The New York Jets have an average at best backfield, consisting of Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire following the upcoming obvious release of Matt Forte. Powell has shown flashes of being a very good running back, however, he is 29 years old and clearly is not viewed as an every down back by the team. While it would be a little unexpected, the Jets could save $4 million by cutting Powell and moving on to a younger running back group. McGuire showed some promise as a rookie, specifically in the receiving game, but he won’t stop the Jets from making moves at this position. With the likely addition of a young quarterback, improving the run game this offseason would be a very wise decision by GM Mike Maccagnan. The Jets have a few routes they could go to upgrade at the position, within the draft and free agency.
Even if the Jets hold onto Bilal Powell, it is not out of the question that they choose to fill this need in free agency with a complimentary back. However, there also are some younger backs who play a similar style the team could choose to move on to if they do cut the 29-year-old fan favorite.
Jeremy Hill (Bengals)
Jeremy Hill is a former second round pick who has fallen out of favor in Cincinnati the last couple of season. They also have Giovani Bernard and Joe Mixon, both high picks, likely meaning that Hill is on his way out-of-town. Hill would compliment Powell’s game well, as he is a power runner, who would be great for short-yardage and goal-line situations. After a dominant rookie year in which he averaged over five yards per carry, Hill has averaged just 3.6 yards per carry over the past three years (3.1 this past season on just 77 carries). Brining in Hill would likely mean a three-headed back field, riding the hot hand between the 20s, with Hill handling all goal-line situations.
Isaiah Crowell (Browns)
Crowell is a player who after impressing as a UDFA, seemingly fell off in recent years. He came into this past season with high expectations following a 2016 season in which he averaged 4.8 YPC, with a bit of a letdown averaging 4.1 YPC this year. Even with a seemingly good offensive line, Crowell seemed to struggle most of the season. But, that was in Cleveland, on a team that was down big in most of their games. He never was able to get into a rhythm, and will likely be on the move to a new city this offseason. Crowell is a talented played, who would mesh well with Powell, if the price is right.
Carlos Hyde (49ers)
Carlos Hyde came into the league with high expectations, and while he has not fully met them, he is still one of the leagues better running backs. If the 49ers let Hyde walk in free agency, he will likely be looking for a payday. Hyde is a below back who can play all three downs. He is a player they can bring in with or without Powell. However, it is unlikely the have both him and Powell on the roster, because that would have too much money invested at the running back position.
Jerick McKinnon (Vikings)
McKinnon is a very similar player to Powell, but most electric and four years younger. McKinnon looked pretty good the last two years, and wants to move on to a team that will give him a larger role. If the Jets move on from Powell, McKinnon might be the perfect replacement to have in a committee with young running backs.
There are a couple different options within the draft the Jets could elect to go, and it all will depend on free agency. If the Jets bring in a high-priced free agent, they likely won’t select a running back until day three. But if they pass on the free agent group, or release Powell and sign a similar player, an early round running back is on the table. With this year’s running back class being so deep, it would be disappointing if the Jets did not snatch up one of these young studs.
First or Second Round options:
Saquon Barkley (Penn State)- projected top 10 pick
If the Jets fill the quarterback position in free agency with Kirk Cousins, they will likely select the BPA with the sixth overall pick, and that may end up being Barkley. He is being touted as the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson by many, including elite prospects like Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, and Leonard Fournette in recent years, who all went top 10. Barkley may be off the board before the Jets pick, but if he’s not, he is very much in play. He is elite at rushing, receiving and kick returning. He would instantly be the most electric player on the roster, and make every Jets snap a must watch.
Derrius Guice (LSU)- projected late-first/early second round pick
Guice is an absolute beast, that would likely be projected higher if he didn’t deal with injuries this past season. Guice is likely a better all-around prospect than Barkley, but isn’t as athletic as him. Guice could end up as the best back in this class, and one of the best in the league. He has immense power in his running style, to go along with great vision. He seems like a pretty good blocker too. If Guice is there in the second round, the Jets should pounce on the former LSU Tiger and make him the future of their backfield.
Sony Michel (Georgia)- projected second round pick
Michel is being compared to this year’s rookie sensation, Alvin Kamara. He has electric speed and home-run ability, but also was pretty good at running the ball between the tackles. Michel might be best suited for a committee in the NFL, but has elite potential in both the running and receiving game.
Nick Chubb (Georgia)- projected second round pick
Nick Chubb is a powerful runner, who has deceptive speed. He isn’t great in the receiving game, but he is good enough. Chubb is definitely best suited to be a between the tackles runner, and would be a good complement to Bilal Powell in the run game.
Ronald Jones III (USC)- projected second round pick
Jones’s running style has been compared to that of Jamaal Charles. He is a fast, playmaker, who could very well end up as the top back in the class when it is all said and done.
Rashaad Penny (SDSU)- projected late-second/early third round pick
Rashaad Penny dominated lower levels of competition and could be this year’s Kareem Hunt. Hunt has really helped Penny’s stock, however, Penny is not a similar runner to Hunt. Penny seems to get taken down relatively easy, but is a great athlete. Penny has very high upside, but could also flame out quickly.
Third round/Day three options
- Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
- Royce Freeman (Oregon)
- Josh Adams (Notre Dame)
- Akrum Wadley (Iowa)
- Mark Walton (Miami Fl.)
- Bo Scarbrough (Alabama)
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