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Fantasy Football Ideal Landing Spots in the Draft: Running Back

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There are under two weeks until the 2024 NFL Draft. Before we know it, we will be drafting fantasy teams and getting ready to enjoy the 2024 season. However, plenty of formats (namely dynasty and best ball) have been drafting rookies for months.

One of the big challenges in these formats is trying to predict things like draft capital and landing spots. Getting a rookie at a discount before they land in the perfect situation is a massive advantage. Heading into the NFL draft, FTN Fantasy will be going position by position to evaluate the top prospects at the four major positions (QB, RB, WR and TE) and identifying their best landing spots. Be sure to check out the top quarterback landing spots article that has already dropped.

By all accounts, this is an extremely underwhelming running back class compared to previous years. However, there are plenty of players in this class that can have a fantasy impact, especially if they land in the right settings. Below you’ll find a collection of the top running backs in the 2024 class with their ideal landing spots.

Ideal Landing Spots in the NFL Draft: Running Back

Trey Benson, Florida State

Ideal Fit: New York Giants

Trey Benson enters the 2024 draft as arguably the top running back in the class thanks to his unique blend of size and speed. Benson, originally an Oregon commit before suffering a significant knee injury, bounced back well at Florida State, posting consecutive seasons with over 900 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns. However, it wasn’t until Benson crushed the NFL combine (4.39 40-yard dash at 6-foot-0, 216 pounds) that he started to gain traction as the RB1 in the class.

The best fit for Benson is a team that needs explosive playmakers: the New York Giants. New York’s offense scuffled in 2023 thanks to several key injuries and another season of ineffective offensive line play. According to FTN’s rushing efficiency tool, 51 of Saquon Barkley’s carries were against a stacked box (20.6%). Teams knew the Giants couldn’t pass the ball and adjusted accordingly.

The Giants moved on from Barkley this offseason and spent the offseason trying to upgrade a brutal offensive line, investing in guards Aaron Stinnie and Jon Runyan and right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor. The team also added veteran running back Devin Singletary to serve as an early down back after a successful season with the Houston Texans (216 carries for 898 yards and four touchdowns).

Even with Singletary in tow, Benson would represent a solid running back option that could at least provide an explosive complement to the rushing attack in his first season before taking over the backfield in 2024. It may not be the best landing spot in the NFL draft, but it is one of the few that could see a rookie running back take on a significant role in the run game.

Blake Corum, Michigan

Ideal Fit: Los Vegas Raiders

Many fantasy analysts and draft experts will make the obvious connection between Blake Corum and the Los Angeles Chargers thanks to Jim Harbaugh. And while that fit does make a lot of sense, it doesn’t necessarily represent an “ideal” landing spot. Instead, the best landing spot for Corum can be found in the same division: the Las Vegas Raiders.

Corum enters the NFL draft after spending three years as the focal point of the Michigan offense. Over the last two seasons, Corum handled 505 carries for 2,708 yards and 45 touchdowns. He also added 27 receptions for 197 yards and two touchdowns as well. Corum posted his lowest yards per carry in his final season with Michigan (4.8), but a lot of that is being chalked up to his recovery from a 2022 knee injury. Corum posted a respectable 4.53 40-yard dash after measuring in at 5-8 and 205 pounds.

To find the best fit for Corum, it is best to try and identify a landing spot that has a solid offensive line and a gap scheme running style that allows Corum to get downhill to churn out hard yards while utilizing his agility to get loose at the second level. In this case, the Raiders are a perfect match.

Last season, Josh Jacobs finished second in the NFL with 133 gap run attempts according to FTN’s rushing usage tool. The Raiders opted to let Jacobs leave in free agency, leaving Zamir White (104 carries for 451 yards and one touchdown in 2023) as the primary back. The team needs to add depth and Corum could provide a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield with Gardner Minshew and Aidan O’Connell in 2024.

Jonathon Brooks, Texas

Ideal Fit: Dallas Cowboys

This is the most popular running back and team fit circulating draft media, and it makes a lot of sense. Jerry Jones has never shied away from drafting college players from Texas schools and the team has a massive need at running back after letting Tony Pollard walk in free agency.

Jonathon Brooks is coming off a torn ACL, but the surgeon who fixed his knee is the Dallas Cowboys’ team surgeon. They likely have more information on Brooks’ recovery and health than any other team in the league.

The knee injury was unfortunate for Brooks, who finally got an opportunity to shine after sitting behind Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson during his first two seasons at Texas. In 11 games, Brooks posted 187 carries for 1,139 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns. He also showed his ability to impact the game as a pass catcher with 25 receptions for 286 yards and an additional score. Even with a knee injury and one year of production, Brooks made the jump to the NFL, which means he probably got a favorable grade from the NFL draft advisory board.

As it stands, the Cowboys have Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, Malik Davis and Snoop Conner on their running back depth chart. Even if Brooks needs time to get fully healthy after his knee surgery (there have been reports that suggest he will be ready for Week 1), he can easily emerge as the top option in this rushing attack by the end of this season.

MarShawn Lloyd, USC

Ideal Fit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Marshawn Lloyd gambled on himself in 2023, transferring to USC after three quiet seasons at South Carolina. Ultimately, the move paid off. Lloyd set career highs in rushing attempts (116), rushing yards (820) and yards per carry (7.1) with the Trojans while scoring nine rushing touchdowns. The rookie running back also impressed at the combine, measuring in at 5-9 and 220 pounds while running a 4.46 40-yard dash.

The traits that Lloyd showed in college were the ability to burst through the first level of the defense before cutting at the second level to get chunk gains. One team that can use a complementary back like Lloyd would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sure, the Buccaneers are set at the top of the depth chart with Rachaad White. The second-year back was fantastic in 2023, handling 272 carries for 990 yards and six touchdowns while adding 64 receptions on 70 targets for 549 yards and three receiving scores. However, the team had very little depth behind him. Baker Mayfield finished second on the team in rushing attempts (62) and Chase Edmonds was second on the team in rushing yards (176). The only players other than White who scored a rushing touchdown were Mayfield and wide receiver Chris Godwin (one each).

The Buccaneers are set to head into with the same questionable depth chart behind White, with Chase Edmonds set to serve as the backup once again and fantasy darling Sean Tucker serving as the third running back. Lloyd would provide a younger alternative to these players and fits the run style of the Buccaneers.

According to FTN’s running back usage tool, no running back in football had more gap-rushing attempts than White in 2023. Adding a talent like Lloyd would provide White with the ability to save his legs on the early downs and make explosive impact plays as a pass catcher. Lloyd may not be more than a complement to White for the next few seasons, but landing in Tampa Bay would be a perfect place to accentuate his strengths with minimal competition on the depth chart.

Jaylen Wright, Tennessee

Ideal Fit: Los Angeles Chargers

Plenty of people believe Blake Corum will land with the Los Angeles Chargers thanks to his ties to Jim Harbaugh and his ability to handle a heavy workload. However, the Chargers already prioritized a player like that (Gus Edwards) in free agency. Instead, this offense needs a player who can offer some explosiveness in the backfield and hit home runs. No running back is as explosive as Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright.

Wright entered the NFL draft after having his best season in 2023. Wright led the Volunteers in rushing attempts (137), rushing yards (1,013) and yards per carry (7.4). He also added 22 receptions for 141 yards. Despite the explosive potential, Wright enters the NFL draft process as one of the youngest backs in the class (he just turned 21) with relatively low mileage (just 398 touches over his career at Tennessee). It also helps that his explosiveness on film matched what we saw at the combine (4.38 40-yard dash and an 11-foot-2 broad jump at 5-10, 210 pounds).

Wright offers a package that few other backs in this class can. He’s a young running back with explosive play that has the size to handle a full workload, even though that wasn’t asked of him during his collegiate career.

Both head coach Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman have attempted to pair grinder running backs with explosive counterparts to keep defenses guessing in their run-heavy offenses. That makes Jaylen Wright an ideal pairing with the Los Angeles Chargers in the 2024 NFL draft.

Braelon Allen, Wisconsin

Ideal Fit: Buffalo Bills

Braelon Allen is an extremely difficult running back prospect to pin down. He will enter the NFL at just 20 years old after spending three seasons with the Wisconsin Badgers. During his time with Wisconsin, Allen served as a high-volume back, racking up 597 carries for 3,494 yards and 35 touchdowns in three seasons in the Big 10. However, there are questions regarding his pass-catching ability (just 49 receptions in three college seasons) and his speed after he chose not to test his 40 during the pre-draft cycle.

The best pairing for Allen is a team looking for a power back that can get downhill and fight through the tough yards to pick up first downs and touchdowns on the goal line. There arguably isn’t a better fit for him in the NFL draft than the Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo got a solid season from James Cook in 2023 but resorted to utilizing backs like Latavius Murray and Damien Harris once the team got into third-down situations and inside the red zone.

Both Murray (free agent) and Harris (retirement) are off the roster, leaving this role as a glaring hole on the team’s depth chart. The only other running backs on the roster (Ty Johnson and Darrynton Evans) aren’t downhill runners and serve as true backups to James Cook, which makes Allen’s skillset a perfect pairing for the Buffalo Bills.

Allen can immediately serve as a power complement to Cook in the run game and would immediately enter the league with a double-digit touchdown upside. It is hard to imagine a better marriage of player and team than Braelon Allen and the Bills in 2024.

Will Shipley, Clemson

Ideal Fit: Carolina Panthers

One running back who has flown under the radar throughout the draft cycle is Clemson’s Will Shipley. It was just three seasons ago that Shipley entered college as a four-star recruit on ESPN (and the RB2 in his class behind only Ohio State’s TreVeyon Henderson). The Clemson product put together three solid seasons in Death Valley, amassing 526 carries for 2,748 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and 31 touchdowns in his three collegiate seasons. Shipley should also be considered one of the top pass-catching backs in the class after posting back-to-back 30-plus-reception seasons.

Shipley also did well during his draft process, weighing in at 5-foot-11 and 206 pounds and posting a 4.42 40-yard dash. Shipley is a solid running back who can make defenders miss in space and has the agility to make defenders miss when hitting the second level on inside runs. One team that could use his pass-catching ability would be just down the road: the Carolina Panthers.

Carolina swung big in free agency in 2023, signing Miles Sanders to a big contract to serve as their lead running back. Unfortunately, that move flopped as Sanders was overtaken by Chuba Hubbard in the backfield. Hubbard broke out in 2023, racking up 238 attempts for 902 yards and five touchdowns. Both Hubbard and Sanders will be on the team in 2024, but it remains to be seen how they factor into the team’s plans beyond that.

The Panthers need an infusion of talent on offense to help salvage Bryce Young’s career after a brutal 2023 season. A quarterback’s best friend can be his outlet on passing downs, and that is an area Shipley thrives. Coincidentally, that is also an area in which Hubbard and Sanders fall short. According to FTN’s running back usage tool, Hubbard commanded just a 16.4% target share (44 targets) during 2023, which put him at 21st among running backs.

Shipley would immediately provide Bryce Young with a weapon in the passing game out of the backfield and has collegiate experience lining up in the slot as a receiver as well. He also has shown the ability to function as a true three-down back during his college days. That could lead to a bigger role in 2025 when Chuba Hubbard is scheduled to hit free agency and Miles Sanders can be released for just a $2.9 million cap hit.

Bucky Irving, Oregon

Ideal Fit: Los Angeles Rams

It has been an underwhelming draft cycle for Oregon running back Bucky Irving. Irving was expected to be one of the most explosive running backs in this class but posted just a 4.55 40-yard dash. It didn’t help that Irving also came in at a small 5-9 and 192 pounds at the combine.

Still, Irving is just 21 years old and put together an intriguing production profile during his time with Oregon (475 carries for 2,937 yards (6.2 yards per carry) with 20 touchdowns in three seasons). He also flashed the ability to catch the ball, totaling 87 receptions for 712 yards and five touchdowns over the last two seasons.

One team that needs depth at running back and has experience fully utilizing running backs with underwhelming testing numbers is the Los Angeles Rams.

Kyren Williams was a revelation in 2023, finishing with 228 rushing attempts for 1,144 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games. However, like Brooks, Williams entered the NFL draft out of Notre Dame as a smaller prospect who underwhelmed in the 40-yard dash. Still, his patience and vision have been utilized by Sean McVay as the team has transitioned to a gap-blocking style.

More importantly, the team has no insurance policy currently on the roster if Williams gets hurt once again in 2024. The Rams have Ronnie Rivers and 2023 seventh-round pick Zach Evans as an insurance policy. When Williams went down in 2024, the Rams opted to lean on castoffs like Royce Freeman and Darrell Henderson instead of trusting either of these backs.

With the Rams, Irving would immediately factor in as the RB2 on the depth chart and could utilize his vision as a runner on inside runs while making an impact underneath while teams try to figure out how to stop Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua down the field. The Rams leaned heavily on Kyren Williams in 2023, but need to find a solid complement for him so that he doesn’t break down given his size.

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