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Round 4: Joe Mixon, Bengals
I’m not one to advocate drafting a rookie, especially not this high, but, Mixon and Christian McCaffrey are pretty interesting running backs. I gave Mixon the edge over McCaffrey because I think he’s more likely to be integrated into the offense early on. Giovani Bernard is still recovering from a torn ACL and may not be ready for the start of the season, while Jeremy Hill has been slipping in his efficiency for the past two years. These elements, along with a productive offense, will pave the way for an immediate impact. Mixon is eager to prove himself and possesses skills akin to Bernard’s, making the situation ideal for him to slide into, at the very least, a pass-catching role.
Round 5: Spencer Ware, Chiefs
Depending on your league, Ware may be off the board by this round, but if you have a chance to snag him, do it. Ware has been a consistent runner throughout his tenure in Kansas City. He’s fast enough, strong enough, and has gained the trust of Andy Reid and Alex Smith. Reid’s faith is definitely the more vital trait to Ware’s potential. The Chiefs are a run dominant team, which bodes well for Ware. The methodical Chief’s offense will provide Ware with plenty of touches and, hopefully, some highly coveted goal line looks.
Round 6: Ty Montgomery, Packers
Full disclosure, I have a slight bias towards Montgomery. He won me a playoff matchup last year with a 20+ point explosion. However, that shouldn’t detract from the value he offers. Montgomery flashed impressive versatility last season and was easily the Packers most effective running back. His role as the Packers lead runner could translate to 15+ touches per game. That total may appear high, but this young back has two factors really going for him. He’s an excellent receiving back (started his career as a wide out) and he’s on Aaron Rodgers‘ offense. Enough said.
Round 7: Ameer Abdullah, Lions
Similarly to Montgomery, Abdullah has a lot of potential because of his offense and catching abilities. Granted, Theo Riddick still is on the team, which negatively impacts how many passing downs Abdullah plays. But I wouldn’t ignore him that quickly. Abdullah began last season as the clear starter and performed well in that role. He only managed 18 carries prior to getting injured, and yes that is a small sample, but with those limited touches he averaged 5.6 yards per touch. That total, along with the potential of the Lions’ offense, is enough to warrant a 7th round selection.
Round 8: Danny Woodhead, Ravens
This was an easy choice. Woodhead doesn’t get the credit he deserves. I’m not suggesting he’s an unbelievable force to be reckoned with or anything like that. But come on! He’s at least been reliable as a pass-catching back! A factor that he’s really going to benefit from on the Ravens. Baltimore’s offense has suffered from their inability to run the ball. Assuming Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon continue to underwhelm, Joe Flacco will be forced once again to look elsewhere for help. Enter Woodhead, a shifty and quick running back that Flacco could dump screens or curls to all day. As long as Woodhead stays healthy, he’ll have the potential to produce well above the average for an 8th round selection.
Round 9: Samaje Perine, Redskins
Yes, Perine is another rookie. And yes, he does contradict what I said in my analysis of Mixon. However, it’s the 9th round. Are there really that many viable options left? Particularly at the running back position? No. That being said, my case for Perine is a simple one. The Redskins have been struggling because of the ineptitude of their running game. Since Alfred Morris‘s one breakout year, their ground game has been abysmal. Sure, Robert Kelley’s had a few solid games. Certainly, the same can be said for Matt Jones. But, both backs have been inconsistent at best. The Redskins need a reliable back, not necessarily a great one, just a reliable one, to elevate their play. Who knows, maybe Perine turns out to be that player and turns into tremendous value. Best case scenario, you just landed a starting back in the 9th round.
Round 10: C.J. Prosise, Seahawks
This is the best steal I’ve seen at the running back position this late. Even if we put aside Prosise’s promising exhibitions from last season, he still has a few other factors supporting his worth. The Seahawks are notorious for being a run first team. Currently, the starting role is in contention between Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls. Although both backs are capable runners, they’re both injury prone and can be inconsistent. Additionally, Prosise is the better receiver out of the backfield, which ensures him at least a third-down role. So, if Lacy or Rawls go down or simply falter in their efficiency, Prosise could conceivably become the starting running back (again) on this team, all but guaranteeing him 10+ touches a game. Not bad for a 10th round selection.
Round 11: James White, Patriots
I struggled a lot with this 11th pick, but after pulling my hair out, I figured, this is a solid pick for the 11th round. White has a lot of questions marks floating over his head moving into the upcoming season. The Patriots have a really crowded backfield and Belichick is infamous for being coy about a player’s role. However, I think White might still retain enough of a role in this offense. He already is familiar with the scheme and has developed a rapport with Brady, which gives him a little edge over Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee. Also, White proved his worth in multiple performances throughout the 2016 season, which he capped off with an outstanding game by any player’s standards (3 touchdowns in the greatest Super Bowl comeback ever). That’s hard to ignore.