Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley's Best Landing Spots After 2021 NFL Draft Day 1April 30, 2021
With one round of the NFL draft over and done with, there are now more moving pieces to consider in any transactions that will be made, whether they come over the weekend or further down the road this offseason.
There are still plenty of picks to be made over the next two days, but the ones that are already set have some consequences for several of the players whose futures are in flux. While some big-name players could be bound for the trade market, like San Francisco 49ers star Jimmy Garoppolo and Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, even more are still free agents.
Among those still looking for a home in 2021 are running backs Le'Veon Bell and Todd Gurley. Here's a look at the situation for each of those players, as well as several teams that could benefit from making room for them moving forward.
Gurley had a down year in 2020, appearing in 15 games for the Atlanta Falcons—his first campaign with a franchise other than the Rams. He posted 678 rushing yards and nine touchdowns and added 164 receiving yards, career-lows in every category.
It seems that his status as a must-have is back—like in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, when he posted 1,250-yard campaigns and led the league in touchdowns en route to All-Pro nods in both seasons. That makes him a lock for several teams who may be in need of running back depth behind a go-to player at the position.
Luckily, there are several teams that find themselves in that situation entering 2021. Here are three teams that would make sense for Gurley:
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers' running back group is simply inexperienced, and a quick fix for that is bringing in a three-time Pro Bowler entering his seventh year in the league.
Austin Ekeler figures to be the leader in the room yet again, heading into his fifth year in the league off of his third consecutive 500-yard season, though he posted a career-low one rushing touchdown. He also added 403 yards and two scores when receiving the ball. The talented two-way back had little help behind him, though, between Justin Jackson and rookie Joshua Kelley.
Since they elected to add offensive tackle Rashawn Slater at No. 13 in the draft, Gurley would be a strong depth piece in Los Angeles.
The Denver Broncos parted ways with Phillip Lindsay this offseason, when their most productive back moved on to Houston in free agency. While he had a slower 2020 campaign, he demonstrated his high ceiling through two 1,000-yard seasons in his first years in the league.
Melvin Gordon III flirted with a 1,000-yard campaign last year so he's capable of filling in to that No. 1 back role in 2021, but the Broncos could use depth behind him. Currently, they're looking at Royce Freeman to fill the No. 2 role, but he saw a significant decrease in playing time last year and largely played on special teams snaps.
Electing to draft cornerback Patrick Surtain II with the No. 9 pick in the draft, they'll need to fill the hole somehow.
Gurley could be the answer for a Denver squad that needs an extra boost this season.
The Steelers were paced by James Conner's 721 yards and six touchdowns on the ground last season, but the team let him walk to join the Arizona Cardinals as a free agent. Their second-most productive back, Benny Snell Jr., played in 16 games last season and posted 368 yards and four touchdowns.
Anthony McFarland Jr. is currently slotted as the team's second back, but Gurley is a more promising option than the second-year player, bringing more veteran experience as well as six times the production of the Maryland product.
After posting the league's worst rushing offense in 2020 (84.4 yards per game), the Steelers could use some extra power at the position in 2021. Taking Najee Harris at No. 24 addressed the need, but Gurley could still be a good pickup to lead the team's future in the backfield.
Le'Veon Bell is on the move yet again, seeking what could be his third team in as many seasons. After three Pro Bowl selections through five years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he never quite reached the same ceiling following his 2018 holdout.
After posting 789 yards and three touchdowns through 15 games with the New York Jets in 2015, he appeared in 11 games in 2020, including nine with the Kansas City Chiefs. In total, he finished 2020 with 328 yards and two touchdowns—all career-lows—even though he only appeared in six games in 2015.
Bell's days as a RB1 are likely coming to an end, but if he had the opportunity and wasn't buried on a depth chart, a team could benefit from his services as a top target.
While the Buffalo Bills lost out on Bell when he was seeking a home for 2020, there's no time like the present for the team to see how it would go.
Devin Singletary will return after posting 687 yards and two touchdowns to lead the team's rushing offense, and Zack Moss will be there with him to follow up on a 481-yard campaign. The team acquired Matt Breida this offseason, but he's coming off of a career-low 254-yard season with the Miami Dolphins.
Bell could provide a surge of energy to an offense that could sorely use it, especially after they concluded the first round of the draft by drafting defensive end Gregory Rousseau.
The Jaguars are building an offense around Trevor Lawrence after drafting him with the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday. They started adding to that when they used the No. 25 overall pick to select Travis Etienne, but one player that could help elevate the team's running game even more is Bell.
Jacksonville will welcome back James Robinson and his 1,070 yards from 2020 back with open arms, and they added a sidekick for him in Carlos Hyde. Hyde spent the 2020 season with Seattle but had a quieter year amid inconsistencies. On his fifth team in four years, Hyde posted 356 yards and four touchdowns.
The team would be fine with the pair of them running the point in the backfield, but the addition of Bell could be enough to power a team that needs help all across the board.
With a first-round pick, the Eagles took the Alabama offense and brought it to Philadelphia, taking wide receiver DeVonta Smith.
But the running back position leaves much to be desired with the Eagles, who have elected to look again to Boston Scott (374 yards in 2020) alongside RB1 Miles Sanders (867 yards, six touchdowns in 2020). While the group, coupled with strong running game from quarterback Jalen Hurts, combined to post the ninth-best rushing offense in 2020, adding Bell could give it some extra oomph that would match the new-look receiving corps and give Philadelphia a chance to compete.