Now that we are into week 12 of the NFL season, this is a good time to gauge the production of the rookie running backs. This class has already proven to be an exciting one, with several standouts making plays. Here is my top-ten list of the best RBs from the 2020 draft class.
10. La’Mical Perine, New York Jets
A fourth-round pick and former Florida Gator, La’Mical Perine wasn’t expected to have much of a role heading into this season. However, after the team released Le’Veon Bell, Perine got the opportunity to split carries with Frank Gore. Before going on IR with an ankle injury, Perine flashed some potential, running for 202 yards and two touchdowns on 55 carries on the year.
9. Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
The 52nd pick in the 2020 draft out of Florida State, Cam Akers has had an underwhelming rookie season. At the beginning of the year, it was unclear how large his role would be with Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson also in the backfield for Los Angeles. The answer was pretty clear two weeks into the season, as a rib injury caused Akers to miss two games. He fell behind the other two backs during his time out and only has 50 carries for 202 yards and a touchdown, so far.
8. Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers
Many guys have gotten the opportunity to have an expanded role in the Chargers’ backfield after Austin Ekeler got injured. While he’s lost carries to Kalen Ballage in recent weeks, Joshua Kelley had some nice moments earlier in the season. In total, he’s rushed for 311 yards and one touchdown on 102 carries while also catching 21 passes for 145 yards.
7. Zack Moss, Buffalo Bills
A third-round pick out of Utah, Zack Moss has shown a lot of potential behind Devin Singletary in Buffalo’s backfield. Moss is the goalline back, but in a pass-heavy offense, has only gotten 59 carries in seven games this season. Now fully recovered from an early-season toe injury, Moss may see his role expand in Sean McDermott’s offense.
6. J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
While he hasn’t gotten consistent playing time behind Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins has had an excellent rookie campaign. In an RPO-heavy offense, Dobbins is very useful next to Lamar Jackson. In total, he’s run the ball 72 times for 380 yards and three touchdowns, while flashing big-play ability. As we advance, Baltimore should look to give Dobbins more carries over Ingram.
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5. Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
Coming out of Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor was the third running back off the board as the 41st pick in the draft. Once Marlon Mack tore his Achilles, Taylor had the opportunity to step up and be an every-down back for the Colts. However, with the emergence of Nyheim Hines, Taylor hasn’t seen consistent playing time. Still, he’s having a solid season, rushing for 518 yards and four touchdowns on 135 carries.
4. D‘Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
The 35th pick in the draft, Swift’s rookie season got off to a horrible start as he dropped a would-be game-winning pass in week one. Following that game, he lost his spot in the lineup to Adrian Peterson. Swift has since rebounded, however, and been one of the best running backs in the NFL since week six. Swift should continue to be the Lions’ every-down back once he returns from a concussion.
3. Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team
Antonio Gibson broke onto the national scene Thursday in Washington’s Thanksgiving day win over Dallas by scoring three touchdowns. A third-round pick, Gibson has been outstanding all season for Washington and is second in the NFL with 11 rushing touchdowns, behind only Dalvin Cook. He has been exceptionally elusive in open space and should only continue to improve in the future as Washington’s lead running back.
2. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs
The only running back taken in the first round of the draft, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has flourished in the Andy Reid system this season. With Damien Williams opting out, CEH has taken full command of Kansas City’s backfield alongside Le’Veon Bell. In the Chiefs’ high tempo offense, Edwards-Helaire fits right in and has 655 rushing yards and five total touchdowns on 140 carries.
1. James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
There were a total of 18 running backs that heard their names called on draft night. James Robinson from Illinois State was not one of them. However, after the Jaguars released Leonard Fournette, Robinson got the chance to see some playing time. He has taken full advantage of the opportunity and then some. He’s currently third in the NFL with 762 rushing yards, to go along with five touchdowns as a bruiser in open space. I bet a lot of NFL GMs wish they took a shot on Robinson during the draft!
Thanks for reading my NFL rookie running back rankings, be sure to follow me on Twitter @PodolskyDanny
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