The 2023 NFL Draft is rapidly closing in, and when it comes, the selections will impact the depth charts and starting lineups of teams throughout the league. Over the next couple of pieces, I’ll be looking at teams whose depth charts could change with selections in the draft. Today are ten teams that might be looking for a running back in the NFL Draft.
On the Roster: James Conner, Corey Clement, Keaontay Ingram, and Ty’son Williams
The Situation: The Cardinals are beginning a new regime after changing the coach and general manager this off-season. They also have questions all over the field. One area of intrigue is at running back. Last off-season, the Cardinals invested in Conner on a three-year contract. He had a strong 2021 season, and the hope was it would continue. Last season, Conner was limited to 13 games but rushed for 782 yards and caught 46 passes for 300 yards, both an improvement on 2021. He’ll be back to lead the backfield in 2023, but behind him are a collection of veterans and young backs without much experience. With a deep running back class and a lead back with an injury history, it makes sense the Cardinals would be looking to add talent.
Prediction: The Cardinals have plenty of needs, but I think they’ll snag at least one, maybe two running backs, probably in the Third Round or later.
On the Roster: James Cook, Damien Harris, and Nyheim Hines
The Situation: The Bills spent a Second-Round pick on Cook in the 2022 NFL Draft. He had a solid rookie season, rushing for 507 yards on just 89 carries. The team also traded for Hines from the Colts mid-season, but he’s been mostly used on Special Teams. While the Bills’ leading rusher, Devin Singletary, signed with the Texans, the team added Harris, formerly of the Patriots, to add depth. The Bills have been attached to several names this off-season. The team was rumored to be looking at Saquon Barkley and, in the mix, to trade for Dalvin Cook. It’s clear the Bills are looking to upgrade offensive weapons and their backfield, and it seems unlikely that stops with adding Harris.
Prediction: The Bills are in a precarious situation. They went from among the front-runners in the AFC to a team whose Super Bowl window might be closing. Will a rookie running back make all the difference? No, but it seems likely if the Bills can’t land a premium back, they will look to grab one in the draft.
On the Roster: Joe Mixon, Treyveon Williams, and Chris Evans
The Situation: Mixon has had a tumultuous off-season, making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. His legal issues could make his availability murky. His production declined a bit last season, and many thought he could be a cut candidate this off-season. But the Bengals have thus far not moved in that direction. The team did lose Samaje Perine, his backfield mate who took a significant share of the snaps during the stretch run last season. Perine is a Bronco, while the Bengals have inexperienced backups Williams and Evans on the roster. The Bengals are rumored to be one of the teams looking at free agent Ezekiel Elliott, which indicates they still have questions in the backfield.
Prediction: Mixon is 27, with just one more year left on his contract after 2023 and a manageable dead cap number in both seasons. The Bengals are a strong contender with some big financial commitments coming soon, including extending Joe Burrow. I think the Bengals will be in the market to grab their running back of the future.
On the Roster: Tony Pollard, Ronald Jones, Rico Dowdle, and Malik Davis
The Situation: It was a tale of two running backs for the Cowboys. Last season, Pollard and Elliott formed a tag team to carry the backfield. This off-season, the Cowboys tagged Pollard—coming off a broken leg in the playoffs—and released Elliott. That leaves them with questions in the backfield. The team signed veteran Jones to a one-year deal, but it’s not out of the question; they have more to do. There’s even been talk of reuniting with Elliott on a more cap-friendly deal, though that seems like a long shot. Still, it seems likely that the Cowboys will want to add something to the backfield.
Prediction: The Cowboys are always a wild card in the draft. There are rumors they’re interested in Bijan Robinson, and I think if he’s there when they pick, they’ll make the selection. Pollard is back for 2023, but he’s hardly a long-term lock. They moved on from Elliott and need a solid piece to remain contenders. I suspect the Cowboys will make a splash in the draft.
On the Roster: Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine, Tony Jones, Tyler Badie, Damarea Crockett, and Tyreik McAllister
The Situation: On paper, the Broncos have many running back options. In reality, it comes down to two. Williams was a Second-Round pick in 2021 that was off to a great start in 2022 before tearing his ACL. He’s a potential star and workhorse, but will he be ready by Week 1? If not, the team signed Perine, a veteran who played well for the Bengals last season. New Coach Sean Payton has talked about many big-name running back options this off-season, but the Broncos haven’t made a move so far. The team is looking to compete in 2023, and despite a lack of early picks, they could be in the market to add some backfield insurance.
Prediction: I think the Broncos will take a back on Day 3 to give the team some options, looking for someone to compete with Perine and the rest of the young backs on the roster if Williams isn’t ready in Week 1.
Kansas City Chiefs
On the Roster: Isaih Pacheco, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and La’Mical Perine
The Situation: At one point, the Chiefs used a First-Round pick on CEH, hoping he’d be their rock in the backfield. Last season, by the end, he was primarily a healthy scratch as the team leaned on the rookie Pacheco and veteran Jerrick McKinnon. McKinnon is a free agent, and while he could be back, the Chiefs could also be looking to add to the backfield in other ways. CEH is still on the roster, as is Perine, while Pacheco appears to be a solid two-down option. Pacheco rushed for 830 yards and five touchdowns on 170 carries. Still, the Chiefs likely will want to pair him with another back, ideally a strong pass catcher.
Prediction: The Chiefs are a veteran team with several big contracts, so adding rookies helps the bottom line. The team has also done well drafting talent. I think they’ll use a late pick on a running back again.
Los Angeles Chargers
On the Roster: Austin Ekeler, Isaiah Spiller, Josh Kelley, Larry Rountree III, and Zander Horvath
The Situation: The Chargers are wild cards here. The team currently has Ekeler on the roster, but he’s been granted permission to seek a trade after failing to reach terms on an extension. Will he find a trade partner? It’s unclear. But if he does, that will create a big hole for the Chargers, who lack experienced depth behind him. Though they have some options, including 2022 pick Spiller, they’d likely need more, especially to be a playoff contender in the AFC.
Prediction: How does new Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore feel about Spiller? That’s the big question. Spiller was a decent prospect heading into the draft but a relative non-factor during his rookie year. I think the Chargers will take a back at some point to offer additional options, especially as Ekeler’s time with the Chargers seems to be winding down.
Los Angeles Rams
On the Roster: Cam Akers, Kyren Williams, and Ronnie Rivers
The Situation: No player had more of a rollercoaster season in 2022 than Akers. He began the season as the starter, became a healthy inactive whose time with the Rams appears to be over, then ended the season as the starting running back again. He enters the 2023 season as the presumed starter and best player at the position, but things can change quickly in Los Angeles. Behind him are unproven young players in Williams and Rivers. The Rams don’t usually have many high picks, but they’ve typically made the most of the picks they do have. They’ll need to do that again with an aging core and salary cap issues.
Prediction: The Rams will take a running back in the middle rounds to provide depth and insurance, if nothing else.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
On the Roster: Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and Patrick Laird
The Situation: Veteran Leonard Fournette is gone. So, too, is Tom Brady. The 2023 Buccaneers will be a work in progress, especially along the offensive line. But the team has second-year back White, who looked good down the stretch. He rushed for 481 yards and caught 50 passes. The group added Edmonds in free agency and has Vaughn, a former Third Round pick, for depth.
Prediction: The Buccaneers have a lot of needs and significant cap issues. They’re a rare team on this list that will roll the dice with the group they have on the roster, possibly getting another affordable veteran post-draft.
On the Roster: Brian Robinson, Jr., Antonio Gibson, Jonathan Williams, and Jaret Patterson
The Situation: Gibson, a college wide receiver, burst onto the scene as a rookie. But a middling second year, he led to the team drafting Robinson in 2022. Robinson was unavailable to start the season, but by the season’s end, he secured a major backfield role. Gibson and Robinson made for a decent pairing, likely why Washington released veteran J.D. McKissic this off-season. Behind those two, Washington has depth pieces in Williams and Patterson.
Prediction: Washington is always a candidate to add another back, especially with Gibson in a contract year. But the pairing of Gibson and Robinson worked well down the stretch for Washington, and I think the team will focus on other needs. If they add a back, I think it will be a late-round pick on Day Three.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.