NFL free agents 2020: Top 10 running backs
The Patriots almost certainly aren't going to add a running back in free agency. Between Sony Michel, Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead, and James White, they have plenty of talent and depth at the position.
Despite this fact, the team will probably pay close attention to the running back market. After all, the best player on the open market played for the team that knocked them out in the postseason last year. And despite the solid efforts of their defense, their lone vulnerability came against the run.
If top running backs move around the AFC, it could impact which teams become true threats to the Patriots. So, it will behoove them to watch that. And hey, maybe they do sign a cheap runner with upside as they continue to build up their backfield.
Here are the top 10 free-agent running backs of 2020:
1. Derrick Henry
2019 stats: 15 games played, 303 carries, 1,503 rushing yards, 18 catches, 206 receiving yards, 18 total TDs
2019 salary: $1.2 million
Henry basically carried the Titans to the AFC Championship Game. Henry combined for 64 carries for 377 yards and a touchdown while adding 29 yards on the ground and a touchdown pass in wins over the Patriots and Ravens. He was unstoppable and ran through contact constantly. The NFL's leading rusher (1,503 yards) had 100-plus rushing yards in nine of his last 12 games and is due a big raise this offseason.
UPDATE (March 16): The Titans have placed the franchise tag on Henry.
2. Kenyan Drake
2019 stats: 14 games played, 170 carries, 817 rushing yards, 50 catches, 345 receiving yards, eight total TDs
2019 salary: $2 million
Drake rapidly ascended following his departure from the hapless Dolphins. He essentially replaced David Johnson as the starter in the final month of the season and never looked back. With only 600 total touches from his NFL career to date, Drake's relatively fresh legs could make him a strong running back and his dynamic receiving ability should make him a top target at the position.
UPDATE (March 16): The Cardinals have placed the transition tag on Kenyan Drake after trading David Johnson to the Houston Texans along with other assets in exchange for DeAndre Hopkins.
3. Melvin Gordon
2019 stats: 12 games played, 162 carries, 612 rushing yards, 42 catches, 296 receiving yards, nine total TDs
2019 salary: $5.6 million
Gordon is coming off a down year for the Chargers. He got off to a very slow start after holding out for the first four games. He played second fiddle to Austin Ekeler off the bat before eventually working his way into a rhythm. Gordon is undeniably talented and did average 5.1 yards per carry in 2018. He could improve next season if he gets more than the career-low 55 targets he got last year.
UPDATE (March 20): Gordon is signing a two-year, $16 million deal with the Denver Broncos, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
4. Austin Ekeler (RFA)
2019 stats: 16 games played, 132 carries, 557 rushing yards, 92 catches, 993 receiving yards, 11 total TDs
2019 salary: $645k
Ekeler got a chance to serve as the top running back for the Chargers amid Melvin Gordon's holdout. In that role, Ekeler averaged a respectable 4.2 yards per carry, but the bigger story was what he was able to do as a receiver. He nearly had 1,000 receiving yards on 108 targets and spent some time playing in the slot. His small frame and elusiveness in space makes him difficult to bring down and he is among the best receiving backs in the league.
UPDATE (March 6): Ekeler has agreed to a four-year, $24.5M deal with the Chargers, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
5. Kareem Hunt (RFA)
2019 stats: 8 games played, 43 carries, 179 rushing yards, 37 catches, 285 receiving yards, three total TDs
2019 salary: $3.25 million
In terms of pure talent, Hunt has a case to be the second-best back on this list. However, some off-the-field concerns knock him down a rung. He was suspended for eight games after video of him physically assaulting a woman surfaced, and the Kansas City Chiefs cut him as a result. More recently, he had a run in with the police that included an officer confiscating a small amount of marijuana from him. Hunt is young and talented, but some teams may view him as too big of a risk to sign.
UPDATE (March 16): The Browns have placed a second-round tender on Kareem Hunt, who is a restricted free agent.
6. Matt Breida
2019 stats: 13 games played, 123 carries, 623 rushing yards, 19 catches, 120 receiving yards, two total TDs
2019 salary: $645k
For yet another season, Breida was a productive member of the 49ers backfield but was reduced to a third-string role after the emergence of Raheem Mostert. Breida (5-11) is on the smaller side, tipping the scales at just 190 pounds, but that also affords him a chance to be one of the fastest players in the league when he gets going. His top speed and receiving ability should make him an intriguing target for a team looking for a solid part of a one-two punch on the ground.
UPDATE (March 17): The 49ers have placed a second-round tender on Breida.
7. Jordan Howard
2019 stats: 10 games played, 119 carries, 525 rushing yards, 10 catches, 69 receiving yards, seven total TDs
2019 salary: $2 million
Howard looked great for the Eagles in the first half of the 2019 season and was an excellent short-yardage and goal-line hammer. However, after he missed six games with a shoulder injury, Miles Sanders overtook him in the rotation. Howard has 30 rushing touchdowns during his four NFL seasons, so a team out there will be willing to give him a chance to work as a starting option.
UDPATE (March 17): Howard has reached agreement with the Miami Dolphins on a two-year deal worth more than $10 million, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
8. Carlos Hyde
2019 stats: 16 games played, 245 carries, 1,070 rushing yards, 10 catches, 42 receiving yards, six total TDs
2019 salary: $1.4 million
Hyde isn't the most dynamic runner in the world, but he's a good early-downs running back option and can still be productive at the goal-line. He won't do much as a receiver, but he's solid between the tackles and could be better behind a better offensive line.
9. Lamar Miller
2019 stats: DNP
2019 salary: $6.5 million
Miller missed the 2019 season after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason. In 2018, Miller made it to the Pro Bowl for the first time after totaling 973 yards and five touchdowns and logging his best yards per carry total (4.6) since 2014. If he can return to that form, he could be a solid starter again. But there's no guarantee that he'll still have the explosive playmaking ability that made him such a threat back during his starting days.
10. LeSean McCoy
2019 stats: 13 games played, 101 carries, 465 rushing yards, 28 catches, 181 receiving yards, five total TDs
2019 salary: $6.2 million
McCoy is a far cry from his days as a perennial Pro Bowler, but in a limited role, he still found success with the Kansas City Chiefs. McCoy's numbers could've been better if he hadn't been one of the few players that sat out with the NFL's equivalent of load-management and he should continue to fare well as part of a committee.