At one point in time, the NFL as all about the running backs that could pound out the tough yards, get off the turf, and then do it again. While there still is a place in the NFL for those guys, they are not the focal point of the offense anymore.
No, teams want their running backs to be more versatile. They want them to be as good in the passing game as they are in the running game.
That is why Cardinals running back David Johnson got the extension that he did; he still thinks he can run for 1000 yards and tally 1000 in the passing game, too. It’s why Melvin Gordon believes he is worth more than whatever the Chargers are offering.
It is also why, the Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, and New Orleans Saints are going to have to break the bank when they sign Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Alvin Kamara to extensions in the near future.
McCaffrey, Barley, and Kamara are the premiere receiving backs in the NFL today, and DraftKings is offering odds on which of the three will have the most receiving yards in the regular season:
- Christian McCaffrey +150
- Saquon Barkley +200
- Alvin Kamara +200
With fairly similar odds, it is probably safe to say that oddsmakers do not see a favorite amongst the three. That, of course, doesn’t make it any easier to decide who to go with.
Barkley is only going into his second year but last year caught 91 balls or 721 yards. He was Eli Manning’s second favorite target behind Odell Beckham Jr. (124 targets to 121). But with OBJ in Cleveland now, it wouldn’t be shocking if Barkley were to surpass 100 receptions and 800+ yards.
McCaffrey was a big part of the passing game in his rookie year (113 targets; 80 receptions for 651 yards). But with Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator last season, his usage went up (124 targets; 107 receptions for 867 yards).
Kamara actually took a slight step back in his production from his rookie season to last year. As a rookie, he was targeted 100 times, caught 81 balls, and gained 826 yards. Last season, he was target 105 times but still caught 81 balls just for 709 yards.
Their level of production hasn’t been too different, which explains why the odds are what they are. So—who should you bet on?
The Panthers have talked about having McCaffrey on the field less but not giving him the ball less. With Cam Newton having health issues the last couple of years, maybe he will finally be quicker to give the ball to someone else rather than try to make a play himself.
With McCaffrey’s running ability in the open field, it is not hard to imagine him hitting 1000 receiving yards if he gets a few more balls thrown his way.
As for Barkley, he is Manning’s best weapon and will likely get targeted even more this year. But with the Giants not having anyone else that scares defenses, Barley will get double and triple-teamed a lot. So, his production is going to dip.
Kamara’s production took a dip last year when the Saints had him running the ball more (120 carries in 2017; 194 last season). With Mark Ingram gone, he will probably get a few more—and fewer touches in the passing game.
Go with McCaffrey.