Battle Of The Writer’s – Round 1 – Running Backs

Right Rush Nation we have a first! The writers at 5 Yard have got together to do battle. We have all written our views on who we think will be the number one rookie Running Back. Read each writer’s piece and decide who won. There’s a lot of pride at stake! A poll is on Twitter and Facebook. Who will be the most compelling? Will anyone change your mind?

JK Dobbins – Baltimore Ravens

JK Dobbins landed in the perfect situation when he was selected 55th overall by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2020 Draft. He may have been the 5th running back off the board, but he is in pole position to outperform his draft classmates. Where better to play your football than with John Harbaugh in Baltimore?

The Ravens averaged 206 rush yards per game in 2019. They set an NFL record in total rushing yards (3,296). Despite opponents expecting the rush, they still struggled to stop Lamar Jackson and Co. Adding receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche should give Jackson more freedom to throw the ball. And with that comes cover formations from defences. And with cover defences come more opportunities in the run game. The Ravens are playing chess, the league checkers.

This is where things work out for the rookie Dobbins. With defences now having to protect themselves from the passing game, lanes will open up in play-action and RPO plays. Dobbins had over 4,400 yards in 3 years at Ohio State and is still aged just 21. More than 2,000 of those yards came in 2019 alone. The former Buckeye is going to explode onto the scene in the NFL.

The Old Guard

Mark Ingram II had a fantastic year in 2019, posting up 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns. The main issue for Ingram is his age – he will be turning 31 this year, and Father Time has one eye on his speed. Don’t expect Ingram to get anywhere near the 202 touches he got in the regular season last year. When it came to the playoffs, he was handed the ball just 6 times for 22 yards. 7 yards was his best return. When the pressure was on, Harbaugh didn’t trust Ingram to do the business.

Dobbins is the perfect foil for reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. He has the vision and feet to make blistering runs through defences. He had 21 rushing touchdowns at Ohio State in 2019, and a further two with his hands. His ability to ride and break tackles means he is the perfect option on 3rd and short plays. He had 43 college career touchdowns. Expect Dobbins to eclipse this number in the NFL.

Divisional rivals Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati ranked #5, #22 and #29 overall in defence in 2019. The Steelers aside, the Baltimore offence will expect to steamroller their opponents in 2020.

When you couple up a young guy with breathtaking speed and the best offensive coaching staff in the AFC, big things will happen. The Ravens are headed to the summit of the AFC, and Dobbins is going there with them.

Tom Scott – @downthemannyrd

D’Andre Swift – Detroit Lions

I’m going to start this battle for Swift all the way back in 2017, forging a path towards his end game of being an NFL starter. He found himself on a Georgia Bulldogs team full of talent. Unfortunately for Swift, ahead of him on the depth chart were 2 Runnings backs you might know. They were Sony Michel and Nick Chubb.

So sitting behind those two very talented players means no game time? Wrong! He made sure he was involved and got his name out there. Even with Chubb and Michel ahead of him, he still racked up 771 scrimmage yards and 4 TDs.

Once they were out of the way he stepped up and led the way. 2018 saw Swift get 1049 rushing yards with 297 receiving yards and 13 total TDs. Last season in 2019, Swift rushed for 1218 yards, got 216 receiving yards and a total of 8 TDs.

This may seem low compared to some of the other RBs in this battle, however, as always with the Bulldogs, the team was loaded with RBs which lessened his workload. This will give Swift an advantage going into the NFL with less wear on him giving him a fresher edge to start the season.

The Lions backfield

Kerryon Johnson has had injury issues and has struggled to stay on the field over his first two seasons in the NFL. He’s only played in 18 games in two years and in 2019 only averaged 3.6 yards per rush. Because of this, it seems that the Lion’s patience had worn thin waiting for Johnson to be the guy. This prompted a big move in drafting Swift at the top of the second round.

For me, you don’t draft a talent like Swift just to have him sit behind Johnson. They will use Swift and can only see him being the starter for the Lions week 1. Because of this he will lead the Lions backfield in touches and will lead the Lions RBs in fantasy points.

Lions history about to change!

The Detroit Lions have not had an established runner since Barry Sanders left in 1998. Sanders managed an incredible 15269 rushing yards in his time at the Lions but since then, the Lions RBs have barely scratched 3000.

Next up were players like James Stewart and Kevin Jones…….Yeah I’m sorry to say I didn’t know who these guys were. They both got in and around 3000 total yards each in the few seasons they were there. If you want more recent names, Ameer Abdullah took 35 games just to get to 1251 total rushing yards.

Just to show you how little impact Kerryon Johnson has had, he has played in 18 games and only rushed for 1044 yards. This right here is a massive reason the Lions grabbed the opportunity to take Swift.

Moving forward, the Lions have a strong Offence going into 2020. Before Stafford got hurt midway through last season he was on pace to have a bumper year. I have him in my Bust to lust QB edition due to the talent he’s got and the talent he has around him. It was written before the draft so now they have upgraded to Swift this team will be cooking.

Having the likes of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, and tight end T.J. Hockenson to throw the ball to will open up the field to be able to utilise Swift, even more, producing even more opportunities for Swift to take control of the backfield and dominate the fantasy Points.

A Bargain?

The fact that Swift is projected to be an RB1 gives us even more value over the likes of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jonathan Taylor. Right now CEH is going in redrafts as the 22nd overall pick as the RB12. Taylor is going at 42 overall and as the 18th RB.

Compare that to Swift who you can grab 67th overall as the 27 RB off the board. You are getting RB1 value for a lot cheaper and that is massive when it comes to filling your roster.

There you have it Rush Nation. Swift is the guy you want. Make sure you don’t miss out on him.

Pittsy – @PittsyNFL

Jonathan Taylor – Indianapolis Colts

The Mack train may not be at a stop but the draft of Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor certainly diminished his value whilst elevating Taylor who is primed to be the workhorse back of the two. Taylor looks inline to take over the near 250 carries previously occupied by Mack and has the makeup to thrive in the role. The Colts are lacking in many areas of the offence and Rivers will need to lean on Taylor who will likely be the leading man in Indy and behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

In three years at Wisconsin Taylor’s lowest carries was his freshman year with 299. There will be some concern for Taylor longevity considering he totalled 926 total carries and the wear and tear may be a longer-term issue however he has no known serious injuries that have affected him so far. All those carries paid off with Taylor topping 2000 yards in his last two seasons and 1977 yards in his freshman year and 50+ total touchdowns in his college years.

Taylor is as good as they come as a first and second down running back pushing the pile but it will be Mack who takes the passing down mantle which should allow Taylor to maintain a regular role for a number of years. Something that may be a concern is his hand security, Taylor fumbled 15 times in three years and will need to eradicate this from his game as he will not be given as many chances at the next level.

The Perfect Build?

Taylor has all the makings of a top NFL running back, height, weight and surprising speed given his 5’10” and 226lbs frame. He ran a 4.39 40 yard dash at the combine. Taylor runs smart and has the ability to burst through to the second level and use his impressive speed taking it to the house. He also has the blocking ability to keep him in the passing downs and play fakes.

Jonathan Taylor arguably has the clearest path to RB1 work alongside CEH with Mack always looking more of a compliment piece pushed into a leading back role. It is easy to see why Taylor is the number two rookie running back amongst many of the fantasy experts.

In my view, Taylor is an RB2 value with the potential to be a top 15 running back by midseason and ends the year 1200+ rushing yards, double-digit TDs and involvement in the passing game alongside Hines. Mack is a free agent after 2020 so is likely out the door after this season furthering the intrigue for Taylor as the leading rookie running back in 2020.

One thing is for sure, you cannot go wrong with Taylor as your rookie running back to own out of this draft class.

Happy Drafting Rush Nation!

Ash Goddard – @Addicted2_FF

Clyde Edwards-Helaire – Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick ‘Money’ Mahomes personally requested the Chiefs draft Edwards-Helaire with the last pick of the 1st round. Boom. Mic Drop. Article over.

If that’s not enough to convince you to take the former LSU Tiger with the 1.01 in rookie drafts, you must have missed the Superbowl final. For those who remember ageing Running Back, Damien Williams tucked the pigskin under his arm and ran for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Now Edwards-Helaire inherits that huge role in Andy Reid’s all-conquering offence. The LSU Tiger was a focal point for Joe Burrow’s championship attack and will do doubt be thanking his lucky stars he joins yet another free-scoring side. The cherry on top? The current Super Bowl MVP stands under centre.

Many scoffed at the thought of an instant starting spot for the former LSU Tiger with the capable Damien Williams still in town. Even so, Andy Reid still relied on the semi-retired LeSean McCoy for the majority of the regular 2019 season. Williams was not trusted with a regular bell-cow role until the postseason. No one could foresee Williams blowing the doors off the Superbowl, yet Reid still decided to select Edwards-Helaire with their 1st round pick.

Recording 1,444 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground in 2019, Edwards-Helaire averaged a monster 6.6 yards per carry in his junior year. Although praised for a tough running style, the quick, lean runner loves nothing more than cutting with ease; snapping the ankles of any defenders trying to stop him.

The Perfect Chief

Edwards-Helaire forced a missed tackle every 2.7 touches in 2019. Leading the SEC in broken tackle percentage. That ability to fool defenders will be key when facing Bradley Chubb, Von Miller, Clelin Ferrell, Maxx Crosby, Joey Bosa, and Melvin Ingram twice a year.

Tallying 55 receptions, 453 yards and a touchdown through the air, the 32nd overall pick also boasts an impressive receiving game. The safe hands of Edwards-Helaire highlight a natural receiving ability, screaming for passes to be thrown by Mahomes.

Kansas City dominates when creating mismatches and embarrassing their opponents with any advantage they can design. Whether punishing flat-footed Cornerbacks with the speed of Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman or merely humiliating undersized Linebackers with freak athlete Travis Kelce. The rookie Running Back can run through defenders or simply collect passes from Mahomes and run rings around them. Edwards-Helaire can become a true 3 down back for the Chiefs and elevate every aspect of the running game in Kansas.

Do not overthink it, ignore the Johnathan Taylor hype, and confidently select Edwards-Helaire with the 1.01. Trust Andy, trust Patrick and select the best all-round runner in this rookie class.

Dre – @lil_carat

Cam Akers – Los Angeles Rams

Drafted in the 2nd round with the 20th pick, L.A Rams got their guy. Even though the Rams drafted Henderson in the 3rd round last year. This is a signal of intent that McVay doesn’t trust him. So by taking Akers 52nd overall. Sean McVay and the Rams get their new three-down back.

Akers has landed in the best possible spot. Playing under an offensive genius in Sean McVay. McVay made Gurley the number one fantasy player in 2017 and 2018. He even managed to make him relevant in 2019. Gurley has moved on from L.A. and so has his 223 touches. With an impressive 12 TD’s up for grabs also, Akers is in pole position to eat all of it up.

Akers put up solid numbers in his final year at college. Despite being limited by a painful Seminoles offence. In 11 games he rushed for 1144 yards in 2019. He showed a lot of promise as a pass-catcher as well. Securing 30 receptions for 225 yards. Being behind an abysmal offensive line, it was amazing Akers had a season as he did. 3.9 of his 4.9 yards per carry came after contact. Taking all this into account, in a proven running back system led by McVay, Akers has all the tools to succeed.

Making The Rams Better?

Slipping into an offence that has consisted of at least two Wide Receivers with 1000+ yards in the last two years. Opponents can’t just stack the box to stop the run. With Akers not being a big name star like Gurley was. Opposition coaches and defences might underestimate what he can do. so with fewer defenders in the box and having one of the best in the draft at making defenders miss. Other teams aren’t going to know what’s hit them.

With Gurley struggling to get the yards last season, this limited Goff and the Rams offence. Adding a young, exciting Back to take over only eases the pressure. Expect the Rams offence to be like the first two seasons of the McVay era. By swapping Gurley’s 57 average yards per game last season. And replace it with Akers 104 yards per game. The Rams can get down to business with some breathtaking offensive plays again!

The Rams and McVay believe that running the ball when in the opponent’s red zone is the best way to score. So the sky’s the limit for Akers. Scoring an impressive 34 TD’s in 36 games while at college. It’s hard to look past him when choosing who the best rookie Running Back is. Having the best landing spot and working under the offensive intelligence of McVay. Be prepared to be blown away for Akers to be the best Back out of this draft class.

Josh P – @5yardrush

So there you have it, folks. The first round of the writer’s battle is complete. Now we need your help. Who do you think won? Has a writer managed to change your mind? Please vote who you think won round 1, and get in touch on Twitter too. And don’t worry, of course, there’s going to be more battles. We wouldn’t do that to you. So stay tuned and watch out for round 2! And as always Rush Nation, keep Rushing.

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