NFL free agent rankings 2020: Derrick Henry, Melvin Gordon among top 14 running backs available

Sporting News

Running back is one of the highest-supply positions in the NFL. Between the veteran options in NFL free agency and a steady influx of rookie backs in the NFL Draft, the top contracts once again face a hard ceiling in 2020.

Ezekiel Elliott took over as the top-paid running back, getting $15 million a season from the Cowboys last fall. In the 2019 offseason, Le'Veon Bell got more than $13.1 million annually from the Jets.

The best available running back in 2020 isn' going anywhere, but he is expected to push for contract numbers that either match or exceed what Elliott received.

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Here's a look at the top 11 running backs ahead of free agency, which officially opens for business on Wednesday, March 18:

1. Derrick Henry, Titans (age: 26) (franchise-tagged)

Henry was beastly down the stretch, becoming the NFL rushing champion with his old-school blend of power and burst. The Titans will keep the hammer and foundation of their offense, and now that they've figured out how much they're paying Ryan Tannehill, they have a better understanting of what they can pay Henry. Henry thinks Elliott's deal is the launching point — but with a few better guarantees up front, it should be more like the destination.

2. Melvin Gordon, Chargers (age: 26)

He got the solid accrued season he wanted to get into free agency, but the Chargers won't cange their mind to give him what he's asking now they can simply roll with extended Austin Ekeler as their feature back with a little more power help. Gordon is above average at best, given how low his floor was and how low his ceiling is. Gordon didn't take a reported $10 million a season from the Chargers, even though that would have given him top-five positional money. He might not get the pure feature job for which he's looking.

3. Kenyan Drake, Cardinals (age: 26) (transition-tagged)

Drake's 643 yards rushing, eight touchdowns and 5.2 yards-per-carry average in eight games at Arizona showed he was the perfect fit in Kliff Kingsbury's offense, down to his receiving ability. He's suddenly became the back of choice over fading David Johnson, who was traded to the Texans in a timely cost-cutting move.

4. Jordan Howard, Eagles (age: 25)

Howard has had decent success as a straight-up power back in both Chicago and Philadelphia, but he offers little open-field burst or receiving upside. He knocked out 525 yards rushing and seven total touchdowns for the Eagles in a season curbed to 10 games by a shoulder injury. With the emergence of rookie Miles Sanders, Howard will need to settle for being an early-down and red-zone pounder in a complementary role for a third team.

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5. Carlos Hyde, Texans (age: 29)

Hyde finally was fully healthy for his sixth NFL season with his fourth team, and it added up to a career-high 1,070 rushing yards in a full 16 games. Houston needed Hyde to come through in a late preseason trade when Lamar Miller went down: He felt comfortable pounding away with high volume, when necessary. Still, Hyde's age and past wear say his best and desired fit was the Texans, not a possibility now after the Johnson trade.

6 Devonta Freeman, Falcons (age: 28)

Freeman is slowing down and his durability issues led him to be eventually overpriced for Atlanta. He is a versatile power back but he struggles more to create on his own. He will need to step into a commitee with younger, faster change of pace back.

7. Peyton Barber, Buccaneers (age: 25)

Barber had a few moments for Bruce Arians as the most viable option for a sputtering run game until young Ronald Jones was motivated enough to produce. But Barber averaged only 3.1 yards per carry as a makeshift answer, with his scoring (seven total touchdowns) standing out most. He won't be back, opening the door for Gordon to land with the Bucs.

8. Lamar Miller, Texans (age: 28)

Miller, who turns 29 in April, has had a steady workload when healthy since he was drafted in the fourth round in 2012. He's also coming off tearing his ACL and MCL in his left knee in August, which wiped out his entire 2019 season. He's a good choice for a committee veteran type to complement a younger back.

9. Chris Thompson, Redskins (age: 29)

Thompson has had significant durability issues and doesn't offer much as a power runner, but he's an effective receiver when healthy, which has kept him in the NFL for so long. He had a big fan in former Washington coach Jay Gruden, who is now the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville. He makes sense to be a passing-game complement to the Jaguars' Leonard Fournette.

MORE: Who will play quarterback for Dolphins in 2020?

10. Corey Clement, Eagles (age: 25)

Clement was restricted, but the Eagles chose not to tender him and keep a crowd developing at running back, where Sanders is the new centerpiece. He can do a lot of little things right to be a valuable swing third back.

11. DeAndre Washington, Raiders (age: 26)

Las Vegas doesn't need him with Jalen Richard extended to be the change-of-pace back behind second-year stud Josh Jacobs. Washington showed some good versatility and production when Jacobs was on the shelf with a shoulder injury, but he's a pure depth back for another team.

12. Dion Lewis, Titans (age: 29)

Lewis is limited to being a recieving down back with some potenital return help for a team. The former Patriots' profilic rusher will need to setttle for a complementary role to stay in the league.

13. Isaiah Crowell, Raiders (age: 27)

Crowell tore his Achilles' heel last May, about a month after he signed with the Raiders as a power back contingency post-Beast Mode — before they drafted Jacobs. He's a home run-reliant power back who operates best in a committee.

14. Ty Montgomery, Jets (age: 27)

The converted former Packers wide receiver was expected to be more active as a change-of-pace receiving back behind Bell, but saw very little usage for Adam Gase. Maybe his former Green Bay coach, Mike McCarthy, will bring Montgomery to Dallas to replace Tavon Austin as the Cowboys' hybrid player — as a swing reserve behind Elliott and Tony Pollard.

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