Last week, we looked at the 10 worst wide receiver corps in the NFL.
My takeaway from that exercise: There are a ton of teams that need to make major additions to their wideout crew.
Doing the same exercise for running backs led to the opposite conclusion. Most teams across the league are set, to varying degrees, at the position. That shouldn’t come as any surprise considering the state of the running back landscape in the NFL today. The supply greatly outweighs the demand.
By the time you get to No. 8 on this list, there isn’t enough of a need for the team to think about using a Day 1 or 2 draft pick at running back. That doesn’t mean they won’t look to bolster the backfield, however.
With that said, let’s look at the top 10 teams that could look to add a few players to their running back depth chart in the 2020 NFL Draft.
No. 1 — Tampa Bay Buccaneers running backs
No NFL team enters April’s draft with a starting running back shakier than Ronald Jones. Despite his general manager declaring the team has “more faith” in Jones than ever before, he looks destined to be usurped by a 2020 draftee. There isn’t much consequential depth behind the 2018 second-rounder, either.
It’s perfectly realistic to think that Tampa Bay will target a back that offers more juice in the pass-catching department. Such a player would certainly bring comfort to new starter Tom Brady, who had long made use of receiving backs in New England.
Regardless of just how much you think Brady has left, who lines up alongside him in the backfield will matter. If the Buccaneers make a big swing at the position, that player could remove Jones from the board entirely and rocket up draft rankings himself. Now, if the team adds someone later on who might just fill that receiving role, a committee will begin to take shape.
No. 2 — Miami Dolphins running backs
The Dolphins backfield was a source of constant strife for fantasy managers in 2019. Try as they might to make it so, no truly usable piece emerged from Miami’s crop of running backs.
So far this offseason, the front office has added Jordan Howard to the mix. He’s not a solution but he’s a sizable upgrade on the Kalen Ballage and Mark Waltons of the world. Howard’s 2020 destiny will likely mirror the path that unfolded last year in Philadelphia: Start the year as the lead back, perform admirably but by hook or by crook, eventually give way to a younger and more talented back.
When that player is added to the roster later this month, it will be a big deal for fantasy managers. This will especially be the case considering how productive the passing game was under Ryan Fitzpatrick to end 2019.
No. 3 — Los Angeles Rams running backs
The Rams let go of Todd Gurley as an attempt to begin to atone for their salary cap sins. It was also such an immediate hit that it clearly reflected the organization’s views on Gurley’s ability to help them win. That does not mean the team is secure in the backfield without him.
At this moment the Rams would likely entertain an offseason battle between veteran Malcolm Brown and 2019 rookie Darrell Henderson for the RB1 gig. No one should expect this roster to remain as is. Brown has never cleared 300 yards from scrimmage in any of his five NFL seasons. Henderson flashed slashing ability as a rookie but that came in extremely limited glimpses.
There’s a theoretical world where Henderson, who the Rams just drafted on Day 2 of the draft last year, becomes a big-time breakout player in 2020. Such a reality will only come after he wins the job from a challenger this year. Sean McVay is known to have his eye on this draft’s crop of running backs, and a desire for a multi-back offense. The head coach adjusted his running scheme on the fly last year, showing this can still be a desirable landing spot for a runner.
No. 4 — Atlanta Falcons running backs
The Falcons enter April’s draft with a backfield construction that is all too similar to the one they carried into 2019. Sitting in the top spot is a veteran with major questions about what he still has to offer and falling behind him is a gaggle of backups not one person is excited about. The only difference is the 2020 rendition of this running back stable has Todd Gurley playing the part once performed by Devonta Freeman.
Taking a gamble on Gurley reclaiming some version of his former glory can be a fine choice but it cannot be the only move made to beef up Atlanta’s pitiful running game. Should Gurley’s knee thwart him once again, Matt Ryan can’t be forced to hand the ball off to the lifeless combination of Ito Smith and Brian Hill again.
Expect the Falcons to pluck someone from this incoming class of running backs. Given the shaky ground Gurley runs on these days, that player will hold major appeal as a possible starter down the road for a strong offense.
No. 5 — Kansas City Chiefs running backs
The Chiefs won the Super Bowl with their current running back stable so it’s hard to say how much a “need” they have at this position. Still, it’s a weak depth chart. We should expect them to add another body to this rotation at the end of April.
Damien Williams has produced some big games (including the aforementioned Super Bowl win) when he’s held Kansas City’s lead back role. We just don’t know what he looks like while holding that job for 16 games. The team only signed DeAndre Washington to compete with 2019 backups, Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams.
How this situation shakes out hinges on how much capital the Chiefs spend on a rookie back. They only have five picks in the draft — total. It seems unlikely they sink a first- or second-rounder into the backfield given needs on the interior offensive line and on defense. However, a Round 3 or 4 running back would be enough to put that hypothetical player on every faux sleeper list this year.
No. 6 — Washington Redskins running backs
Will establish-the-run zealot Ron Rivera really want to open his Washington tenure with a running back stable that produced the 27th-ranked offense in rushing success rate?
Now, to be fair, the team did add Peyton Barber to the mix in free agency. Maybe they get something more than absolutely nothing from injured 2019 rookie Bryce Love. Even with the additions of all those high-flying competitors, the likely No. 1 and 2 back on this team will be Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice.
That’s not good enough. Peterson is 35 years old, the last grains of sand falling from his NFL hourglass. Meanwhile, Guice has been a major injury risk to this point in his pro career.
The team could be looking at a constantly churning 2020 rotation of this strange cast of characters, or they can add something more steady. As they’re not adding a running back at the second overall pick, this player would have to come in Rounds 3-4 (no second-rounder) to make an individual impact in fantasy. Even then, they might only serve to further muck up the situation.
No. 7 — Pittsburgh Steelers running backs
You can easily argue the Steelers have the strongest theoretical starter of any backfield listed thus far. James Conner looked like a revelation when he filled in for Le’Veon Bell in 2018 and was solid last year. The trouble is, his career to this point indicates that he’s good for multiple missed games a year.
Pittsburgh can’t find themselves back in a situation where they’re ever trotting out Jaylen Samuels as anything more than a bit player. Even 2019 rookie Benny Snell looked like just a guy in relief.
This organization ought to start planning for their post-Ben Roethlisberger life but don’t have the resources to do it. Without a Round 1 pick in this draft and with just six selections overall, you might see them push for more win-now rookies. A second- or third-round running back would fit that bill.
No. 8 — Buffalo Bills running backs
Spot No. 8 represents a break in these rankings. The following three teams should not spend one single second thinking about drafting a running back in the first two days of the draft. They merely need to fill in the back of their depth charts.
Devin Singletary has to be one of the top breakout picks in fantasy football this season. He proved he had the juice as a rookie and played a role in the passing game. Singletary is locked into the RB1 spot for a team that’s drastically improved their personnel on offense.
That being said, there is certainly room to improve behind him. T.J. Yeldon and Christian Wade are the only other running backs on the depth chart. The Bills could add a talented back on Day 3 to spell Singletary and slide in as the starter should he miss games again in 2020.
No. 9 — Jacksonville Jaguars running backs
Leonard Fournette might be looking at the money fellow 2017 draftee Christian McCaffrey got with enviable eyes. There’s no way Jacksonville shares that sentiment.
Despite coming off his best season as a pro, Fournette’s career can still only be described as a roller coaster. It’s a ride the Jaguars may decide to disembark in the next couple of years. Should that time come, they’ll want to have a better stable of players behind him than they do right now. Counting on Fournette to have a strong 2020 season is fine but running it back with just Ryquell Armstead and Devine Ozigbo as the primary backups is not fine.
An exciting rookie rocketing up to become Fournette’s primary backup would be big news in fantasy. Not the picture of perfect health, Fournette missing time would open up a big opportunity on a team that wants to run the ball.
No. 10 — Los Angeles Chargers running backs
Austin Ekeler is awesome. He should be a top target for every fake footballer this coming season now that Melvin Gordon has officially left the scene. Ekeler is pretty much the perfect back for the modern NFL.
All those platitudes out of the way, the Chargers will have to address the backfield at some point in the NFL draft. Even if you think Ekeler is fine to push 250 touches (224 last year) going forward, Justin Jackson is the only other back on the roster. Jackson looks like he can play but more competition is required.
The Chargers don’t need to add anyone major to disrupt the current standing of their backfield. In fact, let’s all actively hope they don’t bring in a rookie of major consequence, as such a move would only hurt the outlook of both that desirable player and Ekeler. Just an interesting Day 3 name is all that’s needed.