Assessing the running back needs by evaluating the depth charts

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Raise your hand if you’re tired of reading the same ‘ole team needs articles out there (hand raised). We are opting for a different angle on the team needs. Teams evaluations of needs involve so much more than just saying we need a starter here. They are looking at the depth chart as a more long-term projection.

How’s our backup? How’s our backups contract? Do we have a developmental guy at a certain position?

We ranked each position on each team to form our team needs. This is equal parts math and evaluation. A formula was created that rewarded points for defining worth of a player. With 7 points being the highest value, marking an elite, franchise player. Sad to say but 0 points is attributed to a player with no value on the roster. Think roster fill-in with no real developmental attributes.

We are not evaluating just the starters but a team’s two and three deep. We will start with the running backs from worst to first.

**Special thanks to for their great updates on teams depth charts. Free agents are in blue.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers

Jonathan Dwyer, Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Baron Batch

It’s hard to imagine the Steelers without a feature back but that is the reality in Pittsburgh. Jon Dwyer is capable but not going to cut it on a team with Super Bowl hopes. Rashard Mendenhall is a free agent and wore out his welcome with this organization. Redman gave the Steelers tough carries but isn’t capable of starting and is an average back-up. Baron Batch has stuck around the league with the Steelers but not a guy that they will look to develop over the long haul.

31. New York Jets

Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight, John Griffin

Shonn Greene is a free agent and hasn’t developed into the back that they thought early in his career. Bilal Powell played well in limited snaps but doesn’t possess any wow factor. McKnight is a special teamer that can fill in for a few carries a game as a change of pace back. I don’t even know who John Griffin is.

30. Cincinnati Bengals

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Brian Leonard, Cedric Peerman, Dan Herron

The Bengals offense needs a threat in the backfield. Lacking a true threat it slows down what could be a pretty dynamic offense. Leonard and Peerman are free agents and the Bengals would be wise to explore free agent options and take a developmental guy in the draft. Dan Herron is a nice guy to have on the team as he offers special teams value but lacks the tools to become much more than a ST and backup.

29. Detroit Lions

Mikel Leshoure, Jahvid Best, Joique Bell, Kevin Smith, Jerome Harrison, Devin Moore

It really comes down to Leshoure and Bell as Best may have played his last downs in the NFL. Smith and Harrison are free agents and Moore is a longshot to ever develop. At times, I thought Bell was the better of the two backs (he and Leshoure). Leshoure can find the endzone but lacks the breakaway ability. The Lions could turn their draft attention to a speedier option or look for a free agent, although they are cash strapped.

28. Arizona Cardinals

Ryan Williams, Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens Howling, William Powell, Alfonso Smith, Fozzy Whittaker, Javarris James

Will Ryan Williams ever be healthy enough to find out what he has in him? We know Beanie Wells won’t be. Howling is a free agent and is only a special teamer. They have a ton of depth but quality is lacking there. William Powell ran hard late in the season but doesn’t invoke starter capabilities.

27. Atlanta Falcons                                                  

Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling, Antone Smith, Josh Vaughan

The ‘Burners’ days are about running up. Jacquizz Rodgers is a nice complementary back but isn’t capable of carrying the load. Jason Snelling is a nice back but isn’t going to carry and offense on his back down the stretch on a playoff team. The Falcons could look to spend an early pick on a back with some upside.

26. New York Giants

David Wilson, Andre Brown, Da’Rel Scott, Ryan Torain, Kregg Lumpkin

The Giants must be pretty confident in David Wilson after cutting Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw may stay in New York but the future appears to be on the shoulders of David Wilson. Wilson flashed as a rookie after struggling to hold onto the ball. They have some capable backups in Brown, Scott, and Torain. Lumpkin is a big back but probably won’t be back and offers very little in terms of production.

“The New York Jets are a team that I’m excited to hear about, just to stay at home, not make a big move away from New York.”

Ahmad Bradshaw to NFL Network’s NFL AM show

25. Miami Dolphins

Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller, Marcus Thigpen, Jonas Gray

Reggie Bush doesn’t look to be heading back to Miami leaving the combo of Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller to shoulder the load. Both guys are young and bring intriguing skill sets but we’ll hold off on heaping praise on a guy that hasn’t stayed healthy and a rookie with limited game action.

24. San Diego Chargers

Ryan Matthews, Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle, Curtis Brinkley, Edwin Baker

Ryan Matthews has the goods to be a factor back in the league but injuries have been an issue for Matthews in his young career. Behind, Matthews they don’t have a backup plan. Brown and Battle will be free agents and Brinkley and Baker aren’t guys to lean on from a long-term perspective.

23. Dallas Cowboys

DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones, Phillip Tanner, Lance Dunbar

DeMarco Murray is a solid blend of size and speed but his upright running style leads to big shots on his body which are already taking a toll on his health. Behind Murray the Cowboys have nothing. Felix Jones is a free agent and has yet to prove he can be a factor in the league. Tanner and Dunbar offer little developmental potential. The Cowboys have to find a capable backup that can step in and shoulder the load in case of a Murray injury.

22. Jacksonville Jaguars

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jordan Todman, Jalen Parmele, Richard Murphy, Keith Toston, Jonathan Grimes

MJD is a special back that is capable of carrying an offense for long stretches of a game. Behind MJD it gets very murky. Jordan Todman was waived by two teams as a rookie and doesn’t appear ready to be a even a backup in the league. Parmele is a free agent and the rest of the roster is full of roster fillers. The Jags really need to add a capable backup plan at the position in the offseason.

21. Indianapolis Colts

Donald Brown, Vick Ballard, Delone Carter, Mewelde Moore, Robert Hughes, Deji Karim, Davin Meggett, Alvester Alexander

The Colts lack a true top back but have a nice stable of young backs that can split carries and give defenses different looks. Vick Ballard had a solid rookie year and could be taking over the load this season. Brown and Carter are solid backups that have starter experience under their belt. Moore is a free agent and some of these guys won’t be around long as there’s little need for carrying eight backs..

20. St. Louis Rams

Steven Jackson, Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Terrance Ganaway, Chase Reynolds

The 252nd pick in the draft averaged almost 5 yards per carry

Will Steven Jackson be back with the Rams? No idea on that one. They are pretty good behind him as they may have found a steal in Daryl Richardson. The 252nd pick in the draft averaged almost 5 yards per carry and could be one to take over for the longtime Rams staple Steven Jackson. Isaiah Pead gives them another developmental project with major upside. If Jackson isn’t back, it would likely change this ranking as I’m not comfortable leaning on Richardson at this point in his career.

19. Green Bay Packers

James Starks, Alex Green, DuJuan Harris, Ryan Grant, Cedric Benson, Brandon Saine

The Packers don’t rely heavily on the ground game with their potent passing attack but have a solid but unspectacular stable of backs. DuJuan Harris appears to be a diamond in the rough for the Pack as he averaged almost 5 yards per carry in limited carries. Starks and Green have yet to establish themselves as everydown starters in the league. Grant and Benson won’t be back and Saine is a guy that they could develop for down the road. He gives them some special teams value.

18. Oakland Raiders

Darren McFadden, Mike Goodson, Taiwan Jones, Jeremy Stewart

D-Mac is a solid back but injuries have robbed him from being considered a top 5 back in the league. He has that kind of ability but there’s not enough body of work to speak of to place him in that category. Mike Goodson is a free agent and the Raiders can’t rely on Taiwan Jones to be the No. 2 behind the injury prone McFadden. Jones has speed but isn’t a guy that can carry the ball 25 times a game should McFadden go down.

17. Carolina Panthers

Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Armond Smith, Tauren Poole

The Panthers could be heading towards cutting DeAngelo Williams and his healthy cap number. Jon Stewart could be the bell cow for the Panthers next season. The outlier with the Panthers is Cam Newton’s ability to run the ball. If Williams is done in Carolina they need to find a capable backup. Stewart hasn’t been known for his ability to stay healthy over his career. Tauren Poole is a solid guy to develop long-term.

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Author: Brad

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  • Reggie

    As a Lions fan I shudder at what a bunch of resources has landed us. Trade up for both Best and Leshoure cost us draft picks and neither has panned out. Best was a force but his career is over. Leshoure like you stated is a goal sniffer but otherwise was not overally fast and made too many moves. I hope another year away from inury can help but I doubt he will ever be more than decent. I agree that Bell might be a better overall RB. Still no one special. Bernard and Ellington are two that should be scouted heavily.