The 2020 NFL Draft is inching closer and closer this year, much of the hype is centered on a historically impressive wide receiver class that could be as deep as any in recent memory.
But while everyone’s talking about the wideouts, there are plenty of running backs set to make an impact at the next level as well. Talented players like D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, J.K. Dobbins, Cam Akers, and Zack Moss are just a few of the names who could step into significant day one roles in the NFL, and fans will soon know exactly where they’ll be doing so.
2020 NFL Draft and the Impact It Could Have on Some Veteran Running Backs
Of course, the 2020 NFL Draft and the running backs selected will have an impact on the incumbent starters of their respective teams. Below are three running backs who could have their role affected by the draft this year.
Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills
Devin Singletary flew under the radar in 2019, but he was quietly one of the better rookie runners in the league. When the Buffalo Bills scooped him up in the third round of last year’s draft (74th overall), he was entering a crowded backfield. At the time, the team already had LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, and T.J. Yeldon under contract and it wasn’t immediately apparent where Singletary would fit into the equation.
Ultimately, the Bills moved on from McCoy just before the start of the season and Yeldon struggled with injuries for much of the year, recording only 17 carries in the process. That left Singletary to form a tandem with the veteran Gore and the results were excellent.
In fact, even though he missed three games with a hamstring injury and was rested for the playoffs in Week 17, Singletary still led the Bills in rushing with 775 yards on the ground, good for an incredible 5.13 yards per tote. The rookie also added 29 receptions for 194 yards in the process, and he accomplished all of this in only 12 games. Of course, he went on to cap all this off with a 134 yards from scrimmage in the Bills Wildcard Weekend playoff loss.
Gore played in all 16 games and led the team with 166 carries, but his contract expired at the end of the season and as of yet, the franchise has made no attempt to re-sign him. That leaves Singletary as the unquestioned starter with Yeldon a distant number two. Recently, Bills general manager Brandon Beane has stated he believes Singletary can be a featured runner in the NFL, but added the qualifying phrase “if we want him to”, while stating that he “wouldn’t hesitate” to add another runner in the draft.
As things stand today, Singletary is locked into a high-volume role as a lead runner and is a potential breakout option in fantasy drafts. However, if Beane decides to add another back to the equation, a second straight season in a timeshare could be on the horizon.
Jordan Howard, Miami Dolphins
When Jordan Howard inked a two-year, $10 million deal with the Miami Dolphins in free agency, he instantly became the unquestioned number one option on the depth chart. It’s no surprise, considering the state of the team’s backfield a season ago. After the franchise jettisoned Kenyan Drake in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals mid-season (that definitely looks like a poor move, in retrospect), the load was carried by players like Mark Walton, Kalen Ballage, Patrick Laird, and Myles Gaskin, while ultimately, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ended up leading the team in rushing.
It became clear that improving the running game needed to be a priority in the off-season and that’s where Howard came in. In spite of his two-down skill set, he has been a highly productive NFL runner for two different franchises, and accumulated two 1,100-plus yard rushing performances with the Chicago Bears over his first two seasons. While the Bears ultimately traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles last year, Howard remained a productive player and was producing some of his best football, prior to a shoulder injury which ended his season prematurely.
At the moment, Howard is far and away the Dolphins best runner and would be a lock for 200-plus carries if the season started today, but that could very well change during the draft. The Dolphins could absolutely run the show on draft weekend, with 14 picks at their disposal, including three first-rounders and two selections in the second round. It seems all but certain that the Dolphins will spend a reasonably high selection on another tailback, making Howard’s outlook murky.
It’s possible the team could focus on a third-down back to complement Howard’s early-down role, but if the team selects a well-rounded talent, it could be bad news for the veteran. The Eagles selected Miles Sanders in the second round a year ago and his versatility and top-notch production has vaulted him to the top of the team’s depth chart, which enabled the franchise to let Howard walk in free agency. Without question, the range of 2020 outcomes is wide for the former Pro Bowler and the addition of a highly-drafted rookie could cause his value to plummet.
Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs
Damien Williams has quietly been one of the most dominant backs in the NFL when he’s been healthy and given a substantial workload. Arguably the Kansas City Chiefs best player during their come-from-behind Super Bowl victory, Williams has been absolutely clutch for this franchise in the most pressure-packed situations.
In five career postseason games with Kansas City, Williams has produced 355 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns to go along with 21 receptions for 185 yards and an additional four scores. Those are absolute video game numbers and he has been a huge piece of the puzzle during the franchise’s consecutive deep post-season runs.
So why would he face any threat to his job security? It’s hard to say, but it’s clear the franchise has never truly seen him as a full-time player. That was made apparent when the team added the aforementioned LeSean McCoy to the mix after the Bills released him right before the 2019 season started and immediately handed him a healthy workload.
To be fair, injuries limited Williams to only 11 contests a season ago, but even when healthy he often had to split time with McCoy, Darrel Williams, and rookie Darwin Thompson. In fact, Williams only saw more than 13 carries in two regular season contests in 2019, before he ultimately seized the reigns during the postseason.
And yes, McCoy’s contract has expired, but the Chiefs have already signed DeAndre Washington in free agency. Washington had 36 receptions in a supporting role in Oakland last season, and could steal snaps from Williams right out of the gate in Kansas City’s pass-heavy offense. If the franchise were to add another runner to the mix during the draft, it would potentially sink Williams’ value.
For all of his incredible performances in the playoffs, things didn’t work out and there’s every reason to believe the team will employ a backfield rotation once again in 2020.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the 2020 NFL Draft and if these running backs see their roles reduced in any way.