Can A RB Really Go In Round 1?

Photo: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Currently, D'Andre Swift is most likely the first running back to leave the board at -190 odds, according to BetOnline. Jonathan Taylor takes a clear second (+180) while J.K. Dobbins was a distant third (+1,000) to be selected first out of the running back class.

MyBookie has similar lines: -185 for Swift, +150 for Taylor and +850 for Dobbins.

This order is not as interesting as the placement of Swift in the entire 2020 NFL Draft class. His odds of being a first-round selection sit a -120, and again -120 if he isn't. Swift, slated on some sportsbooks as RB1, is a first-round toss-up. 

There's about a 50% chance that no RBs go in the first round at all. It begs the question that plagues most draftniks by the time we reach the late 20s and step into the 30s: What team, if any, is positioned to take a running back in the first round? 

This RB class is quality. It’s not amazing, but there is still some top-flight talent and far lesser players have been drafted at the position in the first round.

There are only a few teams that are likely to land a rusher in the first round but not a single one feels remotely locked in. 

Atlanta Falcons (No. 16)

Running backs have always been a big need for the Atlanta Falcons. They seemed interested in moving on from Devonta Freeman for cap purposes and can no longer trust his health at his dollar figure. The Falcons first addressed this need by getting Todd Gurley off the waiver wire from the Los Angeles Rams, but there's no reason for Atlanta to trust Gurley's health or skill set on a one-year deal.

Accordingly, we shouldn’t rule out the Falcons also attacking this need with their first-round selection or via a tradeback. If Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson is off the board and Atlanta isn't enamored with LSU EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson then the board doesn't look favorable for picks at either position. The board will, however, include any running backs the Falcons have given a first-round grade including Swift.

Miami Dolphins (Nos. 18, 26)

Brian Flores and Chris Grier aren’t likely to take a running back in Round 1, but then again, the New England Patriots took Sony Michel in the first round in 2018.

The difficult thing about slotting Swift or Dobbins into one of the Miami Dolphins’ late first-round selections is that they have so many needs a rusher never feels like the best value. Even if the Dolphins reach for offensive line help, safety depth or an impact linebacker or outside rusher, the value seems better when they still have extra Day 2 picks they could spend on the remaining players at the top of the RB class.

However, we shouldn't be shocked to see a running back join a quarterback as Miami remakes the future of its team. The Dolphins have nobody on their depth chart behind Jordan Howard, who lacks the juice of a three-down player and is coming off of an injury-riddled season. The idea that a healthy running game is a rookie passer’s best friend is still alive and well in NFL circles. The Dolphins should ensure they can take the load off of their rookie's shoulders from a player development perspective.

Tennessee Titans (No. 29)

If you told me exactly one running back went in the first round, I'd go for Taylor to the Tennessee Titans.

Incumbent Derrick Henry is not only entering a contract year — he was franchise tagged last month — but he's walking in with an incredible amount of mileage on his tires. The Titans nearly ran him into the ground these past two seasons but they did so with great success. We know that Tennessee values the running game and builds its offense based off of an aggressive, power-running scheme that champions physicality and homerun speed. That is what typifies Henry. It's what typifies Taylor as well.

With Dion Lewis gone in free agency, the Titans' depth chart behind Henry is inexcusably empty and an injury to Henry would completely derail their offense. They don't have many other major needs and could have the luxury of going for the best player available or looking to trade. However, Taylor on the board at No. 29 makes too much sense for Tennessee’s philosophy and roster construction.

Written By:

Benjamin Solak

Senior CFB Writer

Benjamin Solak is a Senior College Football Writer for The Draft Network and co-host of the Locked On NFL Draft podcast.