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2018 NFL Breakout Players: RB Edition

By on July 29, 2018

Nov 27, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs past Chicago Bears cornerback Tracy Porter (21) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Titans RB Derrick Henry

I’m so excited to see Derrick Henry get his chance as the lead back in Tennessee. He’s running behind an underrated OL and is well rested from the high mileage he came out of college with. Not only is the OL one of the best run-blocking units in the league, the threat of Marcus Mariota taking off will prevent defenses from loading up the box on Henry. At 6’3” 245lbs, he might look like the 2nd coming of Brandon Jacobs, but he’s a home-run hitter at the running back position, which is part of what makes him so intriguing as a prospect. I know I haven’t mentioned free agent addition Dion Lewis yet, but he was signed as an insurance policy/3rd down back and won’t be taking the important goal line snaps from Derrick Henry. The Titans are going to try and run Henry into the ground this season and I think he responds in a big way. I’m taking him in the 2nd round of every fantasy draft if possible.

Bengals RB Joe Mixon

Joe Mixon is a prime candidate for a second year breakout.  People assume because running backs transition quickly into the NFL that he was going to do the same, but they forget that he was coming off of a football hiatus and the Bengals offensive line didn’t do him any favors last year.  Giovanni Bernard has always been a favorite sleeper pick for me,  but I’m not touching Bernard with a 10 foot pole and drafts this year because I think that Mixon will make him irrelevant this season. You might get lucky with drafting Mixon because the people that were really high on him last year are going to feel frustrated with his production and likely to avoid drafting this year, but that would be a mistake because the Bengals made improvements to their offensive line and their offense as a whole should be functioning more efficiently in 2018.

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake runs for a touchdown after catching a pass against the New England Patriots during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake

The fact that the Dolphins settled for Frank Gore and Kalen Ballage as their lone RB additions in 2018 means they still feel pretty high on Kenyan Drake’s potential. Kenyan Drake quietly led the league in rushing from week 13 to week 17 with 444 yards on 91 carries. The Dolphins added some much needed help along the interior of the OL and should re-stablish their run game in 2018. Ryan Tannehill is back and also brings a mobile presence to the offense which should open some holes for Drake. Frank Gore may leech a few TDs here or there, but his return to the city of Miami  is the the final tour and NFL paycheck because he’s ready to hang em up sooner than later. You would have thought the Dolphins learned their lesson with Arian Foster.

San Francisco 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon runs with the ball during NFL football practice at the team’s headquarters Thursday, July 26, 2018, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

49ers RB Jerick McKinnon

Jerick McKinnon was hand picked by Kyle Shanahan, who comes from RB whisperer lineage. The 49ers also made an effort to improve their OL with 1st round pick Mike McGlinchey who starts at RT from day 1. McKinnon scares me a little bit because of where he’s getting drafted and I’m concerned he loses that breakout value when he’s being drafted as a RB that has already broken out. But Shanahan showed that he’s going to give his #1 RB a lot of volume even if he’s not the best scheme fit like 2017 with Carlos Hyde, who was the worst pass catching RB in the league with the most targets. This offense is going to center around Jimmy G either way, so don’t draft McKinnon like he’s an RB1.

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook hasn’t had a chance to show off his skills as an NFL RB after his rookie year was over after 4 games. While the offensive line isn’t a top unit, they were able to get production with Latavius Murray and Jerrick McKinnon splitting carries, so Cook should offer a much needed spark. The Vikings might ease Cook along and get their money’s worth out of Latavius Murray early on, but as the season goes on and wins become increasingly important to playoff seeding, expect Cook to get a heavy does of carries. And I haven’t even mentioned Kirk Cousins yet. Say what you want about Cousins and his ability to actually win games, the guy is coming off of 3 consecutive seasons of at least 4000 passing yards and 25 TDs. This has potential to be a really balanced offense and teams will not be able to load the box with those receiving threats on the outside. Dalvin Cook has RB1 potential in 2018.

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