The Shakiest Starting Running Back

The Footballguys staff takes a look at which starting backs are on shaky ground

Which current starting running back is most likely to lose his job this season? How fast will it happen and why? Which backup do you believe will rise in the lineup? What kind of production are you expecting from the current backup? Are you targeting him in drafts? If so, in what round?

Jeff Haseley

It would be horrendous news if Todd Gurley fails to reach expectations with the Falcons in 2020. He signed a one-year contract with Atlanta for $5.5M with a $2M signing bonus. You would think a player of his ability and experience could get more than that, but here we are. The lack of a longer deal and less salary invites the possibility that teams are in fact wary of his injury history. Yes, he has three consecutive double-digit touchdown seasons, but there is definitely a concern with his degenerative knee condition.

And now he is on record saying that he is "prepared not to play if the league can't come up with a good plan for playing in a pandemic." This may come across harsh, but it sounds like Gurley has his guaranteed money and he's not fully motivated to play his one-year deal. If this happens, or if Gurley underwhelms in Atlanta, the question looms, who will win the job? The Falcons have little to no support in terms of Gurley's understudy. Ito Smith wasn't effective enough to think that he can be a fantasy-relevant option and Qadree Ollison is lacking the sizzle to be a difference-maker. Ollison did score four times in five carries inside the three-yard line last year, but that doesn't make him a well-rounded back. Atlanta is in trouble if Gurley falters or decides not to play. The likelihood of him not playing seems low, but the fact that it's now a possibility lends more credence to him not being 100% all-in for this season.

Jason Wood

I think we have to establish the pecking order, in some cases. For example, rookies Jonathan Taylor and D'Andre Swift are both being drafted as starters, over incumbents Marlon Mack and Kerryon Johnson -- but I've seen nothing officially anointing them. If we consider the incumbents as starters, then I would put Johnson atop this list and Mack at No. 2. If those are "open battles" and not eligible for the conversation, then I'll go with Le'Veon Bell. Yes, he's being paid a ton of money. Yes, he's the best player at the position on the Jets. But he's also at loggerheads with embattled head coach Adam Gase, and I don't see the Jets situation ending well for a lot of current veterans. Bell wasn't great last year in New York; and I don't think he can be anything less than a Pro Bowl-caliber player to avoid being punished by Gase and, at the very least, put into a committee situation.

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