Analyzing Rookie RB Landing Spots
This years runningback class was already considered by many to be underwhelming, and for the most part where they landed didn't help their value. In this article I will be examining the landing spots of the 2019 runningback draft class, to determine if with they gained or lost value via the draft. It seems to me that teams who you expected to draft runningbacks didn't draft any and teams who didn't at least on the surface appear to require runningbacks drafted backs. As I will outline in this article, landing spots for runningbacks can often outweigh that players individual talent in the overall evaluation process. This years rookie drafts are going to be a complete crap shoot when compared to recent drafts. In my opinion it is a good year to trade back and acquire picks, getting more kicks at the can than just a single early pick.
Josh Jacobs 1:24 Oakland Raiders - In one of the most obvious picks of the first round Oakland selected Alabama runningback Josh Jacobs. Aside from the Raiders questionable offensive line which ranked 28th overall in the 2018 season, I feel Oakland is a quality landing spot for Jacobs. He possesses a prototypical combination of size and speed to potentially be an every down back in the NFL. He also proved to be an effective pass catcher out of the backfield as well as from the slot. The only thing that may limit Jacobs PPR value early on is Jalen Richard who caught 68 passes in 2018.
Miles Sanders 2:21 Philadelphia Eagles - The Penn State product doesn't have to go far to begin his NFL career as he was drafted by the Eagles and stays in state. I liked Sanders a lot pre draft but his landing spot at least in the short term is far from ideal. The Eagles recently traded for Jordan Howard who was slated to dominate early touches. Sanders also joins a very crowded runningback room with the aforementioned Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams, Donnel Pumphrey, and Twitter favorite Boston Scott already on the roster. Dynasty owners will have to patient with Sanders barring something unforeseen happening to Howard. At least he's going to a team with a projected top five offensive line.
Darrell Henderson 3:06 Los Angeles Rams - If you thought there were questions and concerns about the long term health of Todd Gurley's knee before the draft. Its about to get a lot worse with the drafting of Memphis runningback Darrell Henderson early in the third round. No matter how you look at the situation Gurley's workload appears as if it is going to be lightened as it was in the playoffs. This may be a brief window to buy Todd Gurley at a discounted price. As far as Henderson goes he possesses a smaller frame at 5'8 208 so he may have been drafted to play a third down and receiving role out of the backfield. I don't particularly like this landing spot as Malcolm Brown has proved to be a capable backup, so unless he is going to play a Tarik Cohen role his value may be significantly limited.
David Montgomery 3:10 Chicago Bears - Montgomery is one of the few runningbacks in this years draft who had a value increase due to landing spot. As mentioned in the Miles Sanders write up, former Bears top RB Jordan Howard is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, however they did acquire journeyman Mike Davis. I personally believe that Davis is mediocre at best and fully expect Montgomery to overtake him on the depth chart in pre season. The Bears ranked 11th as an offensive line for 2018 which should open up plenty of holes for the rookie out of Iowa State. I really like the landing spot here and a case can be made for Montgomery going consistently as the 1:01 or 1:02 in rookie drafts.
Devin Singletary 3:11 Buffalo Bills - The Bills selected Devin Singletary to potentially replace the nearly 31 year old LeSean McCoy moving forward. Singletary joins a crowded but aging runningback group in Buffalo which also includes Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon. Buffalo ranked 26th as an offensive line in 2018, but I expect the shifty rookie to show the ability to create yards for himself despite the questionable O-line. Singletary was a touchdown monster for Florida Atlantic with 67 TD's in his three years there, in spite of the fact he is barely 200 pounds soaking wet. He has incredible vision and power near the goal line and is quick to process and respond to oncoming traffic. I really like this landing spot for Singletary after this season, you may be able to acquire him at a discounted price during the season if he isn't seeing many touches behind the veterans currently ahead of him on the Bills depth chart.
Damien Harris 3:24 New England Patriots - This is a typical perplexing Bill Belichick draft pick. Only a year after taking Sony Michel in the first round he uses a top 100 pick on another runningback in Alabama's Damien Harris. Harris joins a very crowded runningback depth chart in New England with Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White already on the roster. Touches will likely be difficult to come by and impossible to predict as his workload will be game flow dependent. I think this is a downright terrible landing spot for Harris as the best he can hope for anytime soon is a full committee approach in the backfield. The one thing he does have working in his favor is that when he does get to touch the ball he will be running behind the fourth ranked offensive line from 2018.
Alexander Mattison 3:39 Minnesota Vikings - I had considered Mattison a late round draft pick as he was one of my favorite sleepers, then the Vikings drafted him in the third round 102nd overall. I do not like this landing spot as he simply isn't as talented as Dalvin Cook so his upside would be similar to that of Latavius Murray last season. In the short term it is going to take an injury for the Boise State product to be fantasy relevant unless he impresses enough during camp to earn 10-12 touches a game with some goal line work. He will be operating behind the 29th ranked offensive line from 2018 however the Vikes drafted four players on the offensive line so it should be vastly improved.
Bryce Love 4:10 Washington Redskins - Washington was another team that just a year after drafting a player (Derius Guice) who was considered by most to be a bell cow back, went spent considerable draft capital on a runningback in 2019 in Bryce Love. I know Guice and Love are considerably different backs with Guice being an early down thumper and Love being a change of pace receiving option back, but it's interesting nonetheless. In my rookie player profiles I used Chris Thompson as an NFL comparison for Bryce Love which is ironic seeing as how Thomson is in the last year of his current contract and Love was likely drafted to be his replacement. Love offers little to no starting fantasy value this season as he recovers from a December torn ACL and will presumably start the season on PUP. But in 2020 look for him to potentially take on the third down receiving role for Washington.
Justice Hill 4:11 Baltimore Ravens - Justice Hill came into the NFL combine as somewhat of an unknown for many, he then proceeded to blow away scouts with his incredible athletic testing putting NFL teams on notice. He is a smaller back at 5'10 198 but handled an every down role at Oklahoma State for three seasons. I'm neutral on his landing spot in Baltimore as it isn't a team bursting at the seams with talented young backs. With that being said they did sign Mark Ingram recently and still have Gus "Bus" Edwards, Kenneth Dixon, and Tyler Irvin. None of these guys offer the skill set and explosiveness that Hill can offer, however I do expect carries to be few and far between in the next couple of seasons. In his rookie year he may be used on special teams as a return man and as a gadget player on offense. Baltimore boasted a top ten offensive line last season and predicting carries in the Ravens offense has been nearly impossible the past couple of seasons so fingers crossed that Hill gets a shot early on.
Benny Snell 4:20 Pittsburgh Steelers - With the departure of Le'Veon Bell you had to know the Steelers would add a back in the draft at some point it was really just a matter of when. 4:20 that's when. Landing in Pittsburgh has proved to be an excellent landing spot for any runningback over the past few years. Practically everyone who totes the rock behind that number one ranked offensive line finds immediate success. Snell joins a fairly open depth chart in the steel city, Conner is obviously the lead back at this point in time but behind him you have only. Converted tighend Jaylen Samuels, and mediocrity at its finest in Trey Edmunds and Ralph Webb. Snell who was incredible over his three years at Kentucky totaling 3,873 rushing yards averaging 1291 yards per season. When I watched his tape for my rookie player profile series I compared him to James Conner. I feel if something were to happen to James Conner that Snell would be able to step in and provide very similar production.
Tony Pollard 4:26 Dallas Cowboys - On the surface this appears to be a negative landing spot for the talented back out of Memphis due to the fact the Cowboys offense revolves around Zeke. However looking back at Pollards college tape, this may be an excellent fit as Pollard is not a true runningback in my opinion but a Swiss army knife on offense. He was an electric return man for the past three years, and will likely be used as a gadget player on offense for his first couple of seasons. He possesses NFL size and speed and his elusiveness and quickness should allow him opportunities as a change of pace back to Ezekiel Elliot. I know it may be hard to see any immediate value for Pollard but Dallas has a very shallow runningback depth chart behind Zeke with only, Darius Jackson, and Jordan Chunn currently on the roster. Dallas as usual had a quality offensive line in 2018 ranking 14th despite some injuries up front, and should be even better this season.
Ryquell Armstead 5:02 Jacksonville Jaguars - Despite landing behind current every down back Leonard Fournette I believe that Armstead actually finds himself in a favorable landing spot. He is nearly identical to Fournette in stature and they ran very similar 40 times. So perhaps the Jags may be looking to drop him into the starters role if Fournette were to miss more time in his third year. Armstead is a power runner who has incredible breakaway speed for his size, with the ability to get outside and turn the corner for the big play. He was known for his competitive nature throughout his time at Temple, and as a decisive and fearless runner. Jacksonville ranked 22nd as far as offensive line, but have addressed the issue in the off season via free agency and the draft. Fournette has had durability issues and there isn't much behind him on the depth chart except a bunch of journeyman who have been cast off multiple times in recent years.
Qadree Ollison 5:14 Atlanta Falcons - With Tevin Coleman leaving town for San Francisco it was a given that the Falcons would add some runningback depth behind starter Devonta Freeman. They did just that when they drafted Qadree Ollison in the fifth round out of Pittsburgh. This isn't a bad landing spot for the bruising runner, as the Falcons don't really possess a back with his size speed combination. He is 6'1, and weighs nearly 230 pounds but ran in the 4.5's at the combine. If nothing else he could prove to be a short yardage and goal line hammer for Atlanta. He has great contact balance, and can often power through would be arm tacklers getting through to the second level. The Falcons depth chart is essentially wide open behind Freeman, with only Ito Smith, Kenjon Barner, Brian Hill, and Jeremy Langford, an uninspiring group of backups to say the least. Atlanta has a quality offense and an O-line that ranked just outside the top ten at twelve so goal line carries may come often for whichever back ends up in that role.
Jordan Scarlett 5:16 Carolina Panthers - The Panthers decided to add a quality backup runningback to work behind Christian McCaffery due to the baron wasteland that is the Carolina RB depth chart. If the unthinkable were to happen and CMC were to go down they only have perennial disappointment Cameron Artis-Payne and Elijah Hood on the roster. So adding a back with a respectable college resume who can operate as a downhill punisher or thunder to McCaffery's lightning makes total sense. Scarlett offers a sturdy lower body which helps him to power through contact while maintaining his balance. Keeps his feet pumping through initial contact, was a tackle breaking machine in college and is very difficult to bring down in the open field. Carolina ranked near the middle of the pack last season as an offensive line at 17th, but succeeded running the ball consistently nonetheless. Scarlett has interesting handcuff appeal, but will require an injury to see relevant touches. Also Cam Newton is a ball hog near the goal line so he may be used as more of a decoy inside the five yard line.
Trayveon Williams 6:09 Cincinnati Bengals - I feel that the Bengals got a steal on the talented runningback out of Texas A&M, scooping him up at 182nd overall. The landing spot however just downright sucks in the short term, however there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for Williams dynasty value. He proved during his time at Texas A&M that he is an excellent pass catcher and quality pass protector. The player currently in that role for the Bengals Giovanni Bernard just happens to be in the final year of his contract. Joe Mixon is firmly cemented atop a reasonably wide open RB depth chart in Cincy that includes really only Mixon and Bernard prior to the addition of two rookies via the draft. The Bengals ranked 27th on offensive line last season, so there is really nowhere to go but up in that department.
Ty Johnson 6:13 Detroit Lions - Johnson joins several capable runningbacks by landing in Detroit with Kerryon Johnson, Theo Riddick, C.J. Anderson and Zach Zenner already on the roster. It is difficult to envision many touches for Johnson as a rookie outside of special teams which will significantly limit his value early on in his career. Despite being a quality back for Maryland I don't see much chance for success for him both on the Lions or in the NFL in general. He lacks size and was not utilized in the passing game very often or as a pass protector. Detroit ranked 16th as an O-line last season but I just don't feel that Johnson gets the necessary opportunities to be fantasy relevant.
Dexter Williams 6:22 Green Bay Packers - As they have done regularly the past couple of drafts the Packers added a late round runningback. This time it was Dexter Williams out of Notre Dame who I honestly expected to be drafted much higher that the sixth round. I don't mind the landing spot at all with Aaron Jones slated to be the starter they Packers really only have 2018 disappointment Jamaal Williams and Kapri Bibbs. It would not surprise me one bit if the rookie were to win the backup job out of camp leaving him potentially an injury away from the lead role in an Aaron Rodgers led offense. He stepped into a bell cow role with ease last season as a senior and looked comfortable as the lead back, averaging a touchdown run every 12 carries. Understands blocking development and excels in pass protection which is a must if he wants to get on the field as a rookie. The Packers ranked 7th in 2018 as an offensive line which will help whichever back is getting the touches.
Travis Homer 6:32 Seattle Seahawks - When in doubt draft a runningback is apparently the Seahawks draft strategy the past several drafts. This year they found some late round value in Miami product Travis Homer very late in the sixth round. I don't particularly like the landing spot on one hand as he joins a full depth chart that includes Rashaad Penny, Chris Carson, C.J. Prosise, J.D. McKissic and Bo Scarbrough. On the other hand Pete Carroll has proven over the years that he doesn't care about draft capital or annual salary, the hot hand gets the touches. With that being said Seattle has become a difficult place to predict carries on a game to game basis making Homer's already somewhat diminished value volatile as well. On the positive side Seattle likes to run early and often and vastly improved their offensive line from 2017 to 2018 ranking 18th last season.
Rodney Anderson 6:39 Cincinnati Bengals - This is a disappointing landing spot for the former Oklahoma star back. As the Bengals already have two very capable RB's in Mixon and Bernard and drafted Trayveon Williams earlier in the sixth round. However his incredible size speed combination and similar traits to Joe Mixon tell me he is essentially an insurance policy in case something were to happen to Mixon. Meaning he may be in for a heavy workload if the unthinkable were to happen to Mixon, giving him some sleeper potential. As I mentioned earlier the Bengals offensive line was horrendous in 2018 ranking 27th overall so that isn't helping his value either. A lot of things have to happen in order for Anderson to receive meaningful snaps so I don't see him as much more that a late round flier at this point.
Darwin Thompson 6:42 Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs took a late round stab at catching lightning in a bottle with "jitterbug" Darwin Thompson. He is undersized but electric nonetheless, he possesses incredible elusiveness and the ability to run routes and catch the ball out of the backfield. There isn't an abundance of talent on the K.C. depth chart in Damien Williams, Carlos Hyde, and Darrell Williams. However I view Thompson as more of a gadget back than a traditional runningback in the NFL, playing a role similar to former Chief DeAnthony Thomas. He showed a nose for the endzone with 16 touchdowns in 2018 and offers excellent athletic traits. Although as a rookie I expect his valur to lie on special teams alone.
Mike Weber 7:04 Dallas Cowboys - This pick by the Cowboys offers both intrigue and incredible value as Weber carried a third to fourth round draft grade by many experts. Weber was a productive three year starter at THE Ohio State showing that he can handle a three down role. He is a skilled runner with quality size who moves well and shows elusiveness and wiggle. Weber does a great job of eluding second level defenders and makes smart lane choices relative to where the defensive flow is headed. I don't see any reason why Weber couldn't unseat Darius Jackson as the backup runningback in Dallas with a solid training camp as I feel he is the superior talent. You may have to patient as a Weber owner but the wait may be well worth the reward if Zeke were ever to go down.
Kerrith Whyte 7:08 Chicago Bears - Whyte put together impressive production during the 2018 season for Florida Atlantic despite getting half the carries of celebrated starter Devin Singletary. He has complementary back size and lacks consistent third down skill, but his speed could make him a developmental backup. His most likely path to success with be as a return man, the Florida native earned a second team All Conference USA nod as a returner as a red shirt freshman in 2016 and a sophomore in 2017. He offers explosive speed combined with elusiveness as he scored 10 TD's on only 144 touches in 2018. He possesses the ability to score from anywhere on the field anytime the ball is in his hands. If he does receive opportunities to rush the ball he will be doing so behind the leagues 11th ranked offensive line from the 2018 season.
Myles Gaskin 7:20 Miami Dolphins - Gaskin is a player I liked throughout the draft process as I reviewed his film from Washington I was quickly impressed at what a complete back he was. His four year college production was downright ridiculous totaling 5,323 rushing yards and another 465 yards receiving. Myself and many others expected Gaskin to be drafted much earlier somewhere in the fourth or fifth round. He is explosive and his athletic traits should translate to success at the next level. Gaskin runs with a low center of gravity, and was able to take on a very heavy college workload. Possesses great burst to the perimeter, accelerates quickly, and can win foot races around the corner. With only Kenyan Drake, and Kalen Ballage ahead of him on Miami's depth chart it isn't difficult to imagine a scenario where Gaskin is receiving regular touches as a rookie. Miami's offensive line was a pathetic 31st last season but thankfully that was addressed both via free agency and the draft.
For the purpose of this article I only included drafted runningbacks, several more quality backs were signed as priority free agents, similar to Phillip Lindsay last season. So take a few minutes and review all the backs who signed deals after the draft and see if you can find yourself a diamond in the rough to draft with as late round pick in your upcoming rookie drafts.