With Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin both over 30 and eligible to become unrestricted free agents, the Raiders’ running back forecast for 2019 is far from clear.
The Raiders have said they’d like to retain both, but at their age it’s not certain either will continue at their same levels for another year.
The Raiders also have Jalen Richard – a great third-down receiving back – and DeAndre Washington, but neither is considered a No. 1 back.
But one player also remains on the roster who could be a sleeper for 2019: Chris Warren III.
The 6-foot-2, 246-pounder, just 22, was injured before the regular season began in 2018 and had to spend the year on injured reserve. But the son of the former Seahawks star of the same name looked terrific during the exhibition season and should be back ready to compete for a job in his second Raiders training camp.
One recent report noted Warren, who had a knee injury, is eager to come into the offseason program in better shape, perhaps a few pounds lighter, and fight for a starring role.
Certainly, he looked ready during the 2018 exhibition season.
Warren led the Raiders (and the NFL) in rushing last summer and showed himself to be a punishing back capable of breaking tackles. In four preseason games he carried 58 times for 292 yards, a 5-yard average, and scored two touchdowns. His best outing came against the Los Angeles Rams, when he rushed for 110 yards.
His fine summer came after signing with the Raiders only after a tryout. He likely would have made the regular-season roster if not for the injury.
In camp last year, Warren said he learned a lot from watching Lynch run.
“I’m going to work on being a violent runner, because I run too high,” he said. “I have to lower myself and be aggressive.”
The Raiders are likely to deepen their roster at the position through the draft and free agency. Lynch or Martin could return, too. But as Matt Schneidman of the Bay Area News Group wrote this week, Warren provides a nice, low-cost alternative.
Head coach Jon Gruden likes a lot about Warren.
“He’s become more and more of a running back instead of just a runner,” Gruden said last summer. “He’s becoming a receiver, blitz pickup, all those little details are improving, but he’s got a lot of talent.”