Teams’ futures changed with the draft. So did the fantasy outlooks for running backs. We take a look at which ones are on the rise and which ones lost value heading into OTAs and training camps.
Michael Carter- New York Jets
Michael Carter had a good rookie season with the Jets. He played well to start the season and then missed some time and was just okay after returning from the injury. It seemed that he was poised to take over the backfield heading into the off-season. His fantasy stock has now plummeted after the Jets took the perceived best running back in the draft, Breece Hall, in the second round. Hall is billed as a generational talent who probably thrust Carter down to a change of pace back and will compete with veteran Tevin Coleman for opportunities. On a team that has loaded up on skill positions, Carter might struggle to find his role in the offense.
Zack Moss- Buffalo Bills
Zack Moss looked to be the odd man out after beginning the 2021 season as the starter. He lost his starting role to Devin Singletary and was relegated to a change of pace back. He then saw the Bills sign Duke Johnson to be the pass-catching back. Then the Bills drafted Davlin Cook’s brother James Cook in the second round. Cook doesn’t project to take the starting role but will probably take most of Moss’s carries if Singletary keeps his starting role. Splitting time with Cook will make it hard for Moss to be fantasy relevant. He should still be held in dynasty and deep leagues with hopes he can carve out a role in the offense.
Ke’shawn Vaughn- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ke’shawn Vaughn has never really gotten his moment in the Tamp Bay sun. He has been behind Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones for the past 2 years and saw very little in-game action. It was hopeful he would see a bigger role in 2022 with Rojo leaving and only Fournette ahead of him on the depth chart. He now has his work cut out for him in training camp with incoming 3rd round running back Rachaad White out of Arizona state. As the 4th running back off the board in the draft, White carries some draft capital heading into off-season workouts. If Vaughn cant carve out a role for himself, the Bucs may just go another way and he could find himself looking for another team.
Rashaad Penny- Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks’ offense has been in overhaul after they traded away Russell Wilson, and the backfield is no exception. Chris Carson is trying to come back from a neck injury but there are fears that he may be done for good. Rashaad Penny had a great end-of-season run and looked to be poised to take over the backfield in 2022. On a team lacking an elite quarterback in Drew Lock, it looked like running the ball was going to be the primary game plan in the pacific northwest. What hurt Penny’s stock was the drafting of Kenneth Walker III in the second round. Walker projects to be a 3-down back so it will be a camp battle to watch to see who emerges as the starter. We could be looking at an even timeshare which is not what Penny owners wanted to see.
Ezekiel Elliot- Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys boast one of the best rushing duos in the league with Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard, and their off-season moves imply a focus on running the ball on offense. The Cowboys traded away Amari Cooper for next to nothing and never really replaced him. They then used their first-round pick on a lineman, Tyler Smith, out of Tulsa. Smith is a very solid run blocker who can sure up the offensive line which has been one of the hallmarks of the Cowboys over the years. Zeke looks to be the focal point of the offense heading into the 2020 season.
Miles Sanders- Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles were dead last in percentage of passing plays on offense last season. They raised the passing floor by trading for star wide receiver A.J. Brown. They also used their second-round pick on center Cameron Jurgens out of Nebraska. Jurgens can probably play guard in the NFL. He has good skills for zone blocking. Miles Sanders should benefit from both these moves. Sanders should be able to lead the Eagles in rushing and with an improved passing game should open up more scoring opportunities. The fact the Eagles did not take a running back in the draft or free agency shows they are committed to him going forward.
Alvin Kamara- New Orleans Saints
The Saints’ offense was not great in 2021. They were missing star wideout Michael Thomas and Jameis Winston missed time. Heading into the 2022 season the Saints look to bounce back to their high-powered offensive ways. They opted to not turn to a rookie quarterback in the draft instead selected Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave at 11 and then took O lineman Trevor Penning from Northern Iowa at 19. Penning is an outstanding run blocker who should be able to open up holes for Alvin Kamara. It points to a return to form for the dynamic runner who only played in 13 games last season and only rushed for 4 touchdowns. He should trend more towards his 202o numbers where he had 16 touchdowns in 15 games.
Saquon Barkley- New York Giants
The Giants had a major choice heading into the draft. They could have either retooled the offense or defense. They choose to go a little of both but retooled the offense instead of overhauling it. They used 5 of their 11 picks on offensive players but none on running back or quarterback which were two areas that were real possibilities. Saquon Barkley has been a letdown since his massive rookie year in 2018. He has battled injuries and a bad offensive line. He looks poised, if he stays healthy, to regain his top 10 RB form. The skill positions stay the same from what it has been and the identity of the team should still fall on Barkley’s shoulders. Getting two offensive linemen in the first 3 rounds including, Evan Neal, really shows the commitment to the running game.