Only four running backs were selected in the first three rounds of this year's draft. It wasn't a highly regarded class. From the fourth through seventh rounds, though, there were 15 college runners selected, with Michael Carter (pictured) taken first. What are the chances one of those players has a significant rookie season, or career?
I went to our files, where we collect statistics from everyone each year. To give me a manageable sample, I looked at all first-year running backs since 2011, but ones that weren't selected in the first three rounds. Either Day 3 picks, or undrafted guys.
From the last decade, there have been a little over 200 late-drafted (rounds 4-7) or undrafted running backs to make it into our files, on average about 22 per year.
Of those players, 13 finished their first season ranked in the top 30 at the position; 1.3 per year. Nineteen more made it into the top 50; should be rostered in typical leagues, and managed some usable production along the way. Collectively, you're looking at about 3 viable late-round or undrafted rookie running backs per season. Three of them made it into the top 10 at the position in the last decade, with James Robinson the best of those players recently.
|LATE-ROUND RUNNING BACKS, 2011-2020 (TOP-50)|
|U||2020||James Robinson, Jac.||1070||49||344||10||252.4||7|
|6||2012||Alfred Morris, Was.||1613||11||77||13||258.0||7|
|5||2016||Jordan Howard, Chi.||1313||29||298||7||232.1||10|
|U||2018||Phillip Lindsay, Den.||1037||35||241||10||222.8||13|
|5||2013||Zac Stacy, St.L.||973||26||141||8||185.4||21|
|4||2011||Roy Helu, Was.||640||49||379||3||168.9||25|
|U||2014||Branden Oliver, S.D.||582||36||271||4||145.3||26|
|6||2013||Andre Ellington, Ariz.||652||39||371||4||165.3||26|
|4||2014||Andre Williams, NYG||721||18||130||7||145.1||27|
|4||2017||Tarik Cohen, Chi.||370||53||353||4||154.4||28|
|4||2016||Devontae Booker, Den.||612||31||265||5||148.7||29|
|4||2015||Javorius Allen, Balt.||514||45||353||3||149.7||29|
|4||2015||Jeremy Langford, Chi.||537||22||279||7||147.6||30|
|U||2014||Isaiah Crowell, Cle.||607||9||87||8||126.4||33|
|5||2012||Vick Ballard, Ind.||814||17||152||3||131.6||33|
|4||2017||Jamaal Williams, G.B.||556||25||262||6||142.8||34|
|U||2015||Thomas Rawls, Sea.||830||9||76||5||129.6||37|
|U||2016||Robert Kelley, Was.||704||12||82||7||132.6||38|
|5||2015||Karlos Williams, Buff.||517||11||96||9||126.3||38|
|U||2016||Jalen Richard, Oak.||491||29||194||3||115.5||42|
|4||2017||Samaje Perine, Was.||603||22||182||2||112.5||43|
|7||2012||Bryce Brown, Phil.||564||13||56||4||99.0||43|
|U||2017||Austin Ekeler, LAC||260||27||279||5||110.9||44|
|4||2011||Kendall Hunter, S.F.||473||16||195||2||94.8||45|
|4||2017||Wayne Gallman, NYG||476||34||193||1||106.9||46|
|6||2014||Alfred Blue, Hou.||528||15||113||3||97.1||46|
|7||2012||Daryl Richardson, St.L.||475||24||163||0||89.8||46|
|U||2017||Matt Breida, S.F.||465||21||180||3||103.5||47|
|4||2016||Kenneth Dixon, Balt.||382||30||162||3||102.4||47|
|4||2017||Marlon Mack, Ind.||358||21||225||4||103.3||48|
|4||2014||Devonta Freeman, Atl.||248||30||225||2||89.3||49|
|4||2018||Ito Smith, Atl.||315||27||152||4||97.7||50|
From this year's draft, there are some potentially intriguing players, but the vast majority will require an injury or two to make an impact. Chuba Hubbard will likely be the primary backup to Christian McCaffrey. Kene Nwangwu (in Minnesota) and Jermar Jefferson (in Detroit) are probably going to have a couple of players in front of them. Also the case with Chris Evans (discussed a little yesterday) in Cincinnati.
Carter has the least-noteworthy depth chart in front of him, and he's drawn some praise in camp -- decent chance he's a Week 1 starter, albeit perhaps in a committee with one of Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson or Lamical Perine. Perhaps New England fourth-rounder Rhamondre Stevenson.
If I'm drafting today, Carter looks like the best late-round stab in re-draft leagues. Statistically, the history suggests at least a couple of these guys will be relevant in 2021; call him the early favorite.