We are halfway through NFL regular season, and I’m here to give you a quick report on some running backs! For those of you trying to decide which players to target as the trade deadline of your fantasy football league approaches, or if you’re simply looking for some player predictions for the second half of the season, here are a few opinions/reactions/takes on some of the RB situations around the league.

Missing the top 2 dogs

Going into the season I had Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley as the top 2 running backs in the NFL. Some will argue with me about Barkley, but I stand firm on my stance. So, it’s been unfortunate that both have essentially missed most of the 2020 season with injuries.

McCaffrey did return from injury in Week 9 against the Kansas City Chiefs. He looked like the same old CMC too, tallying 151 yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns on 28 touches. However, he did suffer a right shoulder injury and isn’t expected to play in Week 10. It doesn’t look to be too serious though and there’s a chance he plays in Week 11.

Fortunately for the Carolina Panthers, Mike Davis has played well in McCaffrey’s absence. He’s no CMC, but he’s proven, yet again, to be a good RB that deserves some respect.

Barkley’s absence has been a bit more significant for the New York Giants. Since losing their best player in Week 2 to a torn ACL it’s been tough sledding trying to replace his production. They signed free agent Devonta Freeman, but he’s been bad. Wayne Gallman has had some solid outings but isn’t anything special that commands the attention of the defense. And Dion Lewis remains a 3rd down RB who can’t carry the workload.

Regardless of what your opinion is of Barkley and where you rank him, you can’t argue that he’s not one of the most dangerous and exciting players in the league. And as a football fan, you hate not seeing the NFL’s marquee players on the field.

Phillip Lindsay > Melvin Gordon

This past offseason I wrote a series of articles titled “RB Spotlight” where I broke down a few running backs whom I was paying particular attention to heading into this season. For the final installment I was debating between writing about Denver Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay and how he’s still the best RB on their roster, or about Arizona Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake and how he fits in that system. I ended up opting for Drake. However, I now regret not writing about Lindsay.

The Broncos signed former Los Angeles Charger Melvin Gordon to a 2-year contract this past offseason. Most assumed that Gordon would now be the lead guy. However, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Lindsay was the better RB of the two and that he would continue to perform at a high level.

Lindsay missed a few games due to injury early in the year, but in 5 games he’s totaled 310 rushing yards on 53 carries, good for 5.85 yards per carry. By comparison, in 7 games Gordon has totaled 393 rushing yards on 96 carries, good for 4.09 yards per carry. And the disparity in rushing numbers is backed up by the film. Lindsay’s elite vision and speed pop off the screen, while Gordon “jack of all trades, master of none” skillset leaves yards on the field.

To be fair, Gordon does get more looks in the passing game as a receiver. As a matter of fact, he gets almost all of them. Lindsay’s only been targeted 7 times, whereas Gordon has been targeted 27. This is what gets him on the field. However, I’m also of the mindset that Lindsay is a better receiver than he’s getting credit for and that he should get more opportunities than he’s gotten.

That biggest thing that Lindsay has to his advantage though is ball security. So far in his career Lindsay as a total of ZERO fumbles! He has never fumbled! Gordon, on the other hand, has already coughed the ball up 3 times this season, making that 17 total fumbles in his career. Fumbling is the biggest no-no for running backs, and if I’m going to trust one of these running with the ball, it’s undoubtedly Lindsay.

Both Lindsay and Gordon make an exceptionally good RB tandem, and having the RB talent that they do is a good problem for the Broncos to have. I haven’t even mentioned Royce Freeman either. But for anyone who thought Gordon was going to diminish Lindsay’s role, I’d think otherwise. Lindsay continues to be one of the better pure runners in the league, and I’d say he’s the most underrated RB in the NFL right now.

Quick takes on rookie RBs

I don’t see Clyde Edwards-Helaire taking a back seat to Le’Veon Bell. CEH has been a bit disappointing as a receiver, but I’m confident he’ll pick that part of his game up. Bell will have a role and certainly does help the Kansas City Chiefs offense, but CEH is still the guy in that backfield.

I hope JK Dobbins gets plenty of touches even when Mark Ingram gets back. I see so many similarities to Ray Rice when he runs, and it doesn’t have to do with just the uniform and jersey number.

I’m surprised by how much of a disappointment Jonathan Taylor has been so far. When Marlon Mack went down with an injury, I thought Taylor was set to have an Offensive Rookie of the Year type of season, but that hasn’t been the case. He’s not running efficiently and isn’t seeing lanes properly, which contradicts what we saw from him in college. But I’m far from concerned. Taylor will figure it out at some point.

Some are surprised and disappointed that Cam Akers hasn’t gotten a lot of looks so far this season, but I’m not. We need to remember that Akers wasn’t that disciplined of a runner at Florida St. A lot of it did have to do with the horrendous offensive line he had in front of him, which forced him to constantly create on his own. However, there were still too many reps where he displayed poor decision making. In a system like Sean McVay’s, that doesn’t fly. Pair that with Akers’ struggles in pass protection, and you start to understand why Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown have gotten more opportunities than him. But whenever Akers does improve in both areas, and I’m confident he will, expect him to start getting more touches. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s the most talented RB on the Los Angeles Rams roster.

James Robinson has been such a pleasant surprise. I had a late-round grade on him, but he’s exceeded my expectations. Robinson still is limited athletically but I just love the way he runs, and he has gotten better as a receiver.

The San Francisco 49ers RB situation is so fluid week-to-week. It’s so difficult determining who Kyle Shanahan will go with in any given game. However, I do believe JaMycal Hasty is more than just a depth piece. McKinnon is a good receiver and still has some juice left in him, but he’s not nearly as athletic as he once was, and he’s already had tired legs this season. Coleman is what he is; a solid RB but nothing special. Hasty is such a dynamic and versatile weapon, and I hope Shanahan doesn’t shy away from using him more. Mostert is RB1, as he should be, but Hasty should be RB2.