Mandatory minicamp was the buzz around the NFL this week, and that means that we are one step closer to football season. This season, there are a lot of unknowns at the top of the running back board. I think this is a great situation to take advantage of. I want to break down my top 5 and then give a bit of insight into why some big names are being left off the list.
#1. Ezekiel Elliott
He is a workhorse back that can get 30 touches in every game this season. He can catch 5-8 balls out of the backfield if called upon. He is an elite pass blocker, meaning that he will never be seen as a guy that needs to be taken off the field in any situation. The Cowboy’s line should be healthier. The addition of Amari Cooper helped Zeke, and I expect Kellen Moore to spice up the Cowboys offense this season. Zeke is incredibly safe and has an enormous ceiling this season.
#2. Christian McCaffrey
I touted McCaffrey as hard as anyone possibly could, and I cannot get off of the train now. The Panthers brought in an old school OC, but Norv Turner really utilized CMC well. McCaffrey was used as an all-purpose back in a solid offense. I think CMC is one of the most talented backs in football, which helps him create big plays to pay off on a consistent basis. The downside here is Cam Newton’s potential health concerns. If Cam and Christian stay healthy, McCaffrey should do great things again this season.
#3. Saquon Barkley
Saquon is very similar to CMC, but I think the team offensive upside is much higher for McCaffrey. The Giants offense is going to be bad, and Saquon is going to be good. The issue I have is just how good can you be if defenses can COMPLETELY sell out to stop you at every turn with almost 0 threat of getting beat deep? Saquon is safe because he is an elite talent, but I think things would have to go perfect in his offense for him to actually become RB1 this season.
#4. Alvin Kamara
I think that the top 3 are in a tier of their own when it comes to workload and safety in their talent level. Kamara is an elite athlete, but I am just skeptical that the Saints want to use him like the first 3 guys on the list. The Saints offense is full of weapons, so Kamara will get better looks that Saquon and possibly CMC, but the lack of guaranteed 25 touches a game is what puts Kamara a tier below.
#5 David Johnson
Here is where I want to address all of these guys that can be considered in this range. David Johnson is my favorite option at this spot because I think he has the most offensive upside in Arizona. The Cardinals are not going to be good, but I think they will want to run a ton of plays, which should allow their best offensive option to get a lot of touches in dynamic situations. Kyler Murray was very comfortable using the checkdown at Oklahoma, and I think that he will struggle airing the ball out more than most. If Kyler gets gun shy after early picks, we could see even more DJ usage.
Melvin Gordon is a good and safe option, but I’m just not sure how healthy he can be and how much of the workload he can get. Le’Veon Bell is a good back, but his success came from a ton of usage and a good line. Until we see signs of the same happening in NYC, I can’t rely on him. Todd Gurley is free-falling down draft boards, and I have no interest at this point due to injury concerns. Joe Mixon is a talented back, but he is a back that will likely be in a suspect offense that isn’t super innovative. James Connor could be a top 5 RB if he wins the job outright. If I am taking RB6, I would definitely consider Connor if I am comfortable with his likelihood of winning the job. Nick Chubb is in a loaded backfield that will eventually get Kareem Hunt back as well. I will likely stay away because of the uncertainty, but if Duke Johnson does get traded away soon, I expect Chubb to bounce up boards in an elite offense. I do prefer the Mixon, Chubb, and Conner range over the second tier for the price, which has me preferring the top or bottom of the draft instead of the middle.