Days after the NFL Draft, the event that brings change to, fate forced the Oakland Raiders to make changes again. On May 1st, Adam Schefter reported that Raiders’ new running back Isaiah Crowell tore his Achilles tendon during a team workout. As a result, he will miss the 2019-2020 NFL season.
With Crowell out, and the recent resigning of Doug Martin, look for Jalen Richard to shine. Since his relatively impressive rookie season, Richard settled into his role as a pass catching back. His rushing yards have consistently decreased (491, 275, 259), while his receiving yards are skyrocketing (194, 256, 607).
Although speculation of Marshawn Lynch returning, do not expect Richard’s role to change. The Raiders unearthed a shifty, slippery receiver who, at 25, may still have more to show us.
The backfield remains crowded in Oakland, but things are starting to spread out. The Raiders employ Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, and Joshua Jacobs at the running back position. However, Richard had more receiving yards in 2018 than Martin or Jacobs accumulated in their last three seasons (Jacobs’ stats are from his career in a crowded backfield at Alabama).
Jon Gruden stated his intentions to run Doug Martin as a three-down back while also acting as a mentor to Jacobs. Gruden welcomes the competition among the backs and mentioned that it is Martin’s job to lose.
All of this is great for the future of the Raiders, but how does this affect Jalen Richard?
Richard is the best pass catching back of the three, but the trio is all capable of catching passes. The key to Richard’s success is something that cannot realistically be changed: size. Richard measures in at 5’8”, just two inches taller than Darren Sproles and can disappear behind offensive line.
Not one player out of the three stands no taller than 5’10”, so why is Richard’s size so important?
The way Richard uses his size is exactly why it is important. Both of his counterparts have at least 20 pounds on him. One of his counterparts is nicknamed “The Muscle Hamster” and the other has no NFL experience, but has shown a preference to run through defenders instead of around them.
Again, all three players can catch, but Richard has been the most proven (so far) and boasts an astronomical elusiveness rating. Elusiveness can be everything for a pass catching back. Darren Sproles is and has been an incredibly elusive back for 13 seasons and has over 540 receptions, but has only surpassed Richard’s personal best of 607 receiving yards twice.
Richard is an incredibly important asset to the team, but looks far from his peak. For reference, Sproles hit his peak receiving yard total in 2011, his sixth year.
I expect great things out of Jalen Richard in the coming season. Martin and Jacobs are obviously great, but no one in the NFL can do what Richard does better.