Recent NFL Draft classes have been rich with running back talent. This year’s class has talent, but is nowhere near the day two talent of classes like 2020 and 2017. Using aggregated mock drafts in March and April from Grindingthemocks.com, there are key teams and players to watch as you prepare your dynasty teams before the NFL Draft.
15.2% of mock drafts have the Buffalo Bills selecting a running back in the first round, with Najee Harris and Travis Etienne both mocked to the Bills 7% of the time. Javonte Williams has drawn no interest in the second round, yet Buffalo has prioritized running backs who force missed tackles in prior drafts in the form of Devin Singletary and Zach Moss, so Williams should be a name to monitor.
James Conner’s signing with Arizona marks a new day for the Pittsburgh backfield. Without an obvious heir apparent, Pittsburgh is likely in the draft market for a running back. The second most commonly mocked position for Pittsburgh is running back (28.2%) behind only offensive tackle. Najee Harris is the most commonly mocked player (18.6%) with Travis Etienne the fourth most commonly mocked player (7.8%). While the sample size is smaller, running back is the second most mocked position to Pittsburgh in the second round (22%) with Javonte Williams (12%) and Kenneth Gainwell (5%) the most commonly mocked running backs in round two. If the Steelers are only a 50-50 shot to take a running back in the first two rounds, Benny Snell at a third round valuation is an intriguing throw in to larger deals.
The most commonly mocked position to Arizona in the second round is running back (21.1%) with Williams the most commonly mocked running back (8%) followed by Etienne (6%). Williams is the more commonly mocked player because Etienne is projected to be selected before Williams in most drafts. The addition of Conner in free agency makes it less likely Arizona will address the position early in the NFL Draft, and insulates Chase Edmonds to a degree.
The second most commonly mocked position to Atlanta is running back (25.6%) with Etienne (12%) and Williams (7%) the most likely outcomes. In the event Harris falls into round two, he would be a prime candidate to land with the Falcons. With only a quarter of drafts mocking running backs, Mike Davis could be a value in existing leagues at a third round equivalency in larger deals.
Los Angeles Chargers
The LA Chargers have Austin Ekeler and not much else at the running back position. 2020 fourth round pick Joshua Kelley started the season well, but faded quickly behind other options like Kalen Ballage, Justin Jackson, and Troymaine Pope. The second most commonly mocked player to the Chargers in round two is Williams (7%) with 9% of mock drafts selecting a running back in the second round. If this occurs, it is more of an indictment on Kelley than a threat to Ekeler’s lead role in the backfield.
The most commonly mocked position for the Dolphins in the second round is running back (25.9%) with Williams (11%) and Etienne (10%) the most commonly mocked players. With two picks in the first round, do not rule out the possibility the Dolphins select Harris. With Myles Gaskin a pleasant surprise in 2020, the position may not be as big of a need as casual observers appreciate.
New York Jets
With the Jets projected to take a quarterback second overall, 30% of mock drafts have the Jets selecting a running back to ease the pressure on their rookie investment. Etienne is the most common (15.9%) with Harris the second most common player (9.7%). If Harris falls out of the first round of the NFL Draft, expect him to go very early on day two. Tevin Coleman is an interesting stash player in the event the Jets do not address the position in the top three rounds of the NFL Draft.
The NFL Draft can be one of the biggest threats to veteran running backs. This year there is no obvious candidate to get the Marlon Mack treatment from 2020 when the Indianapolis Colts selected Jonathan Taylor. This is good news for James Robinson, Raheem Mostert, and Jeffrey Wilson.