Ideal Landing Spots: 2018 Rookie RBs

Ryan Cearfoss
@fntsyfbconnect

The 2018 rookie running back class could end up historically as one of the deepest and best ever for the position.  There are superstars like Sequon Barkley and guys who are flying under the radar like John Kelly. With the current landscape in the NFL at the running back position landing spots can be huge for deciding player’s values and where to draft them. What we’re going to do here is go thru some of the RB needy teams and pair them with backs who could truly succeed in their systems.

Cleveland Browns

Current Running backs

This season was a partial breakout for Duke Johnson who looked fantastic in the passing game and had some big plays running the ball. The thing about Duke is he is still not a lead back and his best chance to be effective is in a complementary role. His backfield running mate is Isaiah Crowell who has still not lived up to his potential and is an unrestricted free agent leaving a nice hole at the running back position.

Best Fit

While the hot name for the Browns is Sequon Barkley, at pick 4 this doesn’t fill the biggest need for the Browns. If they load up on talent at other positions in the early rounds Kerryon Johnson could be there late day two early day three and be the perfect fit for Todd Haley’s offense. Johnsons’ running style has gotten compared to Le’Veon Bell due to his patience and power. While he lacks the elite burst his style mixed with power would be the perfect complement to go with Duke Johnson.

New York Giants

Current Running backs

The Giants are kind of a dumpster fire at the running back position, the rotation or Orleans Darkwa, Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen leave more questions than answers. Gallman established himself as a solid receiving back and change of pace guy but other than that this team is desperate to improve the position.

Best Fit

With all signs leaning towards the Giants taking a QB in round one, an early second round pick could definitely afford them the opportunity to grab a true workhorse. I love the fit of Ronald Jones II in the Giants’ offense. With all of the receivers and talent to spread the field and create space, an explosive athlete like Ronald Jones could thrive. While he can grind out the short yards even though he’s undersized his home run threat would add a dangerous wrinkle to that offense.

Indianapolis Colts

Current Running backs

The Colts have the ageless wonder in Frank Gore as their lead back and while he ended the season just short of 1000 yards he was inefficient and there no way he will be in the league much longer. In last year’s draft they picked up Marlon Mack who showed some nice flashes but he is still suited for best for a 3rd down role.

Best Fit

The Colts may have one of the worst overall rosters in the NFL and have needs everywhere especially defense making it impossible to miss on an edge defender there. Nick Chubb could be the answer in the second or third round for the Colts.  Chubb has all of the qualities of a workhorse back who can run, make some plays in the receiving game and block. He also possesses a tremendous upside with his vision and balance. He can do everything the Frank Gore did for them the last couple years but better.

Denver Broncos

Current Running backs

The Broncos have been using the combination of C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker for the last two seasons. Last season Anderson performed well surpassing a thousand yards but rumors swirling around the league now is he could be on the way out. Booker has been a little bit of a roller coaster having nice streaks of games and others where he’s looked unusable. This is a team that has a decent amount of needs and running back should be listed in them.

Best Fit

Right now the current combination of backs in Denver leave a lot to be desired but can run between the tackles. Adding a player like Mark Walton gives them an explosive element to the offense that truly lacks any dynamic playmakers. Walton has proved he can be effective in a limited role at Miami so being a part of a committee in Denver could be a great opportunity to maximize what he gives to a team.

New York Jets

Current Running backs

Another mess of a backfield here in Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, and Elijah McGuire. The Jets backfield includes one back who is years past his prime and a pair of role players one being older than anyone realizes. This offense needs a major overall starting with the backfield.

Best Fit

The Jets have a ton of needs and a ton of cap space this year. With needs being in more important positions waiting for a running back to add depth could end up being the right route. In the later rounds picking up a back like Josh Adams could be a nice fit. At Notre Dame, he was able to dominate the backfield and get action on third downs because of his pass blocking. His size and downfield running ability would be a nice compliment to Powell and McGuire and their receiving ability.

Tampa Bay Bucs

Current Running backs

The Bucs paid big money for Doug Martin a few years ago who has done nothing but let them down between suspensions, underperforming and injury he is no longer part of the team. With him just getting cut Peyton Barber and Charles Sims remain the only backs on the roster Peyton Barber proved to be a solid backup which in reality that’s probably his ceiling. Chris Sims has proved to be a decent third-down back but that’s about it. If there is any team that needs to take a running back early it’s the Bucs.  

Best Fit

The Bucs need help desperately at the running back position they have no one who can be even seen close to being a starter. So they should be praying to the football gods that a quarterback run happens ahead of them and they are able to land Sequon Barkley at pick 7. Barkley is viewed as one of the best running back prospects in the past decade his blend of size, speed and receiving ability is unmatched. Adding him to the Bucs immediately changes their offense by adding the most dynamic player in this year’s draft.

San Francisco 49ers

Current Running backs

The 49ers are the first team on this list to have a sound idea of what their backfield is. Carlos Hyde has proven to be a very capable starting running back when healthy but will be a free agent this offseason. Recent offseason moves and drafting have shown to an extent that John Lynch’s regime isn’t too attached to him and there is a good chance they’ll let him walk. Matt Breida has played well in the chances he’s had so far in his career. Given the opportunity to get a back that fits perfect in Shananan’s system the 49ers could definitely take that chance.

Best Fit

The 49ers are building their offense around their new franchise QB and are looking to put pieces around him that are versatile and explosive. Rashaan Penny fits this mold, Penny rushed for over 2000 yards this year and contributed as a receiver and a return man. His versatility and receiving ability should allow for the 49ers to get him the ball in space which will allow for his speed to take over for big chunk plays. While he is far from the perfect prospect Shanahan should be able to take full advantage of what he can do as an offensive weapon.

Oakland Raiders

Current Running backs

Last offseason the Raiders made a huge splash convincing Marshawn Lynch to come out of retirement and come play for his hometown team.  Lynch is on the wrong side of 30 and has a lot of wear and tear on his treads making replacing him a priority for the offense. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are fine backups but as starters, they won’t cut it.  Adding a power runner the take over for Marshawn later could be something on the burner.

Best Fit

I’m not as sold on Kalen Ballage as most people but his game could translate to what the Raiders need. Ballage is a raw product at the running back position with tremendous size and speed coming in at 6’2” 230 but doesn’t always use his power in the way we want to see it. Learning behind Marshawn lynch for year or two could be great for his development. On top of that, he could have an immediate impact in the passing game bringing an elite skill set as a receiver out of the backfield.

Miami Dolphins

Current Running backs

Kenyan Drake was absolutely fantastic once he got the starting job in Miami. He was able to produce better than Ajayi did all season. He contributed to both the running and passing game. After Drake the depth chart is nonexistent, Damien Williams is just a guy who is completely replaceable. The Dolphins could be in the market to grab a big RB to compliment what Drake does well.

Best Fit

The Dolphins have the ability to wait on a running back because of the emergence of Kenyan Drake last season. Later on in the draft, they can get themselves a big bruising back to go with him. Call me sentimental but I would love to see him paired with his old college backfield mate in Bo Scarbrough. At 6’3” 236 pounds, he’s a load to take down and can wear down defenses on early downs allowing for Drake to bust the big play.

Arizona Cardinals

Current Running Back

We all know the Cardinals have one of the best running backs in the league in David Johnson, yet last year we saw what life was like without him. During the 2016 season, he had a ridiculous workload that he looked on pace in 2017. The Cards could be smart to get someone who would take some pressure off of him plus add some other aspects to the offense.

Best Fit

Nyheim Hines the undersized do it all running back from NC State. He was a thousand yard rusher plus contributed in the receiving and return game. His skillset would allow for him to be on the field with Johnson either in the backfield or slot. As one of the favorites to run the fastest 40 in this year’s combine he has the speed to take any play to the house. Hines could be a game breaking addition to the offense they can grab late in the draft without cutting into DJ’s usage.

Seattle Seahawks

Current Running backs

The Seahawks haven’t been able to find a reliable starter since Marshawn Lynch retired. Coming into the season everyone thought the job was Thomas Rawls’ to lose and guess what he lost it. Chris Carson came in and played well until he was hurt joining C.J. Prosise as another injured back. Eddie Lacy who was their “splash” move in free agency didn’t show up and J.D. McKissic proved to be nothing more than a receiving back. This backfield is dying to gain any stability they can.

Best Fit

The Seahawks have been terrible running the ball for a while now and lack a serviceable offensive line. Derrius Guice was used to running behind a bad line at LSU and was able to make the most out of it. Guice is explosive and can break the big play at any time but what truly stands out is his ability to create for himself and fight for extra yards. Guice could be a huge help to Russell Wilson and that offense most importantly giving them a long-term answer at the running back position.

Detroit Lions

Current Running backs

The Lions backfield has one of the better receiving backs in the league in Theo Riddick, and a running back who the world believes is a starting running back and never showed it in Ameer Abdullah. Riddick should have a safe role for them but it’s time to look for other options at the starting running back spot other than Abdullah.

Best Fit

The Lions have not had a franchise running back since the days of Barry Sanders and are desperate for some stability at the position. Taking Sony Michel in the first could fill in one of their major needs in the offense. Michel exploded into the spotlight these NCAA playoffs taking over the National Championship.  In the Lions spread offense Michel’s decisive running style should allow him to take advantages of any holes and break the big play with his outstanding speed and explosiveness.

Buffalo Bills

Current Running backs

The Bills by far have the best running back of the teams on this list in LeSean McCoy. He’s been nothing but spectacular in his career but he’s 29 years old and has over 2500 career touches. On a team that rebuilding they could be looking into picking up McCoy’s successor especially since that player is not on the roster.

Best Fit

John Kelly is flying under the radar thus far in the draft process even though he possesses the skillset to be an every-down back. He would be great early in his career as a spell back for McCoy similar to how he started his college career behind Kamara.  Kelly could turn into something special once he gets the chance and could be a mid-round steal for the Bills

Carolina Panthers

Current Running backs

This one is sure to raise some eyebrows being the Panthers spent their 8th overall pick on a running back last year in Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey is a great offensive weapon especially in the passing game but he struggles running between the tackles and works best in a timeshare with a power back. Jonathan Stewart fits the mold but he’s 30 years old and ran very inefficiently last year. The Panthers could be a dark horse team to grab up a talented runner.  

Best Fit

The Panthers don’t need to spend an early round pick to pick up a banger of a running back to pair with McCaffrey.  Enter Royce Freeman, the 230 pound running back out of Oregon has had an absolutely underrated career rushing for 5621 yards and 60 TDs. His bruising running style has similarities to Jonathan Stewart whose role he could be the perfect replacement for.

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