At 6-foot-2 and 247 pounds, Chris Warren III looks more like a pass rusher than he does a running back. Perhaps that's why throughout the 2018 NFL Draft process a transition to tight end was referenced. But after two weeks of preseason action, it's doubtful the Oakland Raiders are looking to push Warren anywhere other than further up the running back depth chart.
It's been a stunning rise for Warren, who was undrafted after declaring a year early for the NFL. Limited touches were a problem for Warren at Texas, where he set the freshman rushing record with a 276-yard performance against Texas Tech in 2015.
He's making the most of every carry he gets thus far in the preseason. Heck, that even extends to cross-over practices. Warren provided a hit on 2017 1st-round pick Jarrad Davis in practice with Detroit that lit Twitter aflame two weeks ago.
Rumbling for 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries on Saturday against the Rams, Warren has reaffirmed what an 86 yard performance in Week 1 of the preseason and the demolishing of Davis had suggested. Warren can ball.
Did no one see this coming? Not exactly.
Ignore the fact that Warren is beating up San Jose State for a moment, because he's currently doing the same thing to NFL second and third stringers. This is a play that tells quite a bit about who Warren is as a player. Full details of Warren's draft profile can be read below, from my 2018 NFL Draft report.
Warren, who was scored as a 6th-round target with multiple red flags in need of vetting, has found an ideal pairing with the Raiders. Some of Warren's strengths from his report:
- Feet as a runner looks to be more effective if given a clean avenue through first contact
- Keeps balance after contact well despite high set frame, able to absorb a blow and sustain forward momentum
- A big, bruising back who can be relied upon to get the needed yardage in a "must have" situation
- Chris Warren III is a high upside selection who could be a key part of a running back by committee...running power makes him an obvious choice to play as a short yardage back in a gap/power system...developmental upside for more
Keep these points in mind for Warren's touches from Week 2 of the preseason, which are queued up below.
The Raiders and Rams played this game close to the chest, as the two teams will be playing again in Week 1 of the regular season. But for what was afforded to the Raiders offense from a personnel and play selection perspective, Warren owned the day.
This Raiders front pounded the tar out of the Rams relentlessly, frequently providing Warren with those needed clean avenues to first contact. With momentum into the line of scrimmage and the full force of his 247 pounds behind his pads, Warren dropped the hammer on all comers.
It's the kind of performance one would expect to see from someone who is playing for his NFL life, as Warren is. Can he actually make the team? The Raiders running back room is currently comprised of Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Iowa rookie James Butler and Warren. Three backs are likely to make the team, meaning Warren is going to have to beat out Richard, Butler and Washington.
That is, of course, unless the Raiders decide they don't need to carry the 29-year old ghost of Doug Martin's prime on the roster this year.
The pathway is there. The scheme fit is there. It's on Warren to hold up his end of the bargain. So far, so good.