FUM FUML 1DN
Total 238 1150 4.8 75 11 11 127.8 2 1 55
Home 110 526 4.8 42 3 5 131.5 1 0 28
Away 128 624 4.9 75 8 6 124.8 1 1 27
BY LOCATION ATT YDS YD/A LONG 20+ TD YDS/G FUM FUML 1DN
Outdoors 212 983 4.6 42 10 8 122.9 2 1 47
Indoors 26 167 6.4 75 1 3 167 0 0 8
BY GROUP ATT YDS YD/A LONG 20+ TD YDS/G FUM FUML 1DN
vs. AFC 163 700 4.3 42 7 7 116.7 2 1 33
vs. NFC 75 450 6 75 4 4 150 0 0 22
vs. Own Division 85 371 4.4 42 2 4 123.7 1 0 20
BY HALF ATT YDS YD/A LONG 20+ TD YDS/G FUM FUML 1DN
1st Half 104 580 5.6 42 9 6 0 1 0 25
2nd Half 130 546 4.2 75 2 5 0 1 1 29
BY QUARTER ATT YDS YD/A LONG 20+ TD YDS/G FUM FUML 1DN
Quarter = 1 46 178 3.9 22 1 2 0 0 0 7
Quarter = 2 58 402 6.9 42 8 4 0 1 0 18
Quarter = 3 59 231 3.9 15 0 0 0 0 0 14
Quarter = 4 71 315 4.4 75 2 5 0 1 1 15
Overtime 4 24 6 19 0 0 0 0 0 1

 

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About the author

Matthew Russo

Matt Russo has been playing fantasy football for well over 10 seasons and has a special affinity for dynasty and keeper league formats. You can also find him playing plenty of low-stakes action all across the DFS industry in both football and baseball. Matt played college football at Tufts University, a small Division III school near Boston, and was the starting quarterback there for two seasons. Since his playing days, he has become a practicing attorney in the western Massachusetts area where he currently lives with his wife and an autographed picture of his hero – Tom Brady.

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