It's been an interesting offseason for running backs, with several starters from 2016 and once-dominant veterans sporting new uniforms. NFL Media analyst and former All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew ranks offseason relocations for backs across the league, based on who will have the biggest impact and enjoy the most team success with the new club.
1) Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders
2017 projection: 170 carries for 850 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Beast Mode is mostly in the top spot because he has the best offensive line of any running back on this list. As you get older, the O-line plays more of a role in your production. He's lining up behind one of the best units in the league and has a young, explosive offense that's led by Derek Carr and a solid receiving corps with Amari Cooper and a rejuvenated Michael Crabtree. Most importantly, he should be completely healthy after almost two years off. I expect him to look like the player who was a vital part of the Seahawks' championship team (when he rushed for 1,200-plus yards), not the player we saw in the early stretches of the 2015 season. Though his stats might not equal some others on this list, Lynch is going to completely alter how teams game plan for the Raiders in 2017.
The Raiders will feature a committee backfield with Lynch, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. This will keep Lynch, who's also a threat in the passing game, fresh throughout the season.
2) LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia Eagles
2017 projection: 250-280 carries for 1,100-1,200 yards and 12-15 touchdowns.
The Eagles have a solid offensive line and players who can loop on both edges. The thing the Eagles were missing last season was a big ground game. Blount fits the mold and should get a bevy of touches in Philly. The physical back has the ability to carry defenders 3 to 4 yards. His presence will help sophomore quarterback Carson Wentz, because opponents will have to load the box with Blount in the backfield. He's in this No. 2 spot based on the sheer volume of carries he'll get and the amount of opportunities to score in the red zone.
3) Adrian Peterson, New Orleans Saints
2017 projection: 150-175 carries for 750-1,000 yards and eight touchdowns.
Like Lynch, Peterson comes into an offense that features a prolific quarterback and several other RBs -- Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara -- who can help carry some of the load. This trio will upgrade the Saints' 16th-ranked rushing attack from last year, with Peterson and Ingram splitting carries and Kamara getting used on special plays. I don't want to see the 32-year-old Peterson get overused, especially considering his injury history and the fact that he'll be playing on turf. For possibly the first time in his career, Peterson won't face a loaded box, so expect a lot of big gains.
4) Danny Woodhead, Baltimore Ravens
2017 projection: 100 carries for 450 yards and four touchdowns; 50-60 receptions for 500-575 yards and seven touchdowns.
Woodhead is going to be Joe Flacco's new Ray Rice. In the former Charger's last full season (2015), he hauled in 80 catches for 755 yards and six touchdowns. He will be exactly what Flacco and the Ravens have missed since Rice was in his prime. That said, I don't think he's going to be the go-to running back in this system. Lorenzo Taliaferro and Terrance West will be given most of the carries, but the 32-year-old, who is entering his 10th NFL season, will be asked to run the ball in certain packages. He will allow the Ravens' offense to be more versatile than it has been the last several seasons.
5) Eddie Lacy, Seattle Seahawks
2017 projection: A) If overweight, cut before regular season; B) if healthy, 250 carries for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns.
Lacy is a question mark on this list, because his success will depend solely on whether he can keep his weight down. He came into Seattle a few weeks ago at 253 pounds. Since Lynch's exit, the Seahawks have longed for a bigger back, and Lacy will do OK in their system. The offensive line was sluggish a year ago, so Lacy -- and Russell Wilson -- will be fighting another uphill battle if play doesn't improve up front. (The Seahawksranked 25th in rushing in 2016.) Lacy has the potential to improve this part of the offense.
Lacy's production has declined over his four NFL seasons, yet he has an opportunity to resurrect his career in Seattle. So much of Lacy's future lies in the number on the scale.
6) Jamaal Charles, Denver Broncos
2017 projection: 150 carries for 825 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Because of his injury history, the Broncos are going to be cautious with Charles. He'll be C.J. Anderson's spell back to start the season. Charles certainly has the potential to be the starter in Denver, but I don't think it would be smart for the Broncos to lean on him that much. After two years, he's fresh-legged and will be able to run fast, jump high and move quickly. The key to success for Charles will depend on if he's worn down over the course of the season.
7) Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings
2017 projection: A) Limited reps if Dalvin Cook is ready; B) Or 160-200 carries for 700-900 yards and eight touchdowns.
Murray looked poised to be the main back in Minnesota after the release of Adrian Peterson. Then the draft happened. Murray's production in 2017 will depend on what Dalvin Cook brings to the table. If Cook is a stud (like many people think he'll be), we won't see a lot of Murray. If the rookie must learn, the former Raider will get a ton of carries.
The Vikingsranked dead last in rushing last season. Their offseason moves proved that they are dedicated to improving the ground game, bringing in offensive linemen and RBs in free agency and the draft. This team is determined to retake the NFC North and will ride with its hot hand in the backfield, whether it be Murray or Cook.
8/9) Rex Burkhead/Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots
2017 projection: ???
How many running backs do the Patriots need? They bring back Dion Lewis and James White, who was an animal in Super Bowl LI, and bring in Burkhead and Gillislee. No one ever knows how Bill Belichick is going to use all of his weapons, but I doubt these two newcomers will get a ton of touches, considering the vast amount of talent the Patriots have on offense. Whoever is hot at the time will get the ball. It's that straightforward.