The 2022 NFL Season is charging ahead, with free agency launching on March 14. Since that time, we have seen a bevy of moves, including trades and signings, that have shifted the balance of power in the NFL. That makes this an excellent time to stop and take stock. And that’s just what the stock watch is all about.
With the first wave of free agency behind us and the draft rapidly approaching, it’s time to see whose stock improved and whose stock dropped. I’ll be looking at three who have improved and three who’ve slipped at each position—QB, RB, WR, and TE. It’s time to see where we stand as the NFL Draft Approaches. Today I continue with running backs.
James Conner, Arizona Cardinals
About: Conner entered the last off-season as a man with an uncertain future. A later stage free agent signing with the Cardinals on a one-year deal didn’t move the needle that much. But Conner did. Conner ran for 752 yards and 15 touchdowns, catching 37 passes for 375 yards and three touchdowns. That was good enough to finish as RB5 and earn him a three-year deal back with the Cardinals. Meanwhile, the team’s other top back—Chase Edmonds—ended up in Miami. I suspect the Cardinals will add another back, either in free agency or the draft, but for now, Conner looks more like the back he appeared to be early in his tenure in Pittsburgh.
Ronald Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
About: Jones was once a second-round pick with promise in Tampa Bay. We saw flashes, but he never really seized on that promise. And in 2021, seemingly in Bruce Arians’ doghouse, Jones hardly saw the field. He needed a change of scenery, and that came thanks to a one-year deal with the Chiefs. On paper, it doesn’t seem great. But it’s a chance to redeem his career in a high-octane offense, which offers promise. In a complementary role in 2021, Darrel Williams rushed for 558 yards and six touchdowns, catching 47 passes for 452 yards and two more touchdowns. Jones might not be the same level receiver, but I could see him rushing for 850 yards and eight touchdowns, becoming playable again for those who roster him and giving him more options in 2023.
Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos
About: Williams was taken in the second round of the 2021 draft by the Denver Broncos. The team moved up to snag him, and though he shared the backfield with veteran Melvin Gordon, Williams made his presence felt. He rushed for 903 yards and four touchdowns, catching 43 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns. That helped him finish as RB17, which was in a split role. Gordon is a free agent and remains unsigned, as the Broncos appear ready to turn over the reigns to Williams as the bell cow. With Russell Wilson in Denver, the offense is poised to take off, and for Williams and those who roster him, it’s wheels up.
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
About: Barkley was once the top, can’t miss prospect entering the league. His rookie year seemingly backed that up, but it was harder to see it in the three years that followed. Maybe it’s a poor offensive line. Maybe it’s injuries. Or maybe it’s a mediocre Giants offense in general. But Barkley is two years removed from his last 1,000-yard season, and the Giants have entertained trade offers for Barkley, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Either way, Barkley is no longer a Top 12 option for me, and it’s fair to wonder if we’ll ever see him reach the heights of his rookie season again. It might be time for those with him on the roster to move on while his name still carries weight.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
About: Elliott is another back who was once atop the league. Unlike Barkley, his production remained solid for years. At the same time, his yards per game has declined in each of his six years in the league. While he got back to 1,000 yards in 2021, it was thanks to a 17-game season. The Cowboys’ offense is very pass-friendly, and Elliott has more competition than ever from Tony Pollard. For those that roster Elliott, it’s a reality he’s more of a solid RB2, meaning now is the time to capitalize on his trade value.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs
About: Edwards-Helaire was a trendy pick atop rookie drafts in 2020. He had a good season at LSU and was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. Many thought they saw a player poised to take off. Instead, CEH has been OK, while others in his draft class—Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, and Antonio Gibson, among them—have soared. Now, the Chiefs have signed Jones to compete in the backfield. In 2021, CEH finished as RB46 while Williams was RB20. For those that roster him, seeing Jones sign is likely giving them flashbacks. It’s clear that CEH isn’t going to reach that top-end position some had hoped to see when he was drafted.
Matthew Fox is a member of the FSWA. He’s a die-hard NFL Fan and Broncos’ Homer. 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.