In recent years, young running backs have been asked to step into a starting role right away. We will have at least 12 potential starters at running back this season with three years experience or less. The majority of these players are in year one or two, with two of them in year three. There is also a potential for six other running backs to take over during the season.
We see it every year. A player comes out of nowhere and has a monster game and the next week, everyone is racing to pick them up off waivers. If you include the non-starters that could take a lead role into this equation, we can have as many as 19 NFL teams with young (three years experience or less) running backs as starters.
Let’s take a closer look at each running back situation and how they are being drafted this season.
Rookie Running Backs
We all covet rookie running backs because we can draft them after the first couple of rounds and they have the potential to be a stud. This season, three rookie running backs are in line to start the season as the No. 1 guy with three others having the opportunity to take the starting role sometime during the season.
(ADP = Average Draft Position)
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh, ADP of 50
Bell will most likely be the first of the rookie running backs taken in drafts. He has good feet even though he is a big back. Bell can also catch passes out of the backfield, which will give him a boost in points-per-reception leagues.
Montee Ball, Denver, ADP of 52
Ball’s value skyrocketed after the team released Willis McGahee this offseason. The thing that could hurt his potential is pass blocking, which is critical for Peyton Manning. Ronnie Hillman could also cut into his carries. Monitor this situation during the preseason.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay, ADP of 67
The Packers have lacked a talented running back like Lacy since they had Ahman Green. On a passing team like Green Bay, Lacy might not get as many carries as other starting running backs in the league. He may also be in for a running back by committee situation and he has some injury concerns.
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati, ADP of 72
Bernard was the first running back selected in the NFL draft this season and could take over the starting job from BenJarvus Green-Ellis at any time this season. In fact, I’m seeing Bernard drafted ahead of Green-Ellis in a lot of drafts. That is a risk that could pay off later in the season. Keep an eye on this situation as it can change during training camp.
Zac Stacy, St. Louis, ADP of 125
Starter Daryl Richardson is not a lock to keep the starting job so Stacy could potentially win the role. Isaiah Pead didn’t impress the team and saw little action last year and is going to be suspended for the first game of the season. I think this is a situation that may take longer to develop so draft with the mind set of stashing him for a later date.
Denard Robinson, Jacksonville, ADP of 187
Robinson is an interesting player as the Jaguars drafted him in the hopes of using him all over the field. He’ll play behind Maurice Jones-Drew but Jones-Drew hasn’t fully recovered from foot surgery, and who knows how healthy he will be? Robinson could produce similar to what Percy Harvin did early in his career, but, unless Jones-Drew goes down, his 2013 potential could be as a bye week fill in at best.