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Running back landing spots

Top rookies will need to be patient

The NFL Draft is a fun time for NFL and fantasy fans, and this year is no exception. The first two days saw a lot of talent at wide receiver, tight end, quarterback and running back come off the board. But if we're being honest, most of the running backs could have landed in more desirable spots.

There were seven running backs selected in the first three rounds; two firsts, a second, and four third-rounders. Every one of them was selected by a team that had a top-30 fantasy back (PPR) from a year ago already on the roster. Four of those teams had a top-20 back in 2022. Three teams added a runner to roster with multiple top-30 players at the position. Details below.

ROOKIE RUNNING BACK LANDING SPOTS
PkPlayerTeamIncumbent2022Note
8Bijan RobinsonAtlantaTyler Allgeier30thRobinson best, but committee
Cordarrelle Patterson31stRB/WR will have role
12Jahmyr GibbsDetroitDavid Montgomery24th3-year, $18M contract
D'Andre Swift21stProbably traded away
52Zach CharbonnetSeattleKenneth Walker18thWalker clear No. 1
71Kendre MillerNew OrleansAlvin Kamara16thLikely suspension
Jamaal Williams12th3-year, $12M contract
81Tyjae SpearsTennesseeDerrick Henry4th29-year-old trade candidate
84Devon AchaneMiamiRaheem Mostert26thProbable committee
88Tank BigsbyJacksonvilleTravis Etienne17thEtienne clear lead back

Some of these situations will work themselves out favorably for the rookies. Robinson will certainly move past fifth-rounder Allgeier fairly quickly; you don't select a running back at 8th overall to be a change-of-pace. Swift will be gone from Detroit, Kamara will be suspended, and both he and Williams are older backs at this point.

But none of these early picks are going to be workhorses. If you've already selected Robinson or Gibbs in a best-ball league, you probably took them too early.

Zach Charbonnet (pictured) is particularly vexing. The Seahawks (who've used early picks now on Charbonnet, Walker and Rashad Penny in the last five years) can't seem to help themselves from dipping into the position early, hoping for a special player. It seems they got one last year with Walker, but instead took Charbonnet.

Researching Charbonnet for the rookie story in the magazine, I wasn't terribly impressed. He's a big, powerful guy who will break some tackles; a downhill runner, as they say. But he doesn't have great speed (4.53) and looks deliberate with that first step at times; if the blocking isn't there, I'm concerned he's going to get stuck in the backfield a lot. So there will be some good runs when there's a hole (or after the catch; he caught 61 passes for UCLA the last two seasons), but some negative plays, too. And he's on a roster with the guy who got the most first-place votes for Offensive Rookie of the Year last season, so he ain't starting.

Kendre Miller might find his way into a top-2 spot for New Orleans. Kamara could be suspended 6 or 8 games, and both he and Jamaal Williams will be 28 at the start of the season, old and decrepit in running back years. But Williams led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year and got a $12M contract in free agency, so he's not going away. Miller had one big year for Texas Christian; there's workhorse potential. Big (5-11, 215) and strong, he averaged 6.2 yards per carry last year. But he also looks a little indecisive with that first step, and won't be a factor in the passing game.

With Tyjae Spears, there's the outside chance that Derrick Henry gets traded. It's possible, with Tennessee (I think) seemingly in a rebuilding year. But that's not certain; maybe they think they can win an undaunting AFC South. Spears is a smaller guy (5-10, 201 at the combine; he was listed at 195 at Tulane), and the story came out yesterday that he doesn't have an ACL in one knee, after tearing it twice. So that's concerning, although obviously the Titans are comfortable with it. But most likely he's at best a change of pace this year.

We'll see what round 4 brings today; there are still some interesting running backs left. But not a great couple of days for the position, at least when it comes to 2023 redraft league value.

--Andy Richardson

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