With the NFL draft rapidly approaching, the time for reckless speculation is coming to a close (finally). But before the final bell sounds, I felt it'd be fitting to dream up perfect landing spots for the top running backs in the NFL Draft for fantasy purposes. Taking into account each back's skillset, team needs, and overall fit, below I list my dream landing spots for six of the top rushers ready to make a splash in the NFL. This isn't to say they couldn't be successful elsewhere, but I believe the RB-team pairings below could make some sweet, sweet fantasy music in 2016 and beyond. Feel free to send me your favorite landing spots for these backs on Twitter @AlexGelhar to keep the discussion going as well.
Originally, I had pegged Elliott to the Eagles, as there were plenty of reports swirling that the eagles were enamored with the former Buckeye. But now that the Eagles have jumped up to No. 2 overall to draft a quarterback, let's have fun and discuss the true dream scenario for Elliott -- he goes to the Cowboys. Boasting one of the best offensive lines in the league and lacking a true featured back, Elliott would step in and have RB1 upside in Dallas. While Darren McFadden had a resurgent season in 2015 (1,089 yards, 4.6 ypc), once he took over the backfield (Week 7) he was fed 81 percent of the backfield touches -- a total the team doesn't seem inclined to hand the soon to be 29-year-old again. They signed Alfred Morris (two-years, $3.5 mil) and Lance Dunbar (one-year, $1.25 mil) to short-term contracts to add depth some depth, but that doesn't preclude them from targeting a runner like Elliott in the draft.
Tony Romo is 36 years old and should essentially be in "win now" mode. Adding a dynamic element like Elliott to the backfield could help their offense contend with the best in the league, while giving Romo the type of running game that can keep defenses off of him and the collarbone he broke twice last year. McFadden would be the only one who could feasibly push Elliott for carries, as Dunbar reportedly tore his patellar tendon last season in addition to his ACL, so there is no guarantee he's even ready to go when the season starts, and Morris is a limited player with a lot of tread on the tires. While this situation doesn't feel incredibly likely, it'd be a slam dunk in fantasy and cause Elliott to rocket up draft boards this fall.
If Elliott goes to Dallas, that leaves Henry without a home, as I'd originally pegged the bruising Alabama back to head to Jerry World. Instead, let's dream up a draft day slide for Henry (certainly not his dream) to the backend of the second round into the open arms of the Carolina Panthers. Yes, Jonathan Stewart is coming off a fantastic season, but the team lacks depth behind the oft-injured Stewart. While they could use a pass-catching specialist as well, Henry would be a perfect fit behind Carolina's mauling offensive line -- especially when he's taking handoffs on the read option from Cam Newton. Linebackers would have to freeze for a second, giving Henry and his limited agility an added advantage to get to the second level and punish would-be tacklers. Henry wouldn't be the leading back in Carolina, but he could become a part of an extremely effective committee before eventually taking over the leading back duties from Stewart. Plus, Henry would give the team a viable goal-line option to help protect Newton from more unnecessary hits.
The Colts have a number of needs in the draft (offensive line, pass rush, etc), but an underrated need is for a featured running back for the future. Frank Gore turned in a solid season in 2015, but the inconvenient truth about "The Inconvenient Truth" is that he'll turn 33 before the season starts and already showed signs of (finally) wearing down last year. The good news for the Colts is that there is a featured back they could target in the early to middle rounds and his name is Devontae Booker.
Hailing from Utah and coming off a meniscus tear, Booker hasn't carried as much fanfare as the top prospects at his position, but he boasts the skills and collegiate production to be a difference maker at the NFL level. Booker could stand to take a year to split carries and learn from Gore (as well as finish healing) before taking over the backfield on his own. His skills in the open field and as a pass-catcher would allow him to help out on third downs, while also giving him value in PPR leagues and as a potential flex option as a rookie. Booker becoming the primary back behind Andrew Luck and a (hopefully) upgraded offensive line could set him up for a solid fantasy career.
While Latavius Murray made the Pro Bowl and finished sixth in the NFL in rushing (1,066 yards), the team as a whole ranked 28th in rushing (1,457 yards) and Murray accounted for 86 percent of the backfield touches. In other words, this team needs some help at running back. Enter Dixon, who has both the between-the-tackles pedigree and pass-catching ability to be a difference maker for the Silver and Black. In his final two years at Louisiana Tech, Dixon amassed over 1,500 total yards each year and scored a combined 54 touchdowns. The Raiders struggled to find a reliable pass-catching option, rotating between Murray and fullback Marcel Reece for the most part, so Dixon could immediately slide in as the third-down option (63 receptions in 2014-2015), but also mix it up on earlier downs as well. He's a more complete back than Murray and could eventually push for the leading role if given the opportunity. An offense that already features Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree (with a revamped offensive line) is an ideal situation for someone with Dixon's skillset to settle in.
A converted slot receiver for the Fighting Irish, Prosise has only 10 collegiate games as a starting running back under his belt. However, in those 10 games he amassed 1,029 rushing yards, 308 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns. He has the build and skills to be a featured back, but needs more experience, which is why the Bears could be a great landing spot. The team split work between Jeremy Langford and Matt Forte down the stretch last year, but with Forte off to New York, the team doesn't seem sold on Langford as an every-down starter after offering a big contract to C.J. Anderson.
While everyone remembers Langford's 83-yard touchdown reception against the Rams, he was actually pretty dismal as a pass-catcher in 2015. His 26.67 percent drop rate was the worst in the NFL among qualified running backs, and he only hauled in 22 of his 40 targets (Forte pulled in 44 of his 58 targets). Prosise is a skilled pass-catcher who could slide right into that role for the Bears, while also offering another able body to the rushing attack. Prosise is a more complete back than Langford, and while John Fox has a history of trotting out running back committees, Prosise could push for leading duties in no time.
Washington head coach Jay Gruden has come out this offseason saying the team is behind Matt Jones as the starter for 2016, but he also admits it's a gamble. Fantasy fans may remember Jones' crazy Week 2 performance against the Rams, when he rushed for 123 yards on 19 carries (6.5 ypc average) and scored two touchdowns. He was the hottest ticket on the waiver wire the next week. Sadly, the rest of Jones' season left plenty to be desired, as he managed just 339 yards on 119 carries (2.85 ypc average) and scored one touchdown, while losing three more fumbles. That's why it stands to reason that the team adds another runner in the upcoming NFL draft, as they have little depth behind Jones and pass-catching specialist Chris Thompson. Which brings us to former Arkansas Razorback Jonathan Williams.
Williams has flown a bit under the radar this draft season, as he missed all of 2015 after undergoing foot surgery, but he was a beast for Arkansas in 2014 (1,190 yards and 12 touchdowns in a time share with Alex Collins). Williams is a big back like Jones, but has quicker feet and better vision and moves through the line of scrimmage. He has surprisingly quick feet for a back his size -- 220 pounds -- but remains a load for defenders to bring down at the second level. Williams is also an adept pass catcher, even though he wasn't asked to do too much in the aerial game while in college. Add all this together, and Williams becomes the perfect combination of what Jones and Thompson offer Washington, and could serve as an immediate lead back behind Kirk Cousins. Unless Jones takes a big step this offseason, the featured back role in D.C. is up for the taking, and I'm hoping Williams is there to make the most of the opportunity.