We recently explored the level of opportunity available for WRs on a team level in 2018 using air yards. Now we turn our attention to the running backs, which, as we’re about to see, is a different market.
In the past, we’ve used Kevin Cole’s opportunity scores to help single out the best landing spots for incoming RBs. While this is a different methodology entirely, it should still provide a strong indication of where the best opportunities lie now that we’re through free agency.
Here’s how to read the table:
- The Colts had a total of 469 RB opportunities in 2017 (carries plus targets).
- They lost Frank Gore’s 299 opportunities.
- That left them with 170 opportunities accounted for.
- Since they haven’t signed or drafted an RB yet, they have a current opportunity deficit of 299, making them a prime landing spot for a rookie back.
|OFF||2017 RB Opporunities||Outgoing Opps||Remaining||Incoming Opps||New Total||2018 Available Opp|
Here is another way of visualizing the vacant opportunities heading into the draft.
- Denver’s release of C.J. Anderson gives them the most vacated opportunities in the league. With the tenth-most Rushing Expected Points from their RBs in 2017, the Broncos suddenly represent a tremendous opportunity for a rookie RB.
- The Cardinals are next on the list, but with David Johnson returning from injury, almost all of that opportunity is accounted for, and Arizona seems unlikely to spend much draft capital on the position.
- The Colts haven’t been a very valuable backfield in recent years; they were 28th in total RB Expected Points last year. However, with an entirely new coaching staff, and the potential to bring in a highly-drafted RB, that could quickly change.
- The same could be said for Tampa Bay. They have a ton of vacated opportunities and are the perfect landing spot for a workhorse back like Saquon Barkley or Rashaad Penny.
- Minnesota is in the same spot as Arizona in that they have an incumbent returning from injury and are unlikely to invest much more at RB.
- Carolina, Philadelphia, and New England are interesting because while they have established RBs, they also have some vacated opportunities and may be good bets to bring in some complimentary backs in the draft.
- We singled out Seattle as a team that should see some positive rushing regression in 2018, and in a deep class, there are plenty of rookie RBs who could flourish in the Pacific Northwest.
- Will the Cowboys bring in someone like Nyheim Hines to ease Ezekiel Elliott’s work load?
- The 49ers are paying Jerick McKinnon a starter’s salary, but that probably doesn’t prevent Kyle Shanahan from bringing in some depth. McKinnon has never handled more than 202 touches in a season.
- Alex Collins is currently a great value in best ball drafts, but Baltimore has some vacated opportunity and may not be comfortable handing him a workhorse role.
- The only reason the Giants don’t land higher on this list is because they signed 31-year-old Jonathan Stewart. They’ve been linked to Barkley with the second-overall pick, and even if they pass, they’re a likely landing spot for one of the top RBs in the draft.