The odds and depth chart are stacked against Jalen Richard this summer.
The former running back at Southern Mississippi is an undrafted free agent who made his way onto the Raiders roster in May when he signed after a tryout. If he hopes to gain a roster spot, he’s going to have to claw his way over players such as George Atkinson and Taiwan Jones. Even then, he’d be a No. 3 option at the position behind Latavius Murray and rookie DeAndre Washington.
But so far, the 5-foot-8, 207-pound Richard has made a good impression.
Eddie Paskal of Raiders.com noted Tuesday that Richard may be the most surprising player so far in camp.
“He (Richard) has done a nice job with the looks he’s gotten so far,” head coach Jack Del Rio told Paskal.
Richard played four seasons at Southern Mississippi and is coming off a standout senior year in which he rushed for 1,098 yards and 14 touchdowns, several of those scores coming on breakaway runs. He also showed ability as a receiver with seasons of 30, 24 and 21 catches since his sophomore season. He added a 95-yard kickoff return in a senior season that earned first-team Conference USA recognition. In one game against Old Dominion, Richard scored four TDs, including one on a 54-yard run.
In the Raiders’ very first practice in pads this past weekend, Richard caught the eye of Vic Tafur, who covers the team for the San Francisco Chronicle. Tweeted Tafur: “Hmm. RB Jalen Richard has some wiggle to go with speed.”
Richard fought through several injuries during his college career, but wound up being a terrific player. Though small in stature, he runs with power. Now he’s bucking the odds in hopes of making an NFL roster. He told a reporter in Mississippi recently that he’s eager for the opportunity.
“It’s definitely a fun moment in my life right now,” he said. “You’re living your dream, you’re doing what you always worked for and you’re to the point where you’re almost where you want to be.”