With the Ranking the Rooms: AFC North series off and running, it’s time to turn to the position that literally does just that: running the football.
The AFC North is loaded top to bottom with high-level talent at running back, so I’m sure this list will generate a lot of discussion.
Guys like Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon, Mark Ingram and James Conner make it tough to decide 1 through 4 individually, let alone ranking RBs rooms in their entirety. That’s what I’m going to attempt to do today though.
1. Cleveland Browns
Much like last year, the 1-2 punch of Chubb and Kareem Hunt comes in at No. 1 in the RB rankings.
To be, Chubb is a top 5 back in the NFL and one of the more underrated players overall. He’s a legitimate home run threat that is also a real throwback bell cow. He has great vision and really good burst and quietly goes about his business. He’s fun to watch.
Hunt is very controversial off the field, but on it he’s still super solid. Cleveland turned him into more of a third-down back who they leaned heavily on through the air. Expect to see more of the same this year.
Behind that strong 1-2 punch, there’s not much there. I like the addition of undrafted rookie free agent Brian Herrien, who is a solid dual-threat RB, but guys like Dontrell Hillard, D’Earnest Johnson, and Benny LeMay just don’t move the needle for me this year.
2. Cincinnati Bengals
Year after year Joe Mixon gets better and better for Cincinnati despite playing behind a worse and worse offensive line.
Mixon is the total package at running back with size, speed, vision, hands, and burst. With some upgrades along the offensive line up front, he could really break out into the star he has the potential to be.
Giovani Bernard continues to be Mr. Reliable behind Mixon. He’ll do whatever is asked of him and almost always comes through for the Bengals. It’s not on par with the combo of Chubb and Hunt, but it’s close.
Samaje Perine brings experience to the table as a No. 3 back, but can he stay healthy? That’s the biggest question with him. He showed flashes in Washington, but his body just couldn’t hold up.
The same goes for Rodney Anderson. The Bengals sure do love Oklahoma running backs. Anderson has a ton of talent, but can his knees hold up?
3. Baltimore Ravens
This is likely JK Dobbins’ starting job to lose, but regardless of who is the No. 1 guy in Baltimore, they’re going to be really good on the ground.
Dobbins can pair with veteran Mark Ingram to flat-out wear down opponents on the ground. They’re both heavy, physical backs with surprising speed and good hands. It’s clear what the Ravens want at running back.
Add in the likes of Gus Edwards and Justice Hill and the Ravens have a really solid room overall. That’s scary to think about, considering they love to run the football. Good luck stopping Baltimore.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last year, Pittsburgh came in at No. 3, but there was a lot that led to this decision to place them fourth this year.
First, I can’t gloss over James Conner’s injury history anymore. He has to stay on the field or the Steelers are in trouble. He’s a fringe top 10 RB in the league, so losing him for time really changes the dynamics of the run game and the ability to throw the ball to the RBs out of the backfield.
Behind Conner, I thought Benny Snell had a really solid rookie season and came back from knee surgery nicely, but he’s not moving the needle in terms of explosiveness in the room.
I’m fine with the drafting of Anthony McFarland for home run speed and explosiveness, but I’m just not sure how he gets on the field consistently this year or maybe even next year. Plus, he’s similar to Kerrith Whyte, whom they already had.
It’s a weird room, especially when you add in Jaylen Samuels and Trey Edmunds. Samuels, whom I’ve been very hard on, is what he is: a decent receiving back who won’t make many guys miss and doesn’t provide much splash. Edmunds is a special teams ace.
It’s not a deep room and it doesn’t really stack up in comparison to the other three.
2019 RB rooms rankings:
- Cleveland Browns
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Baltimore Ravens