By: David Mendelson

It’s August. That officially means it is Draft Season. Right now, I’m sure drafts are going on as I type this article. However, for most of us, we will be waiting until the last few weekends of August or even the beginning of September to draft. For those that have already looked at the rankings, we know how it usually goes at the top of the draft board this year:

Christian McCaffrey or CMC The God as I call him goes #1

We then have some combination in most leagues of Ezekiel Elliot, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, and Dalvin Cook rounding out the top 5 running backs off the board in the first round. While I’m not disputing those are good, safe picks, you need to at least consider having other guys on your board to potentially draft, especially if you have a later pick and don’t want to punt on running back. 

This year, Wide Receiver is EXTREMELY DEEP (for another article) and I think it is vital to try and grab at least one Running Back in the first two rounds. If you miss out, on the guys above, these would be three Running Backs I would immediately target:

Joe Mixon

Currently RB9 according to FantasyPros ADP, the numbers for you are 76% & 56%. That was Joe Mixon’s Snap % and Touch % in the last 4 weeks of 2019. Having AJ Green and Joe Burrow added to this offense is only going to help Mixon become more effective with less stacked boxes and more chances to catch the ball out of the backfield. I could also see a lot more RPO with a mobile QB now and lanes opening up for Mixon. At the end of 2019, it was apparent that second-year head coach Zac Taylor finally committed to Mixon and the running game. Up until Week 14, Mixon had only one game over 25 carries and 100 rushing yards. However, in his last four games, the team fed him and I mean made him chubby with carries: 4th RB in fantasy last 8 weeks.

Week 14: 23 carries for 146 yards 4 receptions for 40 yards

Week 15: 25 carries for 136 yards 3 receptions for 20 yards

Week 16: 21 carries for 50 yards 2 receptions for 23 yards

Week 17: 26 carries for 162 yards 1 reception for 14 yards

Not only did Mixon average around 27 touches per game, but he also scored three TDs. Twenty-seven touches per game is a number that is reserved for only the top running backs in the game like Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry, and Ezekiel Elliott. If Mixon averages are anywhere close to that, he might have more touches than Alvin Kamara, Austin Ekeler, and Leonard Fournette, who are also thought to be first-round picks.

Mixon finished the season as the RB13 with the eighth-most rushing yards (1137) and 8 TDs. He did this with a subpar quarterback and an offensive line that could barely open any holes for him all season. Now with a new QB in Burrow, a return from A.J. Green, and an improved offensive line with a head coach committed to the run game, it is possible for Mixon to finish as the RB6 in 2020, which makes him a viable selection at the end of the first round.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Clyde the Glide (Shout out to Clyde Drexler) is listed at 5’7” and 207 pounds (Exactly the same as MJD). At LSU last year, he ended with 215 carries, 1,414 rushing yards, 55 receptions, 453 receiving yards, and 17 total touchdowns. Andy Reid has already said and I quote, “He’s BETTER than Brian Westbrook.” That’s before he’s played an NFL snap. Andy Reid has also shown he’s not scared to commit to THE guy. This is the same coach that has had said Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, and Kareem Hunt as past workhorses both rushing and catching the ball in his offense.

I was already calling him a Top 7 back before the Damien Williams opt-out and am a true believer of his skills in this offense. He’s now a Top 5 back and a no-doubt first-rounder for me. The man himself Patrick Mahomes wanted him more than any other player in this draft class as he texted GM Brett Veach of his desire for the Chiefs to draft him. CEH being a first-round pick, is going to be getting touches early and often. Expect Edwards-Helaire to share touches with Darrell Williams and DeAndre Washington at first, but he’ll be the big man on campus very quickly. We’ve seen him do it all on the high octane LSU offense (remember he was #2 in all of the college football catching the ball from the running back position) and he happened to land with another top offense in the Chiefs.

He’s currently RB7 on fantasy pros and he will outperform that evaluation. If you’re worried about rookie running backs, I invite you to look at this list of 1st round rookie running backs since 2015: Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliot, Leonard Fournette, Saquon Barkley, Sony Michel, and Josh Jacobs. Not a bad guest list to be on. Speaking of Zeke, here are his rookie season numbers in Dallas:

Carry %: 64.5

Rushing: 1631 yards / 15 TD’s

Receiving: 32 rec / 363 yards / 1 TD

Is CEH a Zeke level prospect? No. Is it crazy to think CEH can’t get 65% of the carries and workload on this team and get 2/3 of Zeke’s stats? I don’t think so. That’s roughly almost 1100 yards rushing, 22 catches for 242 yards, and 10 TDs. I’ll take that all day every day.

Josh Jacobs:

This second-year back is currently RB12 on FantasyPros and needs to be a lot higher. Having lost offensive rookie of the year to Kyler Murray, Jacobs is out to prove people they need not sleep on his game. His biggest supporter? That would be his head coach John Gruden.

Gruden was not happy about Jacobs losing the award. Vic Tafur of The Athletic is on record having reported that Gruden was quote, “So mad last year about Jacobs not winning the award, that he vowed Jacobs would get more carries and more receptions to prove what a crime voters had committed.”

Jaylen Richard is still there, but more of the occasional spell back than anything else in my eyes this year. They have a new draft pick Lynn Bowden Jr. but will be used for more of a gadget player than a true workhorse back. Expect Jacobs’s role to grow even more this year in a better offense.

People may not know, but according to Pro Football Focus, Jacobs was actually the highest graded rookie of 2019 with a grade of 87.1. The question surrounding Jacobs was his questionable work in the passing game and especially in PPR leagues, which was leading to his draft stock slipping. However, according to Offensive Coordinator Greg Olsen, that was all Jacobs worked on this offseason, and expect to see a big change in his route running and catching.

This may be the lowest you’ll be able to draft a bell cow 3-running back like Jacobs ever, so you need to pounce on it way earlier than his ADP currently indicates. I expect a big overall leap in his production this season.