We’ve all been there before: You’re on the clock, about to make a draft pick, but you can’t seem to decide between two similar players. You try to weigh all the pros and cons of each player, scrambling to decide who you’ll take. This year, you won’t have to do that. We’re breaking down similar players at similar ADPs (average draft positions) and helping you decide who you’re leaning toward before your draft even starts. This week, the focus is on the Running Back position.
Take a look at some of the comparisons below.
Running Back ADP Battles
JOE MIXON vs. JORDAN HOWARD
Mixon and Howard seemed to be near each other in almost every set of rankings. Mixon scored four total touchdowns last year for the Bengals. There was big hype surrounding Mixon and his talents as a rookie, yet he went on to average only 3.5 yards per carry. In his 178 attempts, Mixon accrued a total of 626 rushing yards. Mixon also added 30 catches, averaging 9.6 yards per reception.
These stats may not look that bad on paper, but watching the Bengals offense last year was abysmal. Cincinnati’s offensive line was atrocious last year, allowing Andy Dalton to get sacked a whopping 41 times. Then, they let two of their best linemen in Andrew Whitworth (left tackle) and Kevin Zeitler (right guard) walk in free agency. Their offensive line was a disaster in 2017 which should come as a shock to no one. However, the Bengals did make additions this season replacing Cedric Ogbuehi and Russell Bodine with Cordy Glenn (acquired in a trade with the Bills) and selected center Billy Price 21st overall.
A lot of the goal line work also went to backups Gio Bernard and (now New England Patriot) Jeremy Hill. Gio was actually better than Mixon last year, averaging 4.4 yards per carry while scoring 2 rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns. Bernard had 43 catches for 389 yards as well, and his receiving upside could threaten Mixon’s volume. By the way, Bernard did this all while averaging less than seven carries per game.
Jordan Howard, on the other hand, scored nine touchdowns last year and eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark, totaling 1,122 rushing yards. Howard suffered a decline in YPC from 5.2 as a rookie to 4.0 in his second season. Some of this can be explained by their anemic and almost archaic offense under John Fox. Teams were allowed to stack the box and make Howard beat them. Despite having Tarik Cohen in the backfield, HC Matt Nagy has made it a point to say that he feels Howard can be a successful pass-catching back despite his underwhelming performance as a pass catcher in 2017.
While Cohen and Howard play very different roles in the Bears offense, Mixon and Gio are more interchangeable. Howard also has a much higher breakaway rate (32.4%) than Mixon (15.3%). Another plus for Howard will be Nagy utilizing an offense that is more of a style that will benefit him and keep defenses honest. Howard averaged 6.4 YPC in shotgun versus 4.0 YPC when lining up behind center. We know that Nagy is far more of an offensive minded coach and should bring them into the 21st century.
While the allure of Mixon and his upside as a pure bell-cow back are enticing, Jordan Howard and his steady floor the past two seasons are too much to pass up.
The edge goes to Jordan Howard.
ALEX COLLINS vs. JAY AJAYI
Both Alex Collins and Jay Ajayi are coming in ranked anywhere between the 18th-20th running backs overall. This comparison is a little more difficult since Ajayi only spent 7 games in Philly. In those seven games, Ajayi scored one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown, while also averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Although Ajayi only had 70 carries for the Eagles last season, that should increase, solely because he will (barring injury) be available for all 16 games. The Eagles also utilized a running back committee of sorts throughout the season, using Sproles, Clement, and Smallwood through different games. Hopefully, with new offensive coordinator Mike Groh taking over, the Eagles will be able to carve out some more traditional starter and backup roles, rather than having three or four active running backs taking snaps each week.
Alex Collins exploded onto the scene last year for the Ravens, scoring six touchdowns and accruing 973 yards. He also added 23 catches for 187 yards. He took advantage of his 212 attempts and almost broke the 1,000 rushing yard milestone while averaging 4.6 yards per attempt. Collins has Javorius “Buck” Allen as his back up, who averaged 3.9 yards per attempt, and found the end zone six times last season as well. Allen is viewed more as a third down back, as he had 46 receptions for 250 yards last season. Allen’s receiving upside makes him more suited for the third down back role and doesn’t seem to be a threat to Collins’ volume. One aspect to consider, though, is the quarterback situation. If Lamar Jackson ends up taking snaps at QB, that could hurt Collins’ volume.
At first glance, Collins seems like a better choice. But Ajayi has some sneaky stats that may change your mind. The Jay Train has a 71.4% elusive rating and a 46.1% breakaway run rating, according to Pro Football Focus. Alex Collins didn’t even come up in the top 100 players for either rating. Jay Ajayi also gets to line up behind one of the most solid run-blocking offensive lines (rated #1 by PFF) in the league. Additionally, the Philadelphia Eagles were the highest-scoring team last year.
Give Jay Ajayi the edge here, but not by much.
MARK INGRAM vs. DION LEWIS
Mark Ingram exploded for the Saints last year, notching twelve rushing touchdowns and 1,124 rushing yards, adding 58 catches for 416 receiving yards as well. He and Alvin Kamara combined for the best backfield duo last year, but Ingram’s looming four-game suspension has pushed his ADP back. He’s generally being ranked in the 25th-30th running back overall. Ingram was given 230 carries last year, which is actually more than Kamara, the starting back. With a 39.4% breakaway rating, Ingram is bound to pull out more than his fair share of big plays.
Dion Lewis, the former Patriot, is consistently coming in right near the same draft position (mid-twenties of running backs). Lewis rushed for six touchdowns and added three receiving touchdowns last year. Dion Lewis was one of the only top 30 running backs that did not fumble at all last year, and he also averaged 5.0 yards per carry. Lewis is now in Tennessee and is backing up Derrick Henry. Look for Henry and Lewis to try to dethrone Ingram and Kamara as the best backfield duo this season.
Ingram’s suspension is obviously a factor here, and his ADP would probably be higher if that wasn’t hanging over his head. These two players are very similar in talent, though, and both have very high ceilings this year.
The edge goes to Mark Ingram, based mostly on the volume he saw last year and uncertainty around Lewis’s volume and role.
Hopefully, this guide helped you make some tough decisions at the running back position! Check back next week to see who has the edge in key Quarterback comparisons.