Links to similar discussions on other positions:
Grinding the Mocks compiles mock draft data throughout the pre-draft process. This data provides insight into when players may hear their name called and which teams may be interested in calling their name. Likewise, patterns can appear around what teams may be interested in targeting a specific position. This article focuses on what we can learn about the running back position in the lead-up to the NFL Draft from mock drafts since March 1.
The running back position is weaker this year than in normal years. Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker, the two top running backs in the class according to mock draft data, have an expected draft position of 43.7 and 52.7 respectively. Likewise, there are not a lot of overt great landing spots. The overall good supply of young running backs has driven down the cost of rookies in this class and left them without a lot of desirable landing spots. While the dynasty marketplace is high on Breece Hall, there is no guarantee he will land in a great spot.
The best situation for a running back to come into a high-profile offense with a great chance to win a day one starting job is Buffalo. Running back is not projected to Buffalo in the first round but is the third most common position mocked to the Bills in the second round (24%). The most mocked player in the second round was Hall (9%). Hall would make 2020 third-round pick Zack Moss expendable, while also putting Devin Singletary into a more complimentary than lead role.
50% of mock drafts have Miami selecting a running back in the second round. The leading running back options are Walker (22%) and Hall (21%). The offensive has been lucrative for lower pedigree players when Head Coach Mike McDaniel was the offensive coordinator in San Francisco. The situation at present is crowded with Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds both signing in free agency.
Another open spot, on the opposite side of the contending spectrum of offensive strength, is the Houston Texans. 12% of drafts mocked running back to Houston in round two, with Hall (8%) the second most mocked player in the second round to the Texans. Houston has seven picks in the top 108 picks, with a lot of needs across their roster. Incumbent starter Rex Burkhead is being selected outside the top 70 running backs, and at worst, should compete for an injury-away job during the season even if the Texans address the position. If Houston does not select a running back in the top seven picks, Burkhead has a good chance to be a starter and flex option in 2022.
Running back was the third most common position for mock drafts in the second round for the Cardinals with Walker (11%) and Hall (7%) the two most common player selections. Some of these mock drafts occurred before the Cardinals locked James Conner into a multiple-year commitment, but recent mock drafts still project the team to address the position. If Arizona leaves the first two days of the draft without a running back, Conner will be a big discount at the RB25 cost he has been in the past month.
Atlanta selected running backs Hall (8%) and Walker (7%) among the most common second-round selections. The team has Mike Davis on a cuttable contract and has returned Cordarrelle Patterson on a two-year 10.5-million-dollar contract, with the only guarantees in 2022. Patterson’s role as a receiver, in an offense devoid of receiving talent, would keep him fantasy viable if the Falcons address the position on day two of the draft.
The Jets have rookie season success story Michael Carter II on the roster, but 7% of mock drafts have the Jets selecting Hall. Carter has a cost of RB23 in the past month, and like Conner, could see a rise in valuation if the Jets do not address the position.
Two sleeper teams include Tampa Bay and Washington. Tampa Bay’s most mocked position in the second round is running back (21%) with Spiller (9%) and Walker (8%) in the top three of most mocked individual players. The retention of Leonard Fournette should tamp this down some, but this remains a situation to watch. Additionally, while mock drafts have not been selecting Washington to draft a running back, Washington has met with Hall, Walker, Isaiah Spiller, Brian Robinson, and Tyrion Davis-Price in top 30 visits, along with bringing J.D. McKissic back in free agency. These all create an impression the team is not sold on Antonio Gibson heading into 2022.
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