The RB position is so volatile. One day you can be a starting RB, and the next you are kicked to the curb. That volatility makes the battle for the position a feisty one. Each season, as soon as the preseason begins there are a few backfields with candidates battling to earn the starting gig by the time the season starts. There are also occasional big surprises, such as Phillip Lindsay’s 2018 emergence. As such, I wanted to highlight each battle I’m keeping an eye on through the offseason.
Ronald Jones vs Peyton Barber vs Bruce Anderson.
The new Arians regime elected not to invest in an additional backfield member during the NFL draft. Many viewed this as a sign that they were committed to last year’s 2nd round pick, Ronald Jones. If anyone can find a way to unlock a player’s potential, it’s Bruce Arians. The offensive guru will surely be hoping to spark almost anything out of the 21-year-old after he showed about as much spark as a paperclip in his rookie season. Last year, Barber won the battle. Having said that, the 2016 UDFA didn’t really set the world alight despite his victory. Barber averaged 3.7 YPC on his way to 891 rushing yards in 2018. Somehow, I don’t really envision him as Arians’ long-term answer. Given that I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Jones either, there becomes a slight opening for Bruce Anderson. This year’s UDFA out of North Dakota State, Anderson may win by default if the other two fail to produce early. Having said that, considering there has been little production from anyone in this backfield thus far, my predicted winner in Tampa is Ronald Jones….until they draft a 2020 RB.
Damien Williams vs Carlos Hyde vs Darwin Thompson vs James Williams.
Damien Williams has emerged as an offseason riser for many. A guy that couldn’t crack the depth chart behind Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore in Miami, whilst looking mediocre at best, has suddenly become an RB1/2 candidate as many theorize that he will maintain his hot finish to 2018. I feel as though I’m starting to fall into the minority with Williams. I can’t seem to look past what we saw prior to the last few games last year. He looked impressive in limited action, but the larger body of work just hasn’t filled me with confidence. Having said, I certainly acknowledge that Mahomes will likely lead a prolific offense once more, and the Chiefs hardly brought in elite talent to challenge. Hyde is washed up and another mediocre player on his best day. I am intrigued however by the rookie talent here. Darwin Thompson and James Williams are both versatile backs with proficiency in the passing game. Having said that, the Chiefs didn’t invest heavy capital into either rookie back, so I expect Williams to win the battle early. If they shine bright through the season though, then I don’t think Damien is cemented strong enough to be untouchable on the throne.
Jerick McKinnon vs Tevin Coleman vs Matt Breida.
Yet again, I feel like I’m beginning to fall into a minority. I believe McKinnon is going to win this battle pretty handily. Yet, there are so many McKinnon haters out there, so I thought I’d discuss the battle. Even since the Coleman signing, we’ve heard Shanahan express how he sees McKinnon as his starting RB in a Freeman role, while Coleman maintains his “Coleman” role. He’s also said there’s a reason they were so happy to invest large salary into him last year, and the Coleman signing hasn’t changed that.
Of course, that could all be coach speak, but given the fact that they weren’t expecting to sign another RB until they saw Coleman available so cheap, it indicates that they were more than content to roll with McKinnon as the alpha dog. McKinnon, in my opinion, is the most versatile and explosive back and I’d be using the Coleman signing as an opportunity to buy. We saw what Freeman was able to do with Shanahan and I truly believe McKinnon can replicate. I believe Breida was merely a fill-in during an injury-plagued campaign for San Fran but I see him being pushed out in 2019, as McKinnon and Coleman develop a 1-2 punch. It’s still worth keeping a close eye on the situation as we know how valuable a Shanahan RB can be. I don’t think you can use historical production as a knock on future production for McKinnon, as he’s never been in a situation remotely close to this. We must evaluate based on future return on investment, not past.
Frank Gore vs LeSean McCoy vs TJ Yeldon vs Devin Singletary
This may be the foggiest situation of them all. Gore and McCoy must be on their last legs at this point, while Yeldon and Singletary are the young blood. At this point, given the state of the Bills and their rebuilding roster, I believe McCoy may be traded. I’ve heard rumors of Kansas City being a destination. If he stays on Buffalo, I think he’ll be the battle winner in the short term. There’s no debating that when healthy, he’s an electrifying talent. I see Gore as a role model signing. Someone to provide a veteran presence in the locker room and mentor the younger backs on the roster. However, it’s tough to ever count Gore out as he always produces despite Father Time.
Going forward, if McCoy is moved, I think it’ll be a battle between Yeldon and Singletary. I really felt for Yeldon when the Jags drafted Fournette as I don’t believe he was given a fair crack. Now, looking back, it would appear Fournette wasn’t the best investment that Jacksonville could have made. He now gets a second chance with Buffalo if he can beat out the well-balanced, Singletary. As I think Yeldon will get the first chance in a post-McCoy era, I will declare him the Buffalo winner.Follow @dynastyjon
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