2024 NFL Draft: How every team should tackle the RB position

Check out more of Matt's team-need rundowns here: Quarterbacks | Wide Receivers

Teams that have a critical need

Dallas Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott headshot
Ezekiel Elliott
RB - DAL - #15
2023 - 2024 season

The Cowboys are publicly flirting with the idea of reuniting with Ezekiel Elliott. So, yes, they have a need at running back. Right now, Rico Dowdle and Deuce Vaughn sit atop the depth chart. Neither profiles as a feature back. This draft class doesn’t have a Round 1-graded running back but has a decent crop of Day 2 options. The Cowboys drafting one of those guys would cause that player’s fantasy ADP to launch up the board come August.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers are on a mission to remake their run game this season after ranking 32nd in rushing EPA last season. The fantasy community seems to have already developed a weird tick with this new coaching staff wanting to build up a good run game but the stats show it’s something the Chargers didn’t have last year. Reaching that goal will require more than just adding new running backs but that’s a part of the process. Gus Edwards was a nice signing as a bruising back who can own goal-line work but holdover Isaiah Spiller is the only other guy on the depth chart. The Chargers have to be considered a favorite to add a back on Day 2.

New York Giants

New York allowed Saquon Barkley to walk and land with a division rival. So far, the only response has been to sign Devin Singletary to a three-year deal. Singletary is a solid rotational back who can get the job done and has familiarity with Brian Daboll but that cannot be the only move coming. New York has one pick in each of the first five rounds of the draft and I can’t imagine it not adding a young runner to the mix.

Teams that have a moderate need

Chicago Bears

The Bears invested significantly in the first moments of free agency in former Eagles back D’Andre Swift. He enters a room that already had a capable, but limited, back in Khalil Herbert and a 2023 rookie in Roschon Johnson. Neither guy is a set-it-and-forget-it starter, clearly, but both provide more than enough depth behind Swift. I can even see Herbert spelling Swift on early downs. The contract for Swift doesn’t lock him into a workhorse role but precludes the team from adding more backs in the draft.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers weren’t good at much last year and you can add running the football to the list. Carolina was bottom-10 in rushing EPA and success rate. It seems the front office and coaching staff believe most of that is on the offensive line as they inked two guards to big deals in free agency. Nevertheless, I don’t think you can count on anything from Miles Sanders after a nightmare first season on his sizable contract, and Chuba Hubbard is a committee back. Continuing to add to the line and beefing up the pass-catching corps may take priority but adding a real rushing threat can help out Bryce Young, as well.

Arizona Cardinals

James Conner continues to be a solid, productive player when healthy for the Cardinals. No matter what the expectations are, he’ll out-kick them until he can no longer play. At the same time, he’s 28 years old and an injury risk. None of Michael Carter, Emari Demercado or DeeJay Dallas would provide a clear-cut replacement if Conner misses time. The Cardinals have bigger fish to fry in terms of team needs but with all the picks they have in this draft, I’d be a little shocked if they didn’t come away with a back.

Denver Broncos

Add another position to the long list of needs for the Denver Broncos. They have a lot of names and different styles on the roster with Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine and Jaleel McLaughlin but I’m not sure if that’s even a top-half backfield in the league. This team ranked 17th in rushing EPA last season.

Javonte Williams headshot
Javonte Williams
RB - DEN - #33
2023 - 2024 season

Williams never really got back on track after suffering a major injury in 2022 but he’s the key to this backfield. If he gets back to his early form, this group is more than good enough. Denver has enough needs elsewhere that it would be odd if it spent big at running back.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders quickly proclaimed their faith in Zamir White as a feature back once Josh Jacobs signed with the Packers. Signing Alexander Mattison was merely a depth move as he’s not a threat to eat into early down work. White flashed with some big games last season when Jacobs missed time but that’s a tiny sample to project forward. The Raiders want to be a run-heavy team under Antonio Pierce. Maybe White is indeed up to the task of being that level of bell-cow but I’d be surprised if they didn’t at least hedge their bets.

Teams that are fine but could add a body or two

Buffalo Bills

James Cook headshot
James Cook
RB - BUF - #4
2023 - 2024 season

James Cook cleared 1,500 yards from scrimmage last season and scored six times. He was efficient and held up to a sizable workload to close the season. He’s good enough to hold down the top spot. Buffalo could still stand to add a back with size to go along with Cook in a backfield that only has Ty Johnson and Darrynton Evans behind him.

New York Jets

Breece Hall headshot
Breece Hall
RB - NYJ - #20
2023 - 2024 season

Breece Hall is one of the best and most dynamic young running backs in the league. He won fantasy leagues with his hot finish to the 2023 season and with his ACL tear a full year in the rear-view mirror now, that could be just the beginning. Behind Hall, Israel Abanikanda and Xazavian Valladay are the only other backs on the roster. New York needs more depth.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns are complicated because we don’t know what Nick Chubb’s status will be this season or if he’ll be able to play at all early on. Behind him, they added D’Onta Foreman to provide a power element alongside Jerome Ford, who has juice but didn’t hold up to a full workload. If they add another body in the draft, that may serve as a caution alarm regarding Chubb’s health.

Indianapolis Colts

With Zack Moss flying off to Cincinnati, there is a hole at backup running back behind Jonathan Taylor. Perhaps there is more faith than we expect behind the scenes in both Trey Sermon and Evan Hull but I’d be surprised if the Colts don’t add some light competition.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have been telling anyone who will listen they want to take some work off Travis Etienne Jr.’s plate. In conjunction with that, Doug Pederson has expressed his desire, nay, requirement, that the offense gets Tank Bigsby going. Based on last season's results, that’s not something you can count on.

Houston Texans

The Texans made a three-year commitment to Joe Mixon as their new starting back and while he may be in a decline phase, he’s a strong system fit. Dameon Pierce is the main man behind him but he fell out of favor last year when his game didn’t mesh with the new offense. I wonder if Pierce gets traded to a man/gap-based rushing team as Houston looks for a young back that fits their zone approach.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs re-signed Clyde Edwards-Helaire to serve as Isiah Pacheco's backup, but we know how that experience goes. Pacheco is good enough to serve as the team’s feature back, but adding a companion in the backfield to work on passing downs would make sense for this operation.

Green Bay Packers

Josh Jacobs headshot
Josh Jacobs
RB - GB - #8
2023 - 2024 season

The Packers remade their backfield with Josh Jacobs at the top, replacing long-time RB1 Aaron Jones. Jacobs is essentially on a year-to-year contract with the team so there isn’t a long-term commitment. Beyond him, the Packers brought back AJ Dillon. In my opinion, they can do better from their RB2 spot. An intriguing Day 3 option could be on the table.

Minnesota Vikings

Aaron Jones is still an electric talent when he’s on the field, but the Packers bid him farewell because of injury concerns. If he misses games next year, you can’t be surprised. Ty Chandler is intriguing and explosive but had his issues with passing downs in brief looks. One more addition to add a power element could be on the ledger.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rachaad White handled a ton of work in both phases last year and by all accounts received rave reviews from the coaching staff. The depth chart behind him could use an infusion of talent. White could probably stand to have some early-down work taken off his plate and the Bucs would be in quite a bind if he ever got hurt. It doesn’t need to be a major addition but more competition is needed.

Los Angeles Rams

Kyren Williams was a revelation in 2023 as a perfect system fit for the Rams' remade gap-heavy run game. There isn’t much behind him as Sean McVay seemed hesitant to give Zach Evans a role when Williams missed time. An interesting rookie on Day 3 would do the trick to add competition and injury insurance behind Williams.

Teams with little to no need

Baltimore Ravens

Derrick Henry headshot
Derrick Henry
RB - BAL - #22
2023 - 2024 season

Derrick Henry to the Ravens just made perfect football sense. He will be saddled with a workhorse role on a Super Bowl contender. Justice Hill is a capable backup and change-of-pace runner. I wonder how much they’ll hold out hope for Keaton Mitchell’s return from a torn ACL. In theory, his explosive play potential makes for a fantastic counterpart to Henry.

Miami Dolphins

Miami’s speed-based running back room is back in action with Raheem Mostert and De'Von Achane. The main goal for the Dolphins will be striking the right workload balance between these guys to not wear either down.

New England Patriots

The Antonio Gibson signing certainly caught my attention in free agency. He seemed like a guy who was never fully maximized in Washington but had moments early on. Perhaps he emerges as a strong complement to Rhamondre Stevenson, who has been solid when healthy.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals traded Joe Mixon to the Texans and acquired a direct replacement in Zack Moss. The former Colts back showed out on passing downs as a blocker and outlet receiver. He’s a strong fit in the zone-run game. The Bengals also got some nice moments from Chase Brown in his rookie season. These two should be more than enough to work in tandem this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren have grown up together to form a really nice thunder-and-lightning-style backfield. Harris is a bruising back who experienced an efficiency boost when Warren’s emergence allowed Pittsburgh to lighten his workload. Warren primarily broke out as a passing-down back but is more than capable of handling early-down carries.

Tennessee Titans

Derrick Henry is out, Tony Pollard is in for the Tennessee Titans backfield. I’ll admit I’m a little concerned Pollard’s skill set overlaps directly with the ideal deployment of electric 2023 rookie, Tyjae Spears. But on paper, those two fill the depth chart enough for Tennessee to look elsewhere in the draft.

Philadelphia Eagles

Saquon Barkley headshot
Saquon Barkley
RB - PHI - #26
2023 - 2024 season

The Eagles went out of character and spent big at the running back position to acquire Saquon Barkley in free agency. He’s locked in as their feature RB1. Coaching favorite Kenneth Gainwell holds down the No. 2 position. He can play all three downs and likely negates the need to search for more depth.

Washington Commanders

For all the flack Kliff Kingsbury catches for his middling passing-game concepts and receiver deployment, the Cardinals always featured some efficient run games. He has the makings of a solid tandem in place between Brian Robinson Jr. as an early-down banger and Austin Ekeler in a receiving-heavy role. These guys can run multiple concepts and should complement each other well.

Detroit Lions

The Lions have a strong argument for employing the best running back tandem in the NFL. Jahmyr Gibbs is an electric rusher who could be further maximized in the receiving game in Year 2. David Montgomery is a menace in short yardage who can provide some passing-down ability in addition to his early-down work.

Atlanta Falcons

Bijan Robinson is an ascending star in the league coming off a wildly productive rookie campaign. Tyler Allgeier is an ideal power complement who can carry a full workload if Robinson ever misses time.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints added both Jamaal Williams and Kendre Miller to the backfield last season. They’re both slated to return after less impact than the Saints had hoped. Still, it’s unlikely more moves need to be made with Miller hopefully developing and Alvin Kamara still operating at a high level.

San Francisco 49ers

Christian McCaffrey is the best running back on the planet. Both Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason have flashed solid ability on multiple occasions. There’s no need to add to this room, even though Kyle Shanahan seemingly can’t help burning a third- or fourth-round pick on a back every few years.

Seattle Seahawks

Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet are both recent Day 2 draft picks by the team, giving them a young duo to build around. You could argue they need to get more out of both as a pair than we’ve seen so far. That will be the job of the new coaching staff.