Offseason Solutions: Running Backs

Over the last month, we've been taking a brief and early look at some of the potential solutions that could provide offseason upgrades for the Jets in each position. Today, we continue with a look at running backs:


With Matt Forté having retired, the Jets will perhaps be counting on last year's sixth-round pick Elijah McGuire to step up and share reps with veteran Bilal Powell, who has one year left on his contract.

However, other than these two, the Jets only have Akeem Judd under contract, so will need to add depth, especially since Powell and McGuire both had some durability issues last year.

The Jets may also be keen to upgrade, either via the draft or free agency. McGuire had a good rookie year and might be an even better fit for the new offense, but the Jets can't rely on elite production from him or Powell, who has always struggled to stay healthy when required to carry the load.

Whether they will invest significant assets into finding that upgrade or seek to find a diamond in the rough is another matter.

Free agency

The leading light in this year's free agent running back market is Le'Veon Bell from the Steelers but it's pretty obvious he was never going to hit the open market and he has indeed been franchise tagged for the second year in a row.

The wisdom of dedicating big money to a position in which you can sometimes find elite production from players still on their rookie contracts is open for debate anyway.

Perhaps the next-best free agency option would be Dion Lewis from the Patriots, who rushed for over a thousand yards last season, if you include the postseason, and also did a good job on kick returns. There have been reports that the Jets might be interested, but will he be as effective away from New England?

Three other free agent backs - Isaiah Crowell, Orleans Darkwa and LaGarrette Blount - each rushed for more than 750 yards last year and two others - Carlos Hyde and Jerrick McKinnon - caught over 50 passes.

Darkwa has been linked with the Jets, as has Damien Williams, who has been in a reserve role and only posted modest numbers in each of his four years with Miami.

Jeremy Hill could sign for a prove-it type deal after losing his job to Joe Mixon and then landing on injured reserve with an ankle injury last year. He'd rushed for over 800 yards in each of his first three years.

Finally, Doug Martin and Jamaal Charles will be available. In each case the concern would be that these players don't really have much left. After an underwhelming two years from Forté, the Jets might not be interested in going down that route again.


In this year's draft, there's Saquon Barkley from Penn State and everyone else. He dazzled with his all-round skills during the season and then dominated headlines with a scintillating set of numbers at the combine.

Unless the Jets are going to pull the trigger at six - if Barkley even falls that far - he doesn't seem like a likely target. LSU's Derrius Guice also solidified his first round credentials with a sub-4.5 40-yard dash, but Ronald Jones pulled a hamstring and will perhaps try to improve upon his 4.65 at his pro day.

From the next group, the nation's leading rusher, Rashaad Penny from SDSU, helped himself with a 4.46. However, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb from Georgia couldn't break 4.5, although Chubb posted excellent strength and explosiveness numbers.

Royce Freeman from Oregon and Kerryon Johnson from Auburn are two more potential day two picks.

Kalen Ballage from Arizona State and Bo Scarbrough from Alabama are two players who some experts have been doubting but they both helped their stock with good combine results. Two smaller backs - Mark Walton from Miami and Iowa's Akrum Wadley - posted poor numbers though.

That could be an opportunity for Nyheim Hines from NC State, who was the only back to run sub-4.4 or Ito Smith from Southern Miss, a combine snub, to move up. As noted earlier today, Colorado's Phillip Lindsay had a good pro day too.

Two bigger backs who posted some impressive numbers at the combine were Oregon State's Ryan Nall and Chris Warren from Texas. Neither ran a fast 40-time but both posted good agility and explosiveness numbers, helping their case to be treated as a big halfback rather than converted into a fullback.

Finally, a good small-school sleeper prospect could be Chase Edmonds from Fordham.

How would you approach this position? Is there anyone out there you'd target who we didn't mention? Let's have your thoughts in the comments.

BONUS LINK: Running back prospects breakdown