This week, Mike Clay of ESPN ranked all 32 backfields in the NFL, making note that it is no longer about individuals, but committees, when considering the position across the league.
Despite having two new players at the position, Clay ranked the Cleveland Browns as the 8th-best running back unit in the NFL. Here is why he sees a change for the good in 2018:
Browns running backs ranked dead last in the league with 293 carries last season, but that’s a figure likely to rise after the team signed Hyde, drafted Chubb in the second round and signed Johnson to a three-year extension. Led by Johnson, Cleveland backs combined for 109 catches and 923 receiving yards last season, both of which ranked third in the league. Hyde is a liability as a pass-blocker and receiver, but he won’t be asked to do that much. He had been an effective rusher prior to an underwhelming 2017 campaign. In fact, even including last season, Hyde’s 2.0 YAC ranks fourth among 20 backs with 600-plus carries since he entered the league in 2014. Hyde and Chubb will compete for the bulk of the carries, with Johnson sticking to his change-of-pace and passing-down gig.
Clay projects the Browns’ running backs to combine for 341 carries for 1,424 yards (4.18 YPC), and 11 touchdowns, to go along with 83 catches for 715 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Last year, the Browns’ running backs had 293 carries for 1,214 yards (4.14 YPC) and 6 touchdowns, to go along with 106 catches for 904 yards and 3 touchdowns. So if you are just going by the stats, the Browns will feature a greater commitment to running the ball this year with more production punching it into the end zone.
Backfields ranked ahead of Cleveland include (1) New Orleans Saints, (2) Los Angeles Rams, (3) Pittsburgh Steelers, (4) Atlanta Falcons, (5) Dallas Cowboys, (6) Arizona Cardinals, and (7) Tennessee Titans.