Running back may be devalued in terms of the draft, but it’s still a key part of any offense. The best backs take their offenses to another level and can put a team on their back. So, let’s rank the ones in the AFC West.
Starter: Josh Jacobs
The reigning should-have-been Rookie of the Year, Jacobs put up 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games his first season in the NFL. He averaged an impressive 4.8 yards per carry, but even more impressive is his league-leading 78 forced missed tackles and 3.48 yards after contact. He was easily the best weapon on this Raiders team, often single-handedly keeping them in the playoff race late in the season.
Jalen Richard is the receiver out of the backfield in the Raiders offense. While he has a career average of five yards per carry, he doesn’t run the ball a lot. As a receiver, he has 199 career catches. In 2018 he tied for the team lead with 68 catches. Then it’s either rookie Lynn Bowden Jr or free agent pickup Devontae Booker who will battle for complementary back carries.
Starter: Philip Lindsay
An undrafted free agent out of Colorado in 2018, Lindsay ran for 1037 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie and made the Pro Bowl. Just show it wasn’t a one-time thing, he hit the 1000-yard mark again in his second season, with another 7 touchdowns. He has averaged 4.9 yards per carry in two seasons.
Now Lindsay will be joined by 2-time Pro Bowler Melvin Gordon in the Broncos backfield, which could make for quite a 1-2 punch if Gordon can return to the level he played in 2018 when he averaged 5.1 yards per carry and caught 50 passes for 490 yards. Royce Freeman rounds out the group as the bruising back.
Starter: Austin Ekeler
The Chargers aren’t great between the tackles currently. Ekeler is their top back and he ran for just 557 yards last season, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Where Ekeler excels is as a receiver. He caught 92 passes for 993 yards with 8 touchdowns last season. Those are Marshall Faulk kind of receiving numbers. Though not in the same universe of Faulk in rushing numbers.
Justin Jackson is the current favorite to be the between the tackles guy, but he could split carries with rookie fourth-round pick Joshua Kelley. Jackson had just 29 carries last season, but he averaged 6.9 yards per carry on those runs. Ekeler is an excellent weapon, but it’s the lack of a proven runner here that hurts the unit.
Starter: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
This offseason, the Chiefs led LeSean McCoy go and drafted LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the final pick in the first round. Though he wasn’t the consensus top back on the board, so he is far from a sure thing. He will team up with Damien Williams, who carried the ball 111 times last season for 498 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and a career-high five touchdowns.