This article is part of our Job Battles series.
These competitions are listed in a generally descending order of fantasy significance. The players are listed from left to right in order of team seniority rather than favored status.
Hyde and Chubb are both power runners in the 230-pound range, and both players were second-round picks after utterly dominant careers at elite college football programs. It's not surprising that the two haven't definitively separated to this point in terms of effectiveness. Hyde finished Cleveland's preseason game against Buffalo with nine carries for 64 yards and a touchdown while Chubb totaled 53 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
Hyde, however, has been the one to run with the starters in the preseason to this point, indicating that he will at least get the first shot to prove himself between the two in the regular season. This doesn't lend any insight into what kind of leash he might have, and Chubb has otherwise shown nothing but promise, but Hyde is a totally adequate runner who's unlikely to commit many unforced errors. Chubb's chances of early work don't appear good at the moment.
Chubb's price tag has seemingly slid accordingly, as he sometimes is available around the 9th and 10th rounds after going more around the 7th earlier this offseason. That might be late enough to justify selection as a lottery ticket pick even if Hyde is the presumed opening starter. As Alvin Kamara showed last year and Jordan Howard showed in his own rookie season, beginning the year behind a veteran runner of middling quality isn't grounds for a full fade, but expectations regarding the timing of production probably need to be adjusted at the very least.
If Hyde does start to lose ground to Chubb, expect pass-catching work to play a role in that outcome. Hyde is a violent runner who's explosive for his size, but he's so far been one of the league's least efficient receivers at running back. His career YPT of 4.2 over 152 targets won't cut it, and Chubb can almost certainly offer more in that regard.
Edmunds looks like he'll make this team and it would be an error to disregard him entirely, but it appears Williams is pulling ahead a bit here. This was the expected outcome, because Williams was the better prospect between the two despite the various positive indicators in Edmunds' profile.
But whereas Edmunds looks like a cheap size/speed guy for the Saints to groom slowly and otherwise utilize on special teams, Williams looks like a candidate to contribute meaningfully on offense for the Saints, at least while Mark Ingram is suspended for four games. Williams has 63 yards on 12 carries through two preseason games, and more importantly he's earned steady, seemingly earnest praise for his work in training camp. Drew Brees told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that "He's stuck his nose in there in pass protection better than anybody I've seen in a while," with Sean Payton adding that "I thought he's had some good practices. He's a guy with good vision. He'll get what's blocked (yardage). We just have to keep giving him those opportunities."
I'd read the fact that Edmunds has just one preseason carry as evidence that the Saints already know they plan to keep him, but those comments from Brees and Payton, combined with Williams' consistent preseason production, lead me to think that Edmunds' significance to New Orleans is mostly on special teams.
It seems somewhat cruel that McCown might see a demotion following his admirable showing from last year, when the humble then-38-year-old lifted a previously cursed Jets offense and scored 23 touchdowns in 13 games, but our reality is a brutal one.
Darnold was the third overall pick for a reason, after all, and it appears he's making steady if not rapid progress in the eyes of Jets coaches, leaving him on track to open the season as the Jets' starting quarterback. According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, Darnold would likely project as the team's starter so long as he doesn't melt down against the Giants in the preseason's third week.
Although he just turned 21 in June and figures to deal with growing pains as a result, Darnold needed no time at all to turn into a star at USC, so he could make adjustments quicker than most young quarterbacks. If so, he'd be an interesting stream play at least on a Jets team deep with receivers. He has a bit of dual-threat ability, too.
The interesting variable in all this is Bridgewater, who doesn't seem a serious starting consideration for the Jets but is nonetheless one of the most talked about quarterbacks in the NFL right now. He's been impressive with the Jets, completing 17-of-23 passes for 212 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in two preseason appearances. Some teams are probably feeling pretty dumb for not signing Bridgewater in free agency, as they're now looking at the realistic possibility of coughing up a high draft pick for him in a trade. The upcoming draft class looks quite weak at quarterback.
Kelley was a third-string runner for Tulane, and the NFL success he's enjoyed to this point is a fluke. He earned what he took and can be proud for overachieving, but he was likely to get pushed aside by almost anyone, and if none of Perine, Bibbs, or Peterson can do it alone, then the trio as a group should prove sufficient in preventing Kelley from regaining his 2016 fantasy form.
Perine and Peterson have the most pedigree here, but Perine's dealing with an ankle sprain and who knows what Peterson has left at 33 following a six-game stint with Arizona where he averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Bibbs, meanwhile, has 50 career carries for 208 yards since going undrafted in 2014.
I think Perine is the one of these four to draft, if any, but normally a vast collection of mediocrity such as this results in a gross tangle rather than anything worth speculating on. Chris Thompson is probably the only Washington back you should target this year, even if it's the previously mentioned four who are pushing for most of the work between the tackles.
I wouldn't expect Mostert, McNichols, and Morris to compete for similar functions given the divergent skill sets between the first two and Morris, but it appears that the third running back role in general might be up for grabs in San Francisco. Given the light builds and speed back skill sets of Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, Morris is the only one of the group who isn't redundant, so he merits serious consideration right now despite his recent introduction to the equation.
The question of who wins the RB3 role in San Francisco is one that could hold real fantasy repercussions with both McKinnon and Breida hurt. Mostert is a real candidate to win thanks to his experience in the Shanahan system and the fact that he's an elite athlete. As a former wide receiver at Purdue, Mostert projects as the plus pass catcher Shanahan looks for from a running back. Then again, McNichols might be the most naturally polished pass catcher on the team's running back depth chart, and he probably has 4.45 speed at the moment after dropping his weight to about 205.
Will Shanahan look toward more of the same at running back and prep one of Mostert and McNichols for the RB3 role? I wouldn't take it for granted, especially with Morris' longstanding familiarity with the Shanahans. For all we know it might have been Shanahan's plan all along to bring in Morris mid-way into camp to serve as a power element in a backfield. They certainly made no effort to acquire power otherwise, which would be odd considering the team's top four receivers average 5-foot-11, 192 pounds. If not Morris, who actually projects for red-zone usage in this offense?
Shanahan is an unconventional coach, though, so perhaps he's not attached to Morris' power element in any way. In that case, whichever of Mostert or McNichols wins would similarly merit a spot on your FAAB speed dial. They're 4.4 guys with above-average pass-catching skills in a Shanahan offense, the same facts that got people so excited about McKinnon in the first place.