I did a best-ball draft last week; kicked out the cobwebs, took some reps. I went relatively light on running back. Marlon Mack slotted as my RB2, Damien Williams ready as the RB3. Man, I’m loaded at the other spots.
Friday night, I ripped up that roster and tossed it in the trash.
The NFL didn’t prioritize running back in the first round of Thursday’s draft — only Clyde Edwards-Helaire cracked that group, and he was the 32nd selection, last of the night. But you dream of his versatility and athleticism in an Andy Reid offense; the mind gets dizzy. It knocked the air out of my Williams balloon.
The seal broken, the league started attacking the running back position in Friday’s second round.
Supposed RB1s get unexpected competition
Detroit snagged D’Andre Swift with the 35th pick. Swift was an inside and outside threat at Georgia and serves notice that Kerryon Johnson has immediate competition. I’ve seen so many fun things fall apart in Detroit over the years, but Swift seems too talented to fail.
If you run through the SEC, you’re good enough for me. Of course, I used to say that about Johnson, a former Auburn star. But Swift posted better numbers in college, and also has the flashier tape.
Indianapolis took the running back plunge at Pick 41, selecting Wisconsin battering ram Jonathan Taylor. Charmed life for that Taylor — he moves from Wisconsin’s cheese-grating offensive line to Indy’s Grade-A beef. Taylor had a fumbling problem in college, but he’s a high-character kid who should fit well in Frank Reich’s offense. The Colts know the window is short with Philip Rivers, and they’ve drafted accordingly.
So much for my Mack investment; at best, he’s now in a time-share.
Three more running backs heard their names called in the Top 62. Let’s quickly sort through the new kids.
• Cam Akers moves from Florida State to the Los Angeles Rams, courtesy of the 52nd selection. He has a three-down profile and could keep Darrell Henderson on the bench — or at least in a complementary role. The Todd Gurley era feels like 10 years ago.
• The Ravens didn’t have a pressing running back need, but they couldn’t resist J.K. Dobbins with the 55th pick. The Ohio State star excels running out of the shotgun, an excellent fit for the Lamar Jackson experience. Mark Ingram loses some fantasy juice entering his age-31 season, while Gus Edwards and Justice Hill (man, I whiffed on him last year) stay on the wire unless injuries hit.
• The Packers took Boston College’s AJ Dillon to wrap up the second round, though he’s not projected as a starter. Aaron Jones proved his chops last year. Dillon is another power runner (6-foot-0, 247 pounds) but unrefined as a receiver. He’ll likely settle in as a change-of-pace back, perhaps get short-yardage and goal-line looks.
Okay, so I’m not changing my early Jones ranking very much. But in just a few hours, we saw plenty of running-back shuffling Friday night. I’ll need to tend to my own bruises before I hit the draft room again.
Tampa addresses backfield in Round 3
Running backs slowed down a bit in the third round, but we had some intriguing movement.
• The Buccaneers stepped up for Ke’Shawn Vaughn at Pick 76. Vaughn only needs to beat out Ronald Jones, who’s shown little in two years. Tampa isn’t messing around; it’s doing all it can to support Tom Brady into an age-43 season. Vaughn isn’t a home-run hitter, but he might have enough thickness to hold a featured role.
Vaughn was a four-year college player who also had a transfer, so he’s a little old for a rookie. He turns 23 in two weeks.
• Zack Moss shuffled off to Buffalo, Pick 86. He’s a power runner who should make for a fine backup — or complement — to Devin Singletary. I’m still willing to draft Singletary as a proactive 2020 fantasy pick; there aren’t that many bell cows around, so I won’t hold the Moss pick against Singletary. The bigger problem for Buffalo’s sophomore back: Josh Allen is a willing runner and scrambler, especially at the goal line.
• Darrynton Evans (Pick 93) packs up for Tennessee, where he becomes their new version of Dion Lewis. Evans is a modest 5-foot-10, 203 pounds, but he’s quick and has receiving chops. He has no immediate fantasy upside unless something happens to Derrick Henry.