As shown in the first edition of our Top 5 Free Agent lists (QBs), we will be going through every position and breaking down the top guys available at each position. We will also give a breakdown of what teams could/should be looking for additions at the position.
TOP 5 NFL FREE AGENT RBs 2017
5. LeGarrette Blount
Blount has had one of the most interesting journeys in the NFL. He attended East Mississippi Community College, the focus of the Netflix documentary Last Chance U, before transferring to Oregon. While with the Ducks, he saw success in his first year, but it fell apart in his senior year when he punched a defensive player for Boise St. after the game was over. Blount was suspended and never truly regained the trust of Head Coach Chip Kelly.
He went undrafted in 2010 and found himself on the Titans, but before the season would begin he was waived and claimed by the Bucs. Blount had some success in his first two years in Tampa Bay, accumulating over 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns. During a down season in 2012 (due to the emergence of Doug Martin), he was traded to New England for RB Jeff Demps and a seventh round pick (pick was traded, but the end result for Tampa Bay was RB Mike James). Demps would appear in two games for the Bucs.
New England found a role for Blount that seemed to work. He played out his final season of the rookie contract, breaking his personal record for rushing touchdowns in a season with seven. LeGarrette would sign a two-year deal with the Steelers in the following off-season. Before the season there was an incident involving himself and LeVeon Bell being found with drugs in a car. Blount was disgruntled due to his lack of touches, so he left a game early. His tenure in Pittsburgh last ten games.
Something drew Blount back to New England. He played a small role in the remainder of 2014 but stepped up in the postseason and won his first Super Bowl. The following season he battled injuries and split time with Dion Lewis that resulted in him appearing in only 12 games. 2016 was Blount’s best season. He led the league in rushing touchdowns (18), breaking New England’s franchise record for most in a season, and put up a career best for rushing yards (1,161). Not to mention capturing a second Super Bowl.
I told you. It was interesting. This off-season could be Blount’s time to capitalize, as he will be 31 this season. He is strong and deceptively quick for his size. He punishes players late in games, especially weather impacted games. We have seen Blount have a tough time in other systems, so I really wouldn’t be surprised if he goes back to New England on another cost-effective deal.
4. Latavius Murray
Murray was selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of UCF by the Oakland Raiders. He was not invited to the combine and was virtually unknown to casual football fans when coming out of college. He would have to wait for recognition, as he was placed on injured reserve, ending his rookie season before it even began.
Between 2014-2016 he began making a name for himself. He averaged over 5.0 YPC in 2014 in limited action. 2015, brought a Pro-Bowl season where Murray tallied over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns.
Entering a contract year last season, there were questions of whether or not the Raiders were committed to Murray as the starting back. Unfortunately, he battled injuries on and off, causing him to miss significant parts of four games. He still totaled 12 touchdowns and nearly 800 yards. Both of the backup RBs put up solid performances in his place, so Oakland may feel they can replace Murray without paying him.
Murray has the perfect combination of size and speed, weighing in at 225 lbs and running under a 4.40. He should get plenty of offers from teams looking for a lead back, and they be able to get him at a reduced rate, because he is still pretty unknown. I would like to see him back in Oakland, because I like the “poor man’s” Steelers they have with Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Murray.
3. Jamaal Charles
Charles was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Texas. The drafting of Charles would continue to success of the running game in Kansas City for years after the legend of Priest Holmes and the short-lived greatness of Larry Johnson. He broke out really in his second season, after taking the job away from Johnson, putting up his first 1,000 yard season. Since, he has put up five such seasons and has been selected to four Pro-Bowls and two First-Team All-Pro lists.
Unfortunately, in 2015, Charles suffered his second torn ACL that would sideline him for another season after being on pace for one of his best seasons in just five weeks. He would miss the remainder of 2015 and would try to make a comeback in 2016. Just three weeks of limited participation into the 2016 campaign, it was evident that he had suffered a setback and would need meniscus surgery. He was placed on the IR and missed the remainder of the season.
It has been nearly two years since we have seen Jamaal Charles make a significant impact on the football field, but his fans have hope that he can return to some semblance of what he was before. His speed and quickness made him one of the best RBs in the league for a fair portion of time, and those two abilities will be at risk since the surgeries. He will be 31-years old this season, and he may get the opportunity to fight it out for a starting job or be another solid rotational piece. Either way, if Charles is healthy, he will be on a roster.
(Apologies for the explicit music)
2. Eddie Lacy
Lacy was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Alabama. He had experienced some success in his final season with the Crimson Tide when he took over the starting job when Trent Richardson left for the NFL.
The young RB experienced success right away in the NFL, as he had two 1,000 yard seasons in his first two years and even won the NFL honor of Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2013. Reality hit fast in 2015, when he came in apparently overweight and his numbers suffered. He only found the end-zone three times, compared to the 20 he had found over the prior two seasons. Couple that with his injuries, and the season was a wash.
In 2016, he had cut weight and was ready to regain his starting role with the Packers. Lacy only started in five games before being placed on IR with an ankle injury. He was still having trouble finding the end-zone, but he was having the best YPC of his career.
Many people, including myself, believe that Lacy can find the level of success he was having in his first two seasons. It is tough to fall of that quickly, but hopefully, the injury was the main problem, and with surgery done, he can return to action and compete at a high level. I think he gets some interest from teams, but not nearly what he should be getting. He may even return to Green Bay, due to the fact they could lose both Lacy and James Starks.
1. Adrian Peterson
Peterson was selected by the Vikings with the seventh pick of the 2007 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma. Since appearing in the league 10 seasons ago, he has made it his goal to re-write the record books. He is a seven-time Pro-Bowl selection, five-time First-Team All-Pro selection, NFL MVP, and Offensive Player of the Year. He has found his way into the top 10 all-time in rushing touchdowns and is 16th in rushing yards.
The last few seasons have been a roller-coaster for AP. He tore his ACL in 2011, missing four games and came back the next year to win MVP. In 2014, he was suspended for his involvement in a domestic assault incident involving his son. He came back and put up another Pro-Bowl season, and in 2016 Peterson tore his meniscus and only appeared in three games.
There have obviously been questions with Peterson both on and off the field. On the field, he will be 32-years old and coming off a career-threatening injury. He will have to show a team that he has returned to a similar running back that the league is used to seeing. I believe he has the highest upside of any RB on the market, but because of his situation, he likely won’t make near the $18 million he was supposed to receive from the Vikings before they denied his option. If he can return to his prior form, he should have a few good years left and can compete with a team that gives him the chance to win a ring.
What teams should be looking for RBs?
This list should probably be more like who does not need a RB. It is pretty much split in half for teams that do and don’t need a RB. I guess this will more be a list of teams that will be most likely to find someone, considering half the league SHOULD be looking.
The Giants have gone through the entire deck of RBs of the past couple seasons. No one has panned out the way they would like. They should look for someone to help take the pressure off of Eli Manning and OBJ, and we could see some crazy things in NYG.
Green Bay has had James Starks, Eddie Lacy, and now Ty Montgomery. All three of them could be at their disposal again if they wish. In reality, Montgomery shouldn’t be a starting RB, so they should look at this top five list and get some help for Aaron Rodgers. Any readers connected to the Packers? Send them this way.
Minnesota may be moving on from AP, but they still have a potential starting back in Jerrick McKinnon. If they want to find a stronger fit, and I suggest they do, they should look into a guy like Latavius Murray to compliment Bridgewater (if he plays this season).
The 49ers need to make a decision on whether or not they make Carlos Hyde their franchise back. He has shown some promise in San Francisco, but with new management and coaches coming in, they may feel he’s not up to their standards. I, personally, like Hyde a lot, but injuries have hampered his career so far.
Philadelphia should 1000% look to bring in a feature back. I have never bought into the Ryan Mathews hype, but their are good options out there to open up the field for Carson Wentz. You can even keep Darren Sproles if you really want. They need to focus on bringing in WR help first, but a number one RB should absolutely be on their shopping list of needs.