Draft outlook: Running back

Draft outlook: Running back

One story in a series that looks ahead to the 2004 NFL draft by position and how it affects the Oakland Raiders. Today, here's a look at running back:

What the Raiders have: With Charlie Garner, as expected, leaving as a free agent, the Oakland Raiders have Tyrone Wheatley and Justin Fargas returning as potential featured backs.

Then, there's the fullback issue. That position figures to be emphasized greater with first-year head coach Norv Turner being expected to use more of a power running game. Chris Hetherington did not make Raider fans forget Jon Ritchie, who signed as a free agent with Philadelphia. Zack Crockett figures to be the front-runner but is his short-yardage ability as a tailback too valuable to sacrifice?

Wheatley appears to be a great fit for Turner's power running approach. Wheatley rushed for 678 yards last season, 541 in the second half. Wheatley, however, is 32-years old and has had trouble staying healthy. Fargas, who enters his second season, is younger but has the same problem. Fargas' season ended on injured reserve, meaning the Raiders have not seen enough to draw any conclusion.

What the Raiders might do: Oakland's rumored interest in acquiring Cincinnati's Corey Dillon has died down recently but that doesn't necessarily mean the Raiders will not trade for him.

Regardless, look for the Raiders to draft a running back late on Day Two if for no other reason than to improve depth. If Oakland goes that route, Cal's Joe Echemandu, Miami's Jason Geathers, Tennessee's Troy Fleming and Oklahoma State's Tatum Bell in the fourth round or later.

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