The AFC West is one of the deepest divisions when it comes to offensive talent. Every team is loaded on that side of the ball, which should make for some excellent divisional matchups throughout the 2021 season.
One of the most talented spots when it comes to these offenses is the running back position. Each team has at least one, if not multiple, dynamic running backs that help make the offense hum.
What kind of production can we expect from the starting running backs in the AFC West? Let’s share some predictions for how the season will shake out for each of them in 2021.
Los Angeles Chargers: Austin Ekeler
Austin Ekeler is the undisputed starting running back for the Los Angeles Chargers again. If he can remain healthy, he is in for a big season with a new coaching staff and Justin Herbert under center.
Ekeler is arguably more dangerous coming out of the backfield as a pass-catcher than he is carrying the ball. He had 993 receiving yards in 2019 and has 212 receptions in his four-year career. 2021 will be much of the same.
Ekeler will handle a career-high 175 carries and rush for 850 yards. He will break the 100 reception mark, surpassing 1,000 yards in the process and score 12 combined touchdowns on the season.
Denver Broncos: Melvin Gordon III
Melvin Gordon III’s plan on holding out and cashing in when he was with the Los Angeles Chargers didn’t work out as planned. He joined the Denver Broncos in free agency after that but was in a committee most of the season with Phillip Lindsay. This season it will be more of the same.
Denver used a second-round pick on North Carolina running back, Javonte Williams. You do not use such a premium pick on a player to not have him get on the field right away. He will cut into Gordon’s playing time even more than Lindsay did and it would not be surprising if he overtook the starting job eventually.
In another season splitting carries, Gordon will rush for 750 yards and six touchdowns. He will reach 900 total yards, as he will still help out in the passing game and catch another two scores.
Kansas City Chiefs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
The Kansas City Chiefs selected Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the final pick of the first round in the 2020 NFL Draft. People expected big things from the rookie in the Chiefs’ high-powered offense, but he struggled at times and faced plenty of competition. Despite his struggles, he is arguably the most talented all-around running back in the AFC West division.
With Le’Veon Bell no longer in the picture, this is CEH’s backfield to dominate and expect that to happen. He was lauded for his receiving ability coming out of LSU, making him a great dual-threat for this high octane offense.
Edwards-Helaire will be more comfortable in his second season in the NFL with a closer to normal offseason. He will rush for 1,100 yards and seven scores while adding 450 receiving yards and another three scores through the air.
Las Vegas Raiders: Josh Jacobs
The Las Vegas Raiders caused some people to scratch their heads with one of their free agency decisions. Despite having Josh Jacobs entrenched as the starter, the team went out and signed Kenyan Drake to replace Deontae Booker as his backup.
Drake is a big upgrade on Booker and it is fair to question how he will impact Jacobs’ playing time. Jacobs was improving as a pass-catcher, but will assuredly lose almost all the passing game work to Drake.
Jacobs should handle a majority of the early-down work, but it is anyone’s guess how much he will cede to Drake. Jacobs will still break the century mark, rushing for 1,050 yards and seven touchdowns. But his passing game work will shrink to only 22 receptions and 155 yards.