The Oakland Raiders appear set for a very successful season. The team is loaded with talent on both offense and defense. The division is certainly within reach, and this could mark the first season the team makes the playoffs since 2002.
Rising quarterback Derek Carr will lead the offense. Carr is poised for another step forward, as he is behind a better offensive line and has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Those weapons start with his two star wide receivers, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. He also has two capable tight ends in Clive Walford and Mychel Rivera, with Walford a popular pick to break out this season. And then we get to the backfield.
Latavius Murray is set to lead the backfield this season. Murray is a highly talented running back but has struggled with injuries and inconsistent play over the course of his career. So while the Raiders are expecting big things out of Murray, they know he is no lock to be a sure bet this season. And given the expectations that are being placed on the club, the team needs to have a backup plan.
And they have that backup plan in the form of depth at running back. The Raiders have veterans Roy Helu and Taiwan Jones on the team. Both men are ok players, but certainly not game changers. That is why the Raiders made a pick in this year’s draft to assure they would have some extra depth in the backfield.
With the 143rd pick of the 2015 NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders selected Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington. The 23-year-old is a smaller back, standing at five foot, eight inches and 190 pounds. His smaller frame has some questioning whether he will be able to hold up to the daily grind of the NFL. If he were deployed as an every down back, I would have the same questions. But as a change of pace type of back, Washington is set to become a household name.
He has already drawn comparisons to Doug Martin, who had a monster rookie season in his right. Washington is quick, agile and is a terrific pass catcher. He is a determined runner who can hit the hole and fight through tackles. While he is small, he is also strong, which help lend credence to those comparisons to the Muscle Hamster. In his final season with Texas Tech, Washington scored 14 touchdowns and ran for 1,492 yards.
He is set to work his way onto the field for the Raiders this season. He is a better pass catching option than Murray, and you can expect to see him on third downs for sure. But his play should lead him to see an increased amount of playing time.
Like I said earlier, Murray tends to struggle with inconsistent play. So while Washington will be producing, Murray is sure to go through a rough patch. This will open up an increased opportunity for Washington to get some rushing attempts as well. And the talent and skill are certainly there for Washington to capture the attention of Jack Del Rio, the Raiders fans, and NFL fans across the country.
Doug Martin burst on to the scene in 2012, becoming one of the best running backs in the league. Now he was the outright starter, whereas Washington is not. Washington was also not a first round pick, but a fifth rounder. But the profiles are still very similar from a skill set standpoint.
So when we hit week one, Murray will be taking the field as the starter. But make sure to remember the name DeAndre Washington. He will see his fair share of snaps in that first game. And it will not take long for him to catch the eye of coaches. He has already taken some first-team reps in minicamp, meaning the coaches have already acknowledged his potential.
He is going to be groomed during training camp for an important role this season. He is going to be the teams swiss army knife. He is going to be utilized in a bunch of different scenarios. From catching passes on third down to getting an inside handoff on second down, to possibly returning punts, Washington is set to be all over the place. And he is going to be a key to the Oakland Raiders success this season.
He may not be the starting running back, but he is going to be just as important. So when your fantasy draft comes around, remember the name DeAndre Washington. When the season starts, remember the name DeAndre Washington. He may be an unknown right now, but that surely will not be the case at the end of the 2016 season.