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Draft Primer 2024: Running Back

Conner coming off his best season in the NFL


The Cardinals have been at the center of the NFL draft conversation for weeks, sitting at the top of the league with the most picks (six) within the first 90 selections of the draft. There's a lot of areas the Cardinals will look to address through the draft. General manager Monti Ossenfort's first draft was a success, adding multiple full-time starters and role players that played meaningful snaps. He will look to replicate that performance when the Cardinals are on the clock. Before the draft kicks off on April 25th, let's take a look at each position group and see how the Cardinals may use the draft to evaluate their needs.

Primer schedule: OL April 12; CB April 15; ILB April 16; Edge April 17; S April 18; DL April 19

Draft primer: Running back

Previous primers: WR, QB, TE

Players under contract: James Conner, Michael Carter, DeeJay Dallas, Emari Demercado, Tony Jones Jr.

Need: Medium

The Cardinals' situation: The Cardinals have one of the NFL's most resilient running backs in James Conner already on the roster. In just 13 games, Conner rushed for 1,040 yards. Pairing him for another season with Michael Carter makes for a dynamic duo in the backfield. The addition of DeeJay Dallas and an incoming sophomore season with Emari Demercado also provides running backs coach Autry Denson with depth in the room.

The draft class: When looking at the running back prospects on the board, plenty of notable names pop off the board. Workhorse backs like Michigan's Blake Corum, Texas' Jonathon Brooks and Tennessee's Jaylen Wright are all expecting to hear their phone ring, welcoming them to the NFL. However, this draft won't replicate 2023 where two running backs (Falcons' Bijan Robinson and Lions' Jahmyr Gibbs) were selected in the Top 12. Not many teams have running back as their top position of need in the draft. Because of that, there should be a lot of quality talent available on the second and third day of the draft.

The conclusion: Both Conner and Carter are scheduled to be free agents next season. Once Conner's contract expires with the Cardinals, he'll be knocking on the door of 30. If he goes back-to-back with another 1,000 yard-plus season, Ossenfort might not want to let Conner walk. But considering the 2024 NFL Draft has some of the NCAA's best running backs in recent history, the Cardinals could potentially take a flyer on the position with an eye towards the future.

A look at some of the top running backs entering the 2024 NFL Draft.