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Cardinals Draft Primer 2021: Running Back

Najee Harris, Travis Etienne lead group of prospects


General Manager Steve Keim made some high-profile moves in free agency, adding J.J. Watt, Rodney Hudson, A.J. Green, Malcolm Butler and others. The Cardinals have lofty goals in 2021, and finding impact rookies would help fortify the roster. We will break down each position group heading into the draft, which will be held from Thursday, April 29 through Saturday, May 1.

Free agent primer: Running Back

More draft primers: CB I LB I WR I DL I QB I ST I TE I S I OL

Players under contract: Chase Edmonds, James Conner, Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin, Khalfani Muhammad.

Need: Low

The Cardinals' situation: Edmonds was impressive in 2020 and seems to be in line for a bigger role in 2021. Conner was added on a one-year contract and should be the big back complement for more of the short-yardage and between-the-tackles attempts. Ward, Benjamin and Muhammad are still unproven players aiming to make an impression on the coaching staff.

The draft class: The top two running backs in the draft are Clemson jitterburg Travis Etienne and Alabama power back Najee Harris. Both are getting first-round buzz, although that is never a guarantee with how much running backs have been devalued in the past several seasons. The North Carolina duo of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter are regularly placed in the second tier, and there are a host of other running backs projected to go in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft.

The conclusion: Only one running back (Saquon Barkley) has been drafted in the top-16 over the past three years, so the Cardinals would truly have to fall in love with Etienne or Harris to make the move. The more likely scenario would be a late-round addition to bring a long-term option to the group. Both Edmonds and Conner are on expiring contracts in 2021. Supply often outstrips demand at running back, so the Cardinals could find some value at the position if GM Steve Keim targets it in the draft.

Images of some of the top running back prospects heading into the draft