Rookies with Injury Concerns: Running Back

Kyle Trimble

Despite the NFL devaluing the running back position when it comes to contract time, modern offenses still rely heavily on the running attack. They also have transitioned the running back into another passing option out of the backfield to keep defenses on their toes.

Fantasy football still reaps the benefit of a bell-cow back with the ability to string runs together for key first downs. Red zone touchdowns are a staple of point-producing backs on championship-winning teams.

While running back is one of the shortest careers in all of football, finding one who doesn’t have a long injury history may allow you to squeeze out several extra years of production. Knowing what injury baggage players carry heading into the draft can help you avoid selecting duds. In today’s article, we look at some of the injury concerns for the top running backs in 2024 and inside scoop moving forward.

Jonathon Brooks, Texas

2022Core muscle injury and surgery, missed 0 games.

2023Right ACL tear, missed 3 games.

Analysis

After biding his time behind Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson, Brooks finally secured the lead back role and had a productive season until a right ACL injury derailed his progress.

The big concern is him coming off the knee injury and how his skill set will translate to the next level. Not only does he have to rehab and try to find his prior form, but he also has to jump to a level of competition which may not be a smooth transition. Considering he tore his ACL in November, he may start the season on the PUP list as he continues to rehab.

Even when he does return, do not expect much from him in year one. Expect him to return to pre-injury levels of production in year two. As the second-ranked running back in DLF RB rookie rankings and 13th overall, if you have the room to stash him, he’s a strong option. Otherwise, move on past him for a more immediate impact.

Blake Corum, Michigan

2021Right high-ankle sprain, missed 2 games.

2022Left MCL sprain, meniscus tear, bone bruise, vs Illinois, missed 2 games.

Analysis

Corum had rough back-to-back seasons that saw him miss two games a piece due to several serious injuries. While his knee injury did require surgery, the meniscus was repaired which translates to better long-term outcomes for career outlook. Corum has also shown his durability, not missing a game during the 2023 season on his way to first-team All-American honors.

As the fifth-ranked running back in the DLF rookie RB rankings and 19th overall, there should be no hesitation in selecting Corum. His injury history does not warrant concerns long term with his ability to stay healthy. As a likely day two draft pick, he may not be an immediate contributor, but he’s one of the best backs of this class regardless of injury.

MarShawn Lloyd, USC

High School

2017Left wrist fracture, sophomore year.

College

2020 South CarolinaLeft ACL tear, missed the entire season.

2021Undisclosed injury, missed Duke’s Mayo Bowl game.

2022Foot/ankle injury, preseason, missed 0 games.

2022Deep thigh bruise, vs Missouri, missed three games.

2023 USCUndisclosed injury, suffered during practice, missed Washington.

Analysis

Lloyd has had his share of injuries as noted above. His durability should be questioned and likely won’t be able to handle a full workload. His ACL tear was in 2020 which means he is outside the window for risk of re-tearing or suffering an injury to the opposite side. He may just be a productive player who is always banged up similar to former Patriots RB Damien Harris.

As the sixth-ranked running back in the DLF, rookie RB rankings, and 26th overall, Lloyd could be a fine depth option with the opportunity to explode occasionally. If he gets into a timeshare or suffers yet another injury, his effectiveness may be throttled. If you’re going to select him, use him as a handcuff rather than your primary starter.

Braelon Allen, Wisconsin

2021Concussion, vs Eastern Michigan, missed one game.

2022Shoulder/right ankle injury, missed one game.

2023 Left high-ankle sprain, vs Ohio State, missed one game.

Analysis

Allen has dealt with some type of injury every season causing him to miss time. Most of these injuries are one-off issues and don’t have the potential to linger. Fortunately, high-ankle sprains don’t linger season to season and he does not have a repeated history of concussion.

As the fourth-ranked back in the DLF rookie RB rankings and 17th overall, there isn’t much that should dissuade you from selecting him in your draft, but I’d expect him to miss time here and there. If he can get into the right system and get some opportunities, he could pay off as a nice depth option.

Follow me on X at @kyletrimble88 for injury content.

kyle trimble