By: Zach Owen
Putting together a reliable RB room has become a difficult task for many NFL teams out there. You obviously want one of the generational talents if you can get them but the Saquon Barkleys of the world don’t just come along every year (hence the “generational” title). Arizona is one of the teams that need some help in the RB department but their options are limited.
Unfortunately, this year’s free agency pool for RBs was pretty shallow. You’d have called me crazy if I had said that a couple of years ago with names like Todd Gurley, James Conner, Leonard Fournette, and Le’Veon Bell available but things change fast for RBs in the NFL. Big-name Arizona could have come away with was Aaron Jones, and they had the cap space to do it, but it didn’t pan out. So Arizona can try their luck with one of the questionable free agents I mentioned earlier but they already tried that last year with Kenyan Drake which didn’t really work out. Given that and them being a younger team, I think looking to the draft will work out better for them even if they don’t have a whole lot to work with. The 2021 picks they currently have are a first (16), second (49), fifth (160), and two sevenths (243 and 247). They have the option to pick up someone in the fifth round if they really like Chase Edmonds but if I was Arizona, I would be looking to pick one of the top guys in the first two rounds (sorry Edmonds owners).
Of the top RBs, Najee Harris would be my #1 for Arizona if they want to use a first round pick. He’s a hard runner and a good pass catcher, both of which they could use. I think picking him up at #16 could be a bit early but not completely crazy. If they don’t want to use #16 on him though, things get a bit awkward. There are a few of other teams that could be looking to snag a RB between Arizona’s two picks (notably Miami, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta who have picks #18, #24, and #35 respectively). So Harris making it past all three seems pretty unlikely. I don’t really think Miami will draft a RB with their #18 pick so I could see Arizona trading back into the early 20s to pick up Harris pretty safely while adding to their depleted draft picks. Remember, they have no third, fourth, or sixth round picks this year and though they aren’t in a full rebuild, they are a younger team that could use more picks.
With the other options available though (notably Javonte Williams, Travis Etienne, and Kenneth Gainwell) trying to thread the needle on Harris might not be worth it for Arizona. They have the opportunity to take a good CB with their first pick (another big need of theirs) or see what pass catcher they can get in that area. They could possibly trade up for Kyle Pitts (they do need TE help too) but that seems unlikely with how high up it looks like they will need to get to. So they do have options if they don’t want to take a RB with their first pick.
As for their round two RB options, I don’t see all four that I mentioned being taken before #49. So picking up their favorite of whoever is left will still put them in a good position. As good as Harris would be for Arizona, drafting a RB in round two makes the most sense to me. Their offense focuses on Kyler Murray (both in passing and rushing) and they already have Edmonds who is at least a serviceable RB so I don’t expect them to put much draft capital into a rookie RB. They still need some help though and there should be enough value in the second to fill that gap. Who it will mostly depend on who drops that far. My hope would be for them to get a good pass-catching RB to help Murray in his scramble drills so I’d be aiming for a guy like Etienne. We’ll just have to see though what direction they want to take things.
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