Running back in the NFL is a position that changes quickly organization to organization. Players lose their speed very quickly, and the turnover rate is very high. For example, Ryan Mathews began this season as the Eagles starting running back. After a terrible fumble one week, he lost significant carries to Wendell Smallwood, and Darren Sproles. Running back is a unique position, unlike any other in sports obviously. QBs can stay with a starting job for as long as 20 years. A running back is lucky if they last five years at RB1.
Furthermore, the position is difficult to get in the first place, and tough to maintain at the professional level. Though some backs maintain their depth position for a long time, this is rare. To name a few that have, there is Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and DeMarco Murray. Some former top backs in the league are backups now, such as, Chris Johnson, DeAngelo Williams, and Justin Forsett.
Here are the top 15 running backs who will lose their job in the near future for various reasons, all specific to the individual. Some are old, some get injured easily, and some players underperform.
15. Jeremy Langford
Langford began the season in very mediocre fashion. He got injured, and was benched. His injury has not been awful news for the Bears, because Jordan Howard has been pretty good. But interestingly enough, Howard might get benched for Carey. The running back situation here is a rotation, and should be avoided for fantasy football purposes. Langford was exceptional at the end of last season, but he might not get the chance to shine once more at the first depth chart position. There is a chance he could sit at the #2 or #3 position if he doesn’t show the organization something immediately after his injury heals.
That being said, the Bears shouldn’t be too quick to quit on Langford, as he showed real potential last season. We shall see how this situation turns out very soon.
14. C.J. Anderson
Anderson is a not consistent. One week he is tearing it up, the next he is banging into his offensive line. The Broncos have a great offensive line, and he is replaceable for sure. Look for Devontae Booker to emerge as a young prospect in Denver in the coming weeks. The organization has indicated that he will be getting more snaps. With Anderson now out for the remainder of the season, if Booker shows a little talent, Anderson could have a run for his money. He may return to Denver in 2017, but it may be without his starting job.
The Broncos’ running back situation is always uncertain, and though Anderson has shown a lot of talent, it doesn’t matter to Denver. The Broncos will try out Booker and if he isn’t good, Bibbs could have a chance to grab the spot. Anderson isn’t secure in the Mile High City, but he has proven to be talented.
13. Chris Ivory
With T.J. Yeldon, a young talent on the team, Ivory will likely be replaced. Ivory has been injury prone this season, and Yeldon has a major chance to snag his shot at fame. If Yeldon can produce, and get through holes out of a not-so-great Jaguars offensive line, the running back situation could change quickly in Florida. Ivory has not produced numbers thus far, and Yeldon showed some potential last season.
T.J. was thrust in a starting position he wasn’t really ready for last season, so maybe he will develop further in 2016. The Jaguars shouldn’t be too awful in the future, but they don’t necessarily have a top tier running back in their hands. It would be a good move to draft a RB this upcoming year, and ride the hot hand between Yeldon and a rookie. Yeldon doesn’t seem like breakout star material as of now. The Jags have a problem on their hands.
12. Jamaal Charles
Jamaal Charles has not been able to stay healthy in recent years. It wasn’t too long ago that Charles was considered the greatest running back in all of football and the focal point of the Chiefs’ offense. The Chiefs though, started 1-5 last year and lost Charles to a season-ending injury. The Chiefs went on a tear, getting great production from their other two backs in Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware. KC won 10 straight games to close the season and recorded their first playoff victory in over 20 years.
Charles still hasn’t found a way to stay healthy this season and the Chiefs have still managed to have success. They’ve proven they can win without their no.1 back carrying a $5.3 million cap hit. The Chiefs can release Charles next year without any cap penalties and would avoid carrying a $7 million cap hit next year if they get rid of Charles. That will most likely happen and the Chiefs will be able to use that money elsewhere.
11. Rashad Jennings
Rashad Jennings has never been a really good running back. He is hitting a point in his career where it makes logical sense to replace him with a younger and potentially better back. Orleans Darkwa or Paul Perkins could next in line to handle carries in New York. Jennings has proven nothing so far, and remains injury prone and inconsistent.
The Giants aren’t really headed anywhere, but it’s fair to say they are looking good at the receiver position. Jennings is coming to the end of his deal, and I’m not sure the Giants will re-sign him. At 31 years old, he isn’t very productive. Jennings has 20 touchdowns in his NFL career and around 3,200 yards. The Giants could surely find a more productive back somewhere.
10. Ryan Mathews
Ryan Mathews began the season with good numbers, then a fumble hurt his image. Now, the Eagles are working Darren Sproles, and even Wendell Smallwood into the mix. Smallwood is young, and could be the starter come 1-2 years. In Mathews’ career, he has been repetitively inconsistent. He had some okay years with the Chargers, but was never a really productive asset. Doug Pederson noted that he is concerned about Ryan Mathews’ fumbles. He has not given up on Mathews as of yet, but I am sure the idea of transitioning someone in the future is the idea. At 29 years old, this is the optimal time that running backs will run out of steam.
I think the Eagles will continue to work a committee in their approach offensively. It appears to be working thus far. Mathews managed six touchdowns last season, a number he may or may not hit this year.
9. Matt Jones
With repetitive injuries under his belt, Chris Thompson has the chance to take the reins in Washington. He has three touchdowns this season, and 533 yards rushing. It’s not like he’s playing horrible, but he hasn’t showed anything amazing thus far. The Redskins said they will reduce his workload after an important fumble in Week 7. Along with Ameer Abdullah, Jones is a regular fumbler. He has been outperformed by Chris Thompson this season notably. Matt Jones has his up games, and certainly some down games.
The down games he has had will cause him to lose his top spot on the depth chat soon. Washington isn’t going to luck into top spot in the NFC East like last year, so they’ll need to make adjustments to try and catch Dallas.
8. Thomas Rawls
With Rawls out on injury, Christine Michael has really stepped up to the plate. In his absence, Michael has managed four touchdowns, on 406 yards. For fantasy owners, he has been an electric addition from the waiver wire. I fear Rawls never really earned the starting job in the first place, but was given it. When Lynch retired, he was simply next on the depth chart. Michael shows a lot of talent in the backfield, and it appears the Seahawks should make no change to their rotation.
It makes sense to mix him in, maybe the two will even split carries, but I’m sure that the Seahawks’ former perception of how their depth chart would go is not what they currently envision. Besides, maybe Lynch will come back? He is notably very unpredictable in what he says and thinks, or for that matter does.
7. Latavius Murray
Murray has up and down games. He’s showed promise at times, but sometimes looks too slow to be a career lasting running back. I think after this season, his career has a chance to take a turn. Jalen Richard seems like he could be a potentially reliable running back in Oakland. Jack Del Rio loves Murray, but has acknowledged that he sometimes lacks speed in the backfield. I think he is right in many ways, because Latavius seems like he’s sometimes more suited for another position. He’s a power back, who isn’t very speedy. He also doesn’t appear to be very athletic in the backfield.
Murray could be replaced soon, and maybe shipped to another team for draft picks. I could see Murray in Carolina, Washington, Philadelphia or even New York. The Giants love to employ strong power backs who aren’t always the fastest guys on the field.
6. Matt Forte
Matt Forte has long been a stud at the position. Since 2008, Forte has been a top tier running back, beginning his career as a Chicago Bear. Running backs’ careers don’t last nearly as long as QBs do. I think he still has some gas left in the tank, but could be replaced soon by Bilal Powell for the franchise’s future goals. Powell is young, and shows some promise in the backfield. I don’t mean to discredit Forte’s job which he has done well, but he is aging, and hitting the point where running backs decline. Once they hit 30 years old, running backs don’t usually last much longer.
The Jets can survive without his presence, as Powell can easily fill the role that Forte currently has. The team has bigger issues than this though; they lack a long-term quarterback. Besides, is it really an issue that Forte may not be the starter anymore? Not at all. The guy has been a great producer, and can be transitioned to the backup spot.
5. Theo Riddick
Riddick is terribly inconsistent. One week he has three touchdowns, the next he has 0, and fumbles twice. Ameer Abdullah fumbles more than Riddick, so I think he has lost the starting job as well. The Lions could look to promote Dwayne Washington, a young prospect. Washington has showed promise in practice, and in games where he has gotten some carries. Riddick reminds me of a worse version of Reggie Bush in his prime. Bush was an awesome passing down back, and though Theo has his moments, he doesn’t always get through holes in the o-line splits.
The Lions need a consistent running back who is a good receiver out the back field. A back like this would do them well, as someone who can execute in the basics is necessary.
4. Isaiah Crowell
Crowell has been a breakout player this season. With 4 touchdowns under his belt, and 495 rushing yards, he has been productive. I fear the Browns could part ways with him, and promote Duke Johnson soon enough. Johnson has shown similar talent to Crowell, and could be useful at the RB1 spot. Crowell may be moved or traded for another position, as the Browns could afford to shop for defensive or other offensive needs. Duke Johnson has 28 receptions out of the back field, and looks like a potentially useful passing down back.
Crowell is a good player, but moving him wouldn’t be a disaster for the Browns. His talent could be utilized elsewhere easily. The Browns need offensive linemen, wide receivers, a quarterback, and defensive lineman. Crowell may be a luxury they can’t afford.
3. Jonathan Stewart
Jonathan Stewart hasn’t been exceptional this season, thus far. Though Cameron Artis-Payne isn’t necessarily a weapon, he could be in coming years. The Panthers have been training him in the backup position, and limiting his snaps to help him adjust to NFL football. Stewart is not terribly old, but the Panthers may feel like his presence is stagnating. Jonathan was awesome last season, but while Carolina is off to a bad start, they must begin to realize that certain aspects of their offense are not working fundamentally the way they did a year ago, when they went 15-1.
It’s not all Stewart’s fault, because the offensive line has not done a good job protecting Newton. Cam seems to be getting hit every play, or having to throw the ball out of bounds on every other play.
2. Dion Lewis
Lewis is very talented. But so is James White. While Lewis sits on the sideline with his injury, James White seems to be tearing it up in the passing game. He’s a PPR asset (fantasy football). New England tends to roll with the hot hand approach for their running back situation. Blount was the guy ahead of White, but now the tides have turned. It is possible that Lewis could be out for the season, but as of right now if he returned, his snaps would be limited because of James White’s talent level as demonstrated through his blocking, running, and catching in the backfield.
Lewis and White are both talented backs, and it seems as though the Patriots could deal one of them away for another position where they need help. Another receiver in New England could do the team well.
1. Eddie Lacy
Eddie Lacy was fat last year, there is no subtle way to put that. He was obviously overweight, and struggled. He made a promise to lose weight in the summer, and he did just that. He lost weight, and looked faster than ever. Fast forward a little bit, and he gained all the pounds back. Why? I don’t know, that is not my place to say. What is inevitable is that he will lose his job to Don Jackson, Knile Davis, James Starks, or a rookie next season. He has been solid, but with the extra pounds added back, he will be slower.
Lacy’s contract is up this season and I don’t think the Packers will be bringing him back. Lacy will end up on another team, and he’ll have to earn his way into a starting job. It seems as if his time in Green Bay is certainly over. Rodgers needs a stronger back who can stay in shape to help his team to a Super Bowl victory.
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