Today, I continue my four-part series on NFL offensive positions with a look at the ones who pound the defenses and open up the passing games better for teams: the running backs. Here’s my list of the best currently in the NFL.
1) Arian Foster- I need to see much more of this guy, but for right now, I don’t think there is any argument that Foster isn’t the best running back in the NFL based on what he did last season. Foster, who really came completely out of nowhere for the Houston Texans used what usually is a pass-first offense to his benefit. Last season, all Foster did was run for 1,616 yards, the best in the NFL. He also caught for another 604 yards, also the best in the NFL for a running back. Oh, and he had 18 total touchdowns. Once again, the best in the NFL for a running back.
2) Chris Johnson- My favorite running back to watch right now in the NFL is this guy. In his 3 seasons thus far, he has run for over 1,200 yards in each one, including two season ago when he ran for over 2,000 yards. After that season, I put him ahead of Peterson for the best running back in the game and I still somewhat believe it. Last year, he finished with 1,364 yards rushing along with 12 total touchdowns. Johnson had trouble last year not only because the Tennessee Titans have no great quarterback or passing game, but also teams watched him like a hawk every game after running for that much the season before.
3) Adrian Peterson- Many people argue that this guy is the best running back in football. I do not agree simply because of his versatility. However, I will say that he is probably the best pure runner in the game today. Since Peterson was drafted in 2007, all he has done is run for over 1,200 yards in four straight seasons. Last year was actually his worst season running statistically with 1,298 yards along with 341 yards receiving. He combined also for 13 touchdowns. Keep in mind too that Peterson had those numbers with Brett Favre struggling most of last season and no real solid passing game for the Minnesota Vikings to balance for him.
4) Jamaal Charles-The biggest surprise on this list has to be Charles. I could argue that Charles could easily be second on this list with the numbers he put up last season. Last year, Charles simply went off for the Kansas City Chiefs and was a huge reason that propelled them to win the AFC West division. Charles ran for 1,467 yards, good for 2nd in the NFL along with 468 receiving yards and a total of 8 touchdowns. His success and versatility helped quarterback Matt Cassell develop greatly and was a reason the Chiefs had one of the best running games in the NFL last season.
5) Michael Turner- Perhaps the most hard nose runner on this list is none other than Turner. He does not catch passes, but he does not need to for the weapons that quarterback Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons have. He gives the Falcons a strong running game to wear down defenses to give Ryan that much more chance of being effective in the passing game. Last year, Turner ran for 1,371 yards, 3rd best in the NFL in that category and added 12 touchdowns.
6) Ray Rice- Perhaps the most versatile running back in the NFL right now is Rice. Last year, Rice ran for 1,220 yards and added 556 receiving yards for 6 combined touchdowns. A little bit of a down year considering two seasons ago, he combined for over 2,000 yards. Rice is the piece that helps Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens offense work.
7) Rashard Mendenhall- This guy has burst onto the scene for the Pittsburgh Steelers already running for 2 straight 1,000 yard seasons in his first 3 years. Mendenhall, who isn’t a very good receiver makes up for that with his hard-nose physical running style, wearing down defenses over games. Last year, Mendenhall ran for 1,273 yards and added 13 touchdowns, being the most important part to the offense for the Steelers.
8) Maurice Jones-Drew- Talk about versatility. This guy has always been that, but for the past two seasons, he has really become a flat out great runner. Last year, Jones-Drew ran for 1,324 yards along with 317 yards receving combing for 7 touchdowns for the Jacksonville Jaguars. What makes him more incredible is that he is only 5’7″ but weighs 208 pounds and is incredibly strong with his legs.
9) Steven Jackson- As a runner, Jackson may be as strong and tough as any in the NFL. He has run for over 1,000 yards for 6 straight seasons, including last year compiling 1,241 yards. He also caught for another 383 yards and a total of 6 touchdowns. With quarterback Sam Bradford developing, he should continue to be successful for the St. Louis Rams.
10) Frank Gore- This guy has consistently been one of the best runners in the NFL for the past few years for the San Francisco 49ers. Gore, who missed the last 5 games of last season finished with 853 yards rushing and 452 yards receving with 5 total touchdowns. His versatility along with having a poor quarterback in Alex Smith to work with puts him in the list for me.
Did I leave anyone out of the list? Let me hear what you think!