If you read my last article… you know the drill. Here are my two RBs that will make a big jump in their 2nd year.
The Panthers selected the Stanford product with the 8th pick in the draft expecting him to be a swiss army knife, with exceptional talent as a receiver, runner, and returner. He delivered as a receiver. McCaffrey led the team with 80 receptions for 651 yards with 5 TDs. Head coach Ron Rivera used him in many different passing situations and it was pretty clear why. However, there is room for improvement on the rushing end. On 117 rushes he tallied up 435 yards and 2 TDs. A pretty disappointing total. But there are many outside factors that can explain this. One; Jonathan Stewart. The 10-year veteran had almost 200 rushes, 680 yards and 6 TDs (but the TDs can be attributed to his carries in goal line situations). But now, Stewart is gone and now there are 200 rushes to go around. Although the Panthers signed former Broncos RB CJ Anderson, I still expect McCaffrey to get a huge chunk of Stewart’s carries. Also, the Panthers WR corps was pretty abysmal so a lot of the attention was on the run game. With the addition of DJ Moore, a lot of pressure will be taken off of the running backs.
The 2nd-round pick for the Vikings was pretty good in his first 4 games. He had 74 rushes for 354 yards and 2 TD’s, averaging almost 5 yards a carry which is phenomenal. But unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury that kept him out for the rest of the season. This year though, a new dimension could be added to the offense after the signing of Kirk Cousins. The combination of him, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs can open up some opportunity for Cook. Also, the departure of Jerick McKinnon will open up more carries for Cook. I expect him to have a bounce-back season.
Honorable Mention: Marlon Mack
The Colts RB1 last year Frank Gore has left for Miami which means that Mack will most likely assume the role of starting running back. The Colts did draft Nyheim Hines, but he will need time to develop and adapt so I think Mack will get the majority of the carries. But one downside to his game is that I don’t think he can be a workhorse type of back. You should expect around 10 carries a game and a lot of receptions, as he is a very talented receiver. He will definitely improve on his promising 358 yards, 3 TD campaign. Also, an improved Colts offensive line, (@ Quenton Nelson) will definitely improve the run game, regardless of who’s getting the carries.