The NFL draft is just around the corner and there are plenty of anonymous scout quotes and rumors floating around NFL media as teams try to jockey for trades. This draft is also strange in that teams couldn’t have individual workouts with players, instead, needing to do interviews remotely due to coronavirus. But, in the end, teams will have their draft boards and likely do just as well as they would in a normal year.
Below, I’ll take us through the top running backs in the draft and where I believe they’ll go and why. The position has lost a lot of value in a league predicated on passing, so there’s a chance a running back doesn’t even go in the first round. However, there are good backs in this draft and they will go off the board on Day 2. Some running back needy teams to watch for are the Dolphins, Steelers, Falcons, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Ravens, Rams, Washington, Bengals, Jaguars, Lions and Seahawks.
D’Andre Swift, Miami Dolphins, 27th overall
If there is a running back that goes in the first round it is likely Swift, who should quickly start and serve as a three-down back in the NFL. I think there is too much value at running back to take the first one off the board but the Dolphins are stacked with draft picks and feel like they can reach a little for a top running back after Ryan Fitzpatrick led the team in rushing last season. Multiple mocks across the industry have Swift going here, like Matt Miller’s latest mock does but others like Lance Zierlein, Todd McShay and Mel Kiper all have him going to the Chiefs with the 32nd pick. That’s a great landing spot for him, but Andy Reid hasn’t seemed too keen on putting a lot of capital into the position and still is coming off a Super Bowl win.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 47th overall
Edwards-Helaire is one of the best receivers in this draft and with the Buccaneers going all in on Tom Brady, who has spent much of his career throwing to receiving backs. I expect the Buccaneers to prioritize a receiving back this draft. Ronald Jones improved as a receiver last season under Bruce Arians but that’s not his calling card and they need a strong receiver now.
Jonathan Taylor, Pittsburgh Steelers, 49th overall
It might be tough for Taylor to fall this far, as some teams will have him as their No. 1 running back, but teams also aren’t going to draft a running back just because he’s high in their rankings. The Jaguars, if they let Leonard Fournette go, Falcons and Buccaneers could grab Taylor before he gets to the Steelers, while the Bengals, Lions and Chargers might also have some interest. It’s a gauntlet the Steelers will have to run to land Taylor if they don’t trade up. Taylor would be a nice fit in their offense behind a strong offensive line and a replacement for the oft-injured James Conner coming into the final year of his contract.
J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens, 55th overall
The Ravens aren’t going to change up their run first mentality due to one upset loss in the playoffs and Mark Ingram is 30 years old, which is out to pasture time for many running backs. Justice Hill is there, but will likely work more in the receiving game while Dobbins has upside to be the best back in this draft. If the Ravens have that belief as well, they’ll grab him here and get him some of those 37 rushing attempts per game they had last season.
Cam Akers, Seattle Seahawks, 59th overall
Both Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson were hurt toward the end of last season which precipitated signing Marshawn Lynch for a few weeks. Both Penny and Carson could be ready to go Week 1 but if there is any concern about their healthy, Seattle will grab a running back. Akers is someone who could start quickly if needed in Seattle’s run heavy scheme.
Zack Moss, Kansas City Chiefs, 63rd overall
If the Chiefs do skip on a running back at pick 32, I expect them to see what is available at 63rd. Damien Williams was a monster in the playoffs and Super Bowl and slots in as the No. 1 back for the team, but also couldn’t stay healthy. Moss is someone who could thrive in Kansas City’s offense, as he’s a good pass blocker and receiver. The Chiefs could have more faith in Darwin Thompson than I’m seeing, but Moss would be an upgrade and a possible starter as early as this season.