In this new series of articles, I plan on mimicking the stock market but applying it to a certain NFL position group. This week’s article will be focused on the running back position.As we all know, a good running game can be the difference between a playoff team and a championship team. Recently we’ve seen the meta of a running back shift from a runner who can utilize brute force to get through a d-line to a more all around type of player. Modern NFL backs are expected to contribute in the passing game and have a solid day on the ground. We can see this trend with the early selection of Christian McAffery in the 2017 draft and the success of running backs than can do it both: Bell and David Johnson.
Sell: Legarrette Blount, Detroit Lions
Blount is coming off of back to back Superbowls with the Patriots and Eagles. On both teams he proved to be a solid asset in the red-zone. He signed with the Lions this off-season to help the struggling ground game that hasn’t amounted to much the since the retirement of Barry Sanders. Detroit has only seen two 1,000 yard rushers since his exit of the league. (Kevin Jones 2004, Reggie Bush 2013) Personally I don’t see Blount changing much in the coming season, the Lions offense will more likely than not be centered around Matt Stafford and Marvin Jones. If Jim Bob Cooter can get Blount to contribute consistently this year, I will be very surprised. I doubt he’ll eclipse the 1,000 yard mark and I don’t see the Lions relying on him in the 4th quarter shenanigans they excel in.
Sell: Dion Lewis, Tennessee Titans
Lewis has spent the majority of his career with the New England Patriots, but this off-season he signed with the Titans and left the offense he excelled in. Since Belichick has built the dynasty in New England, one of the constants was a satellite back that could make defenders miss and catch passes from Brady. Unfortunately for Lewis, the trend shows that when backs leave the Patriots scheme, their production drops off consequently. Some examples include Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen and more. It also doesn’t help that Dion Lewis will most likely be the 2nd best running back on the roster with the Heisman winning Derrick Henry heading off the RB group for the Titans
Hold: Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have had a hard time replacing Marshawn Lynch ever since he initially retired. They have had several backs that had brief stints of success such as Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael. Last offseason’s big landing was Eddie Lacy who failed to contribute. I do not see Rashaad being the exception, he was a bit of a reach at pick 27 in the first round, but I do see some upside with the improvement of the Seahawks O-line. Some believe Penny is the answer at RB based off of the recent success of backs in the draft. We’ve seen running backs from the draft make major impacts in their rookie season (Elliot, Kamara, Gurely) but all of those backs had an above average offensive line. The Seahawks have struggled to fill the void in their O-line, but with a new season comes more strength and energy for the mostly young blocking group (the exception being Brown). Last year Seattle ranked 27th (PFF) among offensive lines in the NFL, they could’ve finished worse if it weren’t for the mid season acquisition of Duane Brown from the Texans. If Brown can play at his best I could see Penny having a decent rookie year, the big ‘if’ being the O-line.
Buy: David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
This is going to be an interesting season for Cardinal fans. The offense is a combination of Vets and Young players looking to prove themselves. Most of the roster is a big question mark at this point due to the sudden retirement of Bruce Arians, but the one thing that seems to be guaranteed next year is David Johnson at running back. Johnson is the prototypical half back due to his ability to catch the ball well and take it the distance when needed to. Whether you hand him the ball or toss it to him, he’ll do his best to fight for extra yards. If Josh Rosen finds himself in the lineup and is able to create and maintain a strong connection with David Johnson they could become one of the best QB-RB duos in the NFC. With the arrival of a new coach often comes the baggage of a new scheme, this season we will see Johnson establish himself as a top 3 back once again.
Buy: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Barkley has seen un-parelled levels of hype this offseason. No. 26 ranked No. 1 in Jersey Sales since April. The former Penn State running back will try to be a part of the new look Giants offense, the major addition being him. The Giants ground game hasn’t been consistent since the days of Tiki Barber. With the complete shift of Giants management and coaching, we are likely to see a more organized backfield with the hiring of Pat Shurmur. Barkley is the projected starter for New York this year and will be splitting carries with vet Johnathan Stewart. Saquon was the consensus number 1 talent in the draft and the Giants selected him accordingly, now we’ll see if he can live up to the hype and return the New York Football Giants to playoff contention.