It was a rather thin rookie class for NFL running backs, as only LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire was taken in the first round — going 32nd to the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. He will help add a new dimension to this already lethal Kansas City offense, as he is likely in line to take the starting job from veteran Damien Williams.
Many draft experts had him third on their running back big board, but this did not deter the Chiefs’ front office from picking the LSU standout.
Meanwhile, the second and third rounds featured eight more running backs selected, as many of them will have a chance to carve out significant roles this season.
Given the volatility at the position, it’s safe to assume there will be tremendous opportunity for players like D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, and Cam Akers, thus warranting serious consideration for your fantasy teams this fall.
The Los Angeles Rams selected Florida State running back Cam Akers with their first pick in 2020’s draft. At 52nd overall, the Rams hope to have found their long-term replacement for Pro-Bowler Todd Gurley, whom they cut this offseason.
Akers will be penciled in as the Week 1 starter, as Los Angeles lacks depth at the position outside of second-year pro Darrell Henderson Jr.
Coach Sean McVay’s offense is at its best when the Rams are running the football effectively, as it opens up the play-action pass for quarterback Jared Goff. Goff struggled immensely last season since the Rams couldn’t get anything going on the ground, so a resurgent run game will likely open things up for this offense.
Akers is the complete package out of the backfield, boasting great instincts to go along with his prototypical speed and size. He should be able to contribute nicely in the passing game, while also carrying the football 15 to 20 times a game, giving him a high floor in all fantasy leagues.
Akers should be a sure-fire RB2, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he wound up being a top 10 running back by season’s end.
Edwards-Helaire will have every opportunity to rack up fantasy points this season, as he’ll likely receive the bulk of the goal-line work — an area he has thrived in throughout his collegiate career.
It’s tough to gauge how many touches he’ll get this season, as there’s going to be a lot of mouths to feed in this offense, but there should remain a solid role for the rookie so long as he can stay healthy.
Edwards-Helaire will probably split time with Williams to start the season, but the job is obviously his to lose given the draft capital Kansas City used on him. The touchdown potential is simply too great to shy away from drafting this talented back, and there’s no reason why Edwards-Helaire shouldn’t be able to contribute immediately in this high-octane offense.
He currently projects as a high-upside RB2.
Taylor was the third running back off the board in this year’s draft, as he was selected 41st overall by the Indianapolis Colts.
The former Heisman candidate out of Wisconsin has everything you look for in a franchise running back and figures to play an integral part in this Indianapolis offense this season. He’s a physical, powerful runner, making him a perfect scheme fit for what the Colts want to do on offense.
Indianapolis’ offense is very similarly built to what Taylor had at Wisconsin, as the strength of the unit starts and ends at the offensive line. Taylor will form a solid 1-2 punch with fourth-year pro Marlon Mack, giving veteran quarterback Philip Rivers a very dependable run game he can lean on throughout the season.
Although Taylor will split carries with Mack, his sheer talent should be enough for fantasy owners to spend an early-round pick on the rookie, as Indy will give him every opportunity to win the starting job.
Given the overall limitations surrounding this Rivers-led offense, I don’t expect Taylor to outduel his rookie contemporaries, but nonetheless, he should be highly productive in what appears to be a run-heavy scheme, thus warranting top 50 consideration — especially in non-PPR formats.
The Detroit Lions took Georgia running back D’Andre Swift with the third pick in the second round, giving head coach Matt Patricia a new dimension to his offense.
Last year’s starter, Kerryon Johnson, is more of a downhill runner who can churn out tough yards between the tackles. He’s your prototypical one-cut power back and doesn’t have the home-run potential of someone like Swift.
Swift’s elusiveness in the open field will change the dynamic of this offense, as he’ll be the perfect complement to Johnson.
He’s also adept at catching passes out of the backfield, which has become an increasingly important component of any offense.
Swift will see the bulk of the third-down work this season, and could potentially steal the starting job as the year progresses.
The limitations surrounding his workload scare me a little, but he’ll still provide great value across PPR leagues and should be a name to monitor moving forward.
For now, he projects nicely as a flex.