Christian McCaffrey is one of the best running backs in football, yet the Carolina Panthers don’t miss their former first-round pick. While most expected some type of committee effort, Carolina’s current starter is playing at a high level and could maintain this workload in the future. Based on both numbers and the eye test, D’Onta Foreman is making a strong case to keep the Panthers starting running back job in 2023.
D’Onta Foreman Could Be Carolina Panthers Starting Running Back in 2023
First off, we need to talk about D’Onta Foreman as a player. There is no denying that the running back has played well since McCaffrey left, but that is just a four-game timeframe. Weird things happen in small samples, and the Panthers need to be sure that he has a realistic shot of maintaining this level of play moving forward.
Fortunately, all signs imply that Foreman can continue to play like a starting running back. While he spent the early portion of his career bouncing around the league, it’s important to remember that Foreman was a really good prospect coming out of college. Selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Foreman immediately earned a role with the Houston Texans and recorded 327 yards on 78 carries in just 10 games as a rookie (4.2 YPC). By all accounts, Foreman looked like a promising young player that could stick around in the NFL for a while.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck when Foreman suffered an Achilles injury in Week 11 of his rookie season. Achilles injuries are deadly for running backs, and it takes years for players to regain their burst, even when they’re back on the football field. Because of this, Foreman never had a chance to truly continue his career until midway through the 2020 season.
Taking over for an injured Derrick Henry, Foreman came out of nowhere to carry Tennessee’s rushing attack down the stretch. Making three starts in his nine appearances, the former third-round pick finished the season with 566 yards on 133 carries (4.3 YPC). He looked like his old self, and that level of play followed him to Carolina. Nobody is saying he’s a superstar, but he’s proven he’s good enough to be a solid starter.
Do the Panthers Have the Resources to Do Better?
D’Onta Foreman is a good player, but there are some obstacles both sides must overcome if he’s to be the Panthers starter. The biggest issue at hand is that the Panthers need to sign him. Foreman is set to be a free agent and, given his impressive play, it’s safe to assume he’ll have a larger market in 2023 than he did in 2022. The Panthers have needs all over the roster, and running back is not an important position in the grand scheme of things. Because of this, the Panthers will probably only sign Foreman if they can get him to agree to a cheap contract.
That being said, there are a lot of good free agent running backs that might bring down Foreman’s price. Saquon Barkley, Kareem Hunt, Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris, and Rashaad Penny are just a few of the names set to hit the open market, and each player could easily draw more interest than Foreman. Foreman’s fate will likely depend on whether the Giants and Raiders can re-sign Barkley and Jacobs, respectively, before they hit the market. If those two are off the market, then a bidding war could easily ensue for his services.
Even if the Panthers can sign Foreman to a team-friendly deal, they’ll still need to see if they can upgrade the position in the NFL Draft. Foreman will be 27 in 2023, and we all know that running back production tends to drop off a cliff once they reach their late 20’s. As mentioned earlier, the Panthers have plenty of needs, so they might not consider running back an important position to address. However, thanks to the Christian McCaffrey trade, the team now has four picks in the first three rounds.
If the Panthers believe that they can afford a luxury pick and somebody they like falls into the third round, then perhaps they pull the trigger. In that scenario, it would still be good to have someone experienced like Foreman hold down the starting job in the short term. So, no matter how you look at it, the 2023 Carolina Panthers could definitely use a reliable player like Foreman, provided the price is right.