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Future Broncos: Running Back Stable Reinforcements

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C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles have had success early on rushing for the Broncos this season, but should the team consider upgrading their running back stable early in the 2018 NFL Draft?

NCAA Football: Penn State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a while since the Denver Broncos have enjoyed such a successful rushing attack early on in the regular season, but it is certainly a welcomed sight for Broncos Country who have been wishing for a dominating rushing attack for quite some time now. The last time the Broncos had a 1,000 yard rusher was in 2013, when Knowshon Moreno rumbled for 1,038 yards, but it looks like that drought may end this year if the team continues to block well for their current stable of backs.

The Broncos currently rank third in the NFL after three weeks of play in respect to rushing, averaging 143 yards a game on the ground. C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles have been a solid one-two punch, with Anderson as the bell-cow and Charles as a change of pace back. Anderson is currently on pace for the best production of his career and a 1,200 yard season, with Charles sporting an impressive 5.1 yard per carry average on roughly ten carries a game.

The overall split of carries and workload may be subject to change, especially when second-year pro Devontae Booker is able to resume play on the field once his wrist is completely healed. Though some fans are down on Booker after a so-so rookie campaign in 2016, I believe his addition will add some versatility and promise to team’s backfield. The Broncos also has rookie De’Angelo Henderson on the active roster, but barring a significant injury to Anderson or Charles, it’s unlikely that he will see much playing time other than special teams this season.

That being said, the revitalized Charles is only a one-year rental at the running back position and Anderson is due a hefty salary of $4.5 million next year and in 2019. If Anderson continues to perform well, it is likely a safe bet that he sticks on the roster for the next season. If he doesn’t and hits a wall like he has consistently in his career, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Broncos looked for an option in the draft to replace him (as well as Charles) to compete alongside Booker and Henderson for 2018.

Running Back Prospects to Watch for in the 2018 NFL Draft

The 2018 NFL Draft is loaded with potential star backs who are poised to make an impact early on in their NFL careers. Penn State’s junior running back Saquon Barkley is undoubtedly the best prospect who is likely to declare for this year’s draft at the position. If so, will be selected very early on — perhaps even in the Top 5 selections.

To date, the standout has produced 3,090 rushing yards on 520 carries. That's good enough for nearly six yards per carry and he has scored 29 touchdowns on the ground. Not only is he a premier rusher, he's a tremendous pass catcher who has reeled in 71 receptions for 898 yards and seven touchdowns in just 29 games. There is no better back in college football, and quite honestly, there might not be another player as dynamic as Barkley. It would take a draft day miracle for him to be selected by the Broncos, but his prowess on the field could not go unmentioned.

There are three other junior running backs who could be early selections next April who have also caught my eye over the past year and a half. Ronald Jones II out of USC, Bo Scarborough of Alabama and Derrius Guice of LSU have early round potential and the ability to be a workhorse back for whatever team selects them next spring. All of them are tough runners to bring down, but none of them are exceptional pass catchers that Barkley is. Guice is my favorite of the aforementioned, followed by Jones and Scarborough respectively. I believe Guice can solidify himself as a first-round pick if he plays well the rest of the year and has a good combine, with Jones and Scarborough likely being Day 2 draft selections.

The 2018 running back class will be extraordinary if all those juniors declare, but don’t sleep on a handful of senior prospects who could hit it big in the NFL. Royce Freeman of Oregon, Akrum Wadley of Iowa and Nick Chubb of Georgia headline are players who should provide an immediate impact upon entering the NFL. Of those prospects, Freeman is undoubtedly my favorite prospect. He had two monster seasons to begin his career with the Ducks, but leveled off due to injuries in 2016. His decline as a junior made him decide to stay in Eugene for his senior season and so far, that looks like the right call.

In just four games, senior sensation Freeman has racked up 541 yards on just 97 carries and 10 rushing touchdowns. He has also demonstrated his value as a receiver, catching 9 passes for 128 yards to date. His incredible play has made him a Heisman candidate for this season. Overall, Freeman is a tough downhill runner who also excels in pass protection.

If I had to compare him to any current or former NFL player that I’ve watched over the years, Matt Forte certainly comes to mind because of the versatility they provide as both runners and receivers. Even though Freeman has put up impeccable numbers in his collegiate career, I don’t see him being a first-round selection in 2018, but a prospect who should come off the board in the Top 64 selections.

So Broncos Country — do the Broncos need reinforcements at the running back position in 2018? Who are your favorite running back prospects eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft? Don’t be afraid to make your voices heard and give your stance on this issue in the comments section. As always, thank you for reading.

Poll

Should the Broncos select a running back early in the 2018 NFL Draft?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Yes — even if it’s the first round!
    (78 votes)
  • 39%
    Yes — but a second day selection (rounds 2-3) at the highest.
    (230 votes)
  • 34%
    No — we can wait until the third day of the draft to pick a running back.
    (202 votes)
  • 11%
    No — just sign someone as an undrafted free agent.
    (68 votes)
578 votes total Vote Now