Training camps in the NFL are in full swing, and a full slate of preseason games begins Thursday. Here are five running back position battles at this stage of the offseason along with each player’s odds to lead the NFL in rushing yards from DraftKings Sportsbooks.
5 NFL Running Back Position Battles
Denver Broncos: Javonte Williams vs. Melvin Gordon
Gordon and Williams ended the 2021 campaign with 203 carries apiece while averaging 4.4 and 4.5 yards per tote, respectively. It’s widely speculated the duo will once again split time and have similar workloads this season.
The two rushers have been splitting carries during training camp, and offensive coordinator Justin Outten recently said both Gordon and Williams will be on a pitch count throughout the season. Barring injury, a committee out of the backfield appears to be the plan with emphasis on both players remaining healthy.
Finally, the Broncos didn’t bring in quarterback Russell Wilson to rank 10th last in passing plays percentage again in 2022. A few of the touches available for Williams and Gordon could be through the air, and they both have the receiving prowess to be dangerous weapons for Wilson.
Rushing yards odds: Williams (+2000) and Gordon (+8000)
New England Patriots: Damien Harris vs. Rhamondre Stevenson
Another backfield likely to feature a committee approach, Stevenson has been receiving work with the first-team offense and on third-down plays during portions of training camp. Harris remains the probable starter for Week 1, but this could evolve into a near 50-50 timeshares this season.
There should still be plenty of work for both backs after New England had the seventh highest percentage of run plays last season.
Unfortunately, early camp reports about the offense aren’t encouraging, and the struggles are multifaceted. So, while Harris and Stevenson could prove to be among the best one-two punches out of the backfield in the league, the New England offense might not be an overly dangerous unit.
Rushing yards odds: Harris (+3500) and Stevenson (+10000)
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Philadelphia Eagles: Miles Sanders vs. Boston Scott vs. Kenneth Gainwell
The Philadelphia offense boasts the potential and personnel to be one of the best in the league, and the Eagles also have a soft opening schedule. While Sanders, Scott and Gainwell have all received reps with the first-team offense during training camp, head coach Nick Sirianni has insisted Sanders will be the starter.
Gainwell had been receiving a lot of hype during camp, but he isn’t practicing Tuesday after also missing snaps during Sunday’s open practice. As long as the injury is minor, he’s expected to carve out a meaningful role in the offense after finding the end zone six times on just 284 offensive snaps as a rookie last year.
Scott is also sidelined with a concussion, but he also should be involved in the rushing attack once healthy. Of course, quarterback Jalen Hurts also turned his 139 carries into 784 yards and 10 scores, so there truly is a real competition for ground work in Philadelphia.
To add context, Hurts is +10000 to lead the NFL in rushing yards at DraftKings.
Rushing yards odds: Sanders (+5000), Scott (+20000) and Gainwell (+25000)
Seattle Seahawks: Rashaad Penny vs. Kenneth Walker III
Penny hadn’t started a game during his career until Week 10 last season after being drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, but he exploded over the final five weeks of the 2021 campaign for 671 rushing yards, 7.3 yards per carry and six touchdowns.
The breakout stretch didn’t prevent the Seahawks from investing in the running back position at the 2022 NFL Draft, though. Seattle selected Walker with the 41st overall selection after he won the Doak Walker Award as the top running back in college football last year.
It’s probably going to be Penny opening the season as the starting running back, but he’s missed more games than he’s played due to injuries over the past three years. The organization obviously values what Walker brings to the table, too.
Rushing yards odds: Penny (+3000) and Walker III (+6000)
Houston Texans: Marlon Mack vs. Rex Burkhead vs. Dameon Pierce
The Texans could quickly settle in as the worst team in the NFL, but second-year quarterback Davis Mills showed glimpses of potential as a rookie last year, and this is still a backfield with question marks.
Mack and Burkhead are established, but Mack has only played seven games the past two seasons, and Burkhead is suited for a supporting role. As a result, there’s a huge opportunity for Pierce to be a consistently weekly contributor for the Texans.
With Mack fully recovered from a 2020 torn Achilles injury, he’s likely to earn the first crack at leading the Houston backfield, but Pierce is a powerful runner who scored 16 times on just 100 rushes and 19 receptions with the Florida Gators last season. The rookie rusher could quickly carve out a meaningful goal-line and short-yardage role, as a result.
Rushing yards odds: Mack (+5000), Burkhead (+20000) and Pierce (+25000)