Before camp starts, the AFC West looks rather loaded at every position. While it shouldn’t be a surprise, the Las Vegas Raiders actually look, on paper, like a sound challenger in the division. After over a decade of futility, the Raiders look stronger than they have in years. Today, we rank the running back groups in the division, in order. Granted, all of these are before training camp, so variables exist.
Raiders RB (Jacobs, Richard, Bowden, Booker)
While Josh Jacobs remains the best rusher in this division, the rest of the committee lagsfar behind. Now, in all honesty, Bowden is a rookie. Yet, Richard’s lack of explosive plays drops the Raiders to second place. By himself, Jacobs stands alone, as the division’s best back. To his credit, Jon Gruden did not horse Jacobs and actually exercised restraint. In this group, the wildcard remains Lynn Bowden. the versatile rookie from Kentucky allows the Raiders to move him around, enjoying mismatches.
Broncos RB (Gordon, Lindsay, Freeman)
Top to bottom, the Broncos can boast the best trio of backs in the division. By adding Melvin Gordon, he provides a little more of a slashing balance to the agility of Phillip Lindsay. Additionally, Royce Freeman provides a thumper, charged with providing a power aspect. If you add in Gordon’s numbers, these three ran for 2,119 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in 2019. On paper, the Broncos employ the best duo. However, they still struggle with an inconsistent offensive line. Lindsay and Freeman carried the ball, a combined 356 times last year. How will they manage with losing carries to Gordon? Granted, a three-headed running back committee looks ideal. Yet, at what point will ego and frustration settle in?
Chiefs RB (Edwards-Helaire, Williams, Thompson)
The defending Super Bowl champions did upgrade with backfield potential. In drafting Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs received a hard-running, stout back with sure hands out of the backfield. Edwards-Helaire opens his bag and unleashes an array of moves to free himself. Behind him, thumper Damien Williams and the change-of-pace back Darwin Thompson will provide Mahomes enough to keep defenses honest.
Chargers RB (Ekeler. Jackson, Kelley)
Despite losing workhorse Melvin Gordon, the Chargers opted to not replace him. Austin Ekeler, arguably the best receiving back in the AFC West, should see a bump in the number of carries. yet, is he the main back material? In three seasons, Ekeler hasn’t tallied more than 132 carries in a season. How will the grind wear on him? Meanwhile, Justin Jackson leaps up to the primary backup spot. Jackson enters the season with 70 career carries in two seasons. Rookie Joshua Kelley, the biggest back, listed at 212 pounds should provide a suitable contender for the backup job. After losing Rivers and Gordon, why did the Chargers not selected a bruiser to pair with Ekeler?