It would not take much for the Cleveland Browns to upgrade what they have at running back. It's not exactly because there's a great marquee of backs available in free agency, rather what the team had in 2013 was just so bad.
Following the blockbuster trade of Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for their first-round draft pick that sent shock waves throughout the league, as well as the loss of Dion Lewis to IR during the preseason, the Browns were in desperate need of a starting running back.
They sought the services of 10-year veteran and still free agent at the time Willis McGahee. The results were career lows across the board for McGahee. He shared carries with Chris Ogbonnaya, Edwin Baker, and even Fozzy Whittaker. Ogbonnaya, despite being listed as full back last season, was the best of the bunch, but can't be expected to carry the full load going forward.
Whether it's through the draft or through free agency, the Browns need to make that upgrade at running back. The team cannot afford to go another season with an entirely inept backfield. Every player on this list very well may be better than what little Cleveland currently has.
- Knowshon Moreno (26) DEN – In the final year of his rookie contract, Moreno posted career highs in both rushing and receiving yards, benefiting in large part from being in the league's No. 1 ranked offense led by Peyton Manning. It was also the first time he managed to start all 16 games since tearing his ACL in late 2011. He can be more than adequate, but there's a lot of wear on this former first-round pick.
- Ben Tate (25) HOU – Tate may finally get his first opportunity as a full-time feature back, that is if he can stay healthy enough for it. Despite being the youngest player on this list and among the least amount total carries over the course of his career thus far, he's dealt with a variety of injuries throughout. He missed his entire rookie season after breaking his ankle in 2010, bounced back in 2011, then missed more time with lingering hamstring and foot injuries in 2012. Just two months ago Tate found himself back on the IR after having played with cracked ribs for much of last season. His career may also be a testament to his ability to fight through some of those injuries.
- LeGarrette Blount (27) NE – Blount has never been an ineffective back in this league. That's why his success with the Patriots this past season shouldn't have come as a surprise. When given the opportunity, he's proven he can do more than enough to get the job done and at times even shine. In 2012, he lost his starting role in Tampa Bay to Doug Martin, as most would. However, after being traded to New England, he stood out in what was a crowded backfield.
- Donald Brown (26) IND – After the shocking trade of Richardson to the Colts, it was actually Brown who emerged as the most effective back for Indianapolis. In his five years in the NFL, his total production has never surpassed 645 yards in a season. But he's also been splitting carries his entire career, with the likes of Joseph Addai, Vick Ballard, and eventually Richardson, as the Colts continue with running back by committee.
- Maurice Jones-Drew (28) JAX – Jones-Drew was one of the most sensational running backs in the NFL for nearly six years before reaching a pinnacle in 2011, amassing over 1,600 rushing yards in a single season. He followed that performance up by holding out for the team's entire offseason in 2012. He injured his foot that October and only managed to play in the first six games. He returned to action last season, but the 28-year-old simply wasn't the same player.
- Darren McFadden (26) OAK – McFadden is one of the most freakishly talented running backs on this list. The problem is that he is almost always injured. In his six-year career, he's never managed to play all 16 games in a season. He also has a history of struggling in the zone-blocking scheme.
- Ahmad Bradshaw (27) IND – Had it not been for Bradshaw's season-ending neck injury in October, Richardson and his 2.9 yards per carry may have fallen down the Colt's depth chart. Prior to that, Bradshaw has quite a long and competent career. He's had a lot of time to recover, but he's worn as well.
Honorable mentions: Andre Brown (27) NYG | Peyton Hillis (28) NYG | Rashad Jennings (28) OAK | James Starks (27) GB | Toby Gerhart (26) MIN | Rashard Mendenhall (26) ARI