CFL free agent rankings: running backs

As we approach the opening of CFL free agency on Tue., Feb. 13, 3DownNation’s Justin Dunk, Drew Edwards and John Hodge are ranking every player potentially available by position. Here are the running backs (divided by nationality) and fullbacks.

Running backs (international)

1. John White, EDM
Age: 26
Starts in 2017: 2
Key stats: 20 carries in 2017, almost 1,300 all-purpose yards and nine TDs in 2016.
Notes: White’s a dangerous offensive weapon who is still just 26 years of age. Coming off a torn ACL, White will likely have to prove he can stay healthy in a depth role before again being considered an every-down back.

2. Travon Van, EDM
Age: 26
Starts in 2017: 4
Key stats: 71 carries, 283 yards, 17 catches, 69 yards, 4 TDs.
Notes: Van has shown plenty of ability in three CFL seasons but hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

3. Roy Finch, CAL
Age: 26
Starts in 2017: 13 GPs, 0 starts
Key stats: 21 carries, 114 yards, 18 catches, 133 yards
Notes: Finch is known more as a returner and his size – 5-foot-7, 165 pounds – will likely prevent him from being an every-down back.

4. Brandon Whitaker, TOR
Age: 32
Starts in 2017: 9 GPs, 8 starts
Key stats: 81 carries for 357 yards, 30 catches for 226 yards.
Notes: Whitaker’s enjoyed a productive CFL career, but the market for 32-year-old international ball carriers is limited. The four-time East Division all-star appeared in just nine games last season.

5. Shakir Bell, SSK
Age: 25
Starts in 2017: 0
Key stats: 15 GPs in two seasons in Edmonton, 181 carries for 1,058 yards,
Notes: His career per-carry average is 5.8 yards which should be enticing for somebody to take a chance on.

6. Kendial Lawrence, EDM
Age: 26
Starts in 2017: 1
Key stats: Three CFL teams in six seasons, 2 career punt return touchdowns
Notes: Lawrence has been a difference-maker in the past, but will need to bounce back from a disastrous 2017 season in a big way. Cut by the Esks out of training camp, the return specialist was brought back following John White’s ACL tear to appear in just two games before suffering his own season-ending injury.

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Running backs (national)

1. Jerome Messam, CAL
Age: 32
Starts in 2017: 17
Key stats: 215 carries, 1,016 yards in 2017.
Notes: The Brampton Bus is coming off his third consecutive 1,000-yard season and will undoubtedly find a home for next season. The question is whether or not teams still see Messam, almost 33, as a full-time starter.

2. Greg Morris, SSK
Age: 25
Starts in 2017: 18 GPs,0 starts
Key stats: 14 carries for 66 yards, 32 kickoff returns for 732  yards.
Notes: A speedster who contributed primarily at kick returner last season, Morris is still just 26 an improving. Would make a nice depth addition to a club looking to round out its backfield with a Canadian.

3. Anthony Woodson, CAL
Age: 30
Starts in 2017: 3GP, 0 stars
Key stats: Six carries for 18 yards, 58 career games played in six CFL seasons.
Notes: The little-used tailback is now 30 and, as a player who rarely sees time on special teams, has limited value to teams looking to start an American tailback. This may be the end of the line for the former Dino.

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Fullbacks (national)

1. Carl-Olivier Prime, HAM
Age: 28
Starts in 2017: 18GPs, 0 starts
Key stats: 2 catches in 2017, seven in his career. 6 carries in five seasons.
Notes: Though hardly an offensive juggernaut, Prime is a physical, durable – he hasn’t missed a game in four years – and intelligent player.

2. Christophe Normand, WIN
Age: 26
Starts in 2017:
Key stats: 2 carries, 21 yards, 7 catches for 33 yards in 2017.
Notes: Normand has special athleticism for a big man, possessing 4.75 speed and solid quickness at 6’2, 240 pounds. His opportunities in Winnipeg have been limited due to the presence of Andrew Harris, but there’s no doubt the Laval product can’t flourish in a larger role with another team.

3. Spencer Moore, SSK
Age: 27
Starts in 2017: 18 GPs, 0 starts
Key stats: 7 catches, 85 yards in 2017.
Notes: Moore is your standard Canadian linebacker, boasting solid size (6’4, 240), special teams savvy, and some productivity on offence. The five-year veteran posted a career-high fifteen special teams tackles in 2017.

4. Levi Steinhauer, EDM
Age: 27
Starts in 2017: 13 GP, 0 Starts
Key stats: 10 special teams tackles
Notes: The oft-injured Steinhauer brings versatility as a blocker, special teamer, and long snapper. The Saskatchewan product has yet to play a full eighteen-game season since beginning his CFL career in 2012.

5. John Delahunt, EDM
Age: 30
Starts in 2017: 1 GP
Key stats: Caught 26 passes in 27 games with Hamilton in 2013 and 2014.
Notes: Returned to the CFL in 2017 after a two-year absence.

6. Nathan O’Halloran, MTL
Age: 26
Starts in 2017: 5 GP, 0 Starts
Key stats: 1 catch, 2 special teams tackles
Notes: Originally a seventh-round selection by B.C. in 2016.

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