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Rams can sign these 5 running backs to replace Sony Michel

Zeke Elliott is among the running backs that Rams should consider to replace Sony Michel

LaDainian Tomlinson on Elliott: “Zeke has earned a new contract” with Cowboys Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

In what came as a surprise to many on Saturday during Los Angeles Rams training camp, running back Sony Michel announced his retirement from the NFL. The Rams just signed Michel last month towards the end of OTAs. Prior to Saturday’s practice, Michel met with coach Sean McVay to let him know that he would be retiring.

This leaves the Rams with four running backs on the roster that includes Cam Akers, Kyren Williams, Zach Evans, and Ronnie Rivers. Signing a running back isn’t necessarily needed, but adding a veteran to the group wouldn’t hurt either.

The good news is that there are several options still available. Let’s take a look at the five best options for the Rams.

1. Ezekiel Elliott

While Elliott may not be the most exciting name, he fits the exact role that the Rams were looking fill with Michel. He’s a veteran player who adds value in pass protection and also adds some short yardage and third down value. Elliott’s prime is behind him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t find some success in a complementary role.

Additionally, adding Elliott wouldn’t eat into Cam Akers’ role or his touches. However, Williams missed much of his rookie season and Evans and Rivers are the only depth on the roster. A player like Elliott could be a huge benefit to this group. Elliott is coming off of a career-low 3.8 yards per carry, but he also scored 12 touchdowns.

Some context is needed on those stats though. Approximately 25 percent of Elliott’s workload came in short-yardage situations. He had an 86 percent success rate and averaged four yards per carry on all other attempts. Elliott averaged 5.3 yards per carry on third down and seven yards per carry on fourth down. Lastly, he averaged 4.4 yards on third and and 1-3 yards to go.

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2. Leonard Fournette

For much of the same reasons that the Rams should consider Elliott, they should consider Fournette. He adds a veteran presence to the running back room and adds value in pass protection, third down, and short-yardage situations. He fills the exact role left by Michel.

Fournette is a player that’s been there and done that throughout his career. He has experience on winning teams in both Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. Last season was one of Fournette’s least efficient as he had just 3.5 yards per carry. However, he does add value in the passing game which is something that can’t be said currently about the young running backs on the roster.

3. Kareem Hunt

It’s hard to make this list without adding Kareem Hunt. He’s a player that’s used to playing in a complementary role and does add value as a receiver and in short yardage situations. Hunt isn’t the same running back that he was in Kansas City, but could be beneficial for someone like Williams to learn from in year two after missing his rookie season.

At this point in his career, Hunt is just a name. Last season, he had career-lows in yards per attempt with 3.8 and yards per receptions with six. Hunt will only be 28 years old, but he may not be the right fit for what the Rams are looking for at this point of the offseason.

4. Kenyan Drake

Drake is an intriguing option when it comes to the running backs available on the market. Over the last two seasons, Drake has averaged 4.0 and 4.4 yards per carry with the Baltimore Ravens. He’s also a player that adds value in the passing game. Additionally, in 2021, Drake returned kicks and the Rams are looking for a kick returner.

At this point, Drake may not add anything that Williams doesn’t in year two. The former Ravens running back isn’t a player who’s going to add a lot after contact. He is still a big play waiting to happen as his 41.7 percent breakaway percentage ranked fourth in the NFL. Unfortunately, at this stage, Drake remains one of the better running backs on the free agent market.

5. Malcolm Brown

It may not be the most exciting move, but it’s one that at this point, it wouldn’t be surprising. When the Rams needed running back depth last season, they signed Malcolm Brown. Brown is a player who is familiar with the system and adds a veteran presence in a room that is full of young players.

This isn’t a move that I’d be advocating for necessarily. Brown’s feet aren’t very quick and there isn’t a lot of agility in his game. If the Rams sign Brown, it’s strictly to add a veteran player as a fourth running back.

Other Options

There are a few other running backs available as well. With that said, a player like Dalvin Cook may be looking for a larger role and larger contract than what the Rams are willing to give at this time.

It also came out on Saturday that Jonathan Taylor has requested a trade from the Indianapolis Colts. Snead has always been a general manager to explore trades when good players are available. With that said, Jim Irsay’s asking price would likely be too much and the Rams aren’t in a position to give up significant assets.