32. Terrance West – Baltimore Ravens
2016 stats: 193 carries, 774 rushing yards (4.0 yards per carry), 5 rushing touchdowns, 34 catches, 236 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
Career stats: 426 carries, 1,678 rushing yards (3.9 yards per carry), 9 rushing touchdowns, 49 catches, 321 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
There isn’t a more desolate crop of running backs in today’s NFL than the ball carriers on the Baltimore Ravens. With a depth chart featuring Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Javorius Allen and Danny Woodhead (coming off a torn ACL and now 32 years old), any of these four could end up leading the team in rushing. For the time being, we will go with West – the plodder from Towson who led the team in 2016 with 774 rushing yards. Lacking any semblance of explosiveness, West shouldn’t be one of the league’s 32 starting running backs by the end of the 2017 season.
Image Source: Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports
31. Rob Kelley – Washington Redskins
2016 stats: 168 carries, 704 rushing yards (4.2 yards per carry), 6 rushing touchdowns, 12 catches, 82 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
Career stats: 168 carries, 704 rushing yards (4.2 yards per carry), 6 rushing touchdowns, 12 catches, 82 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
The best nickname in the league, “Fat Rob,” certainly doesn’t translate to Kelley being the best running back in the league. The ball carrier from Tulane possesses absolutely zero breakaway speed, but offers the consistency and ball security former starting running back Matt Jones was unable to provide. Even though Kelley isn’t Washington’s long-term solution at the position, his proficiency in short-yardage situations makes him valuable enough to avoid last place on this list. Plus, Kelley is only 24 years old and should be better in 2017 with a year of NFL experience under his belt. However, if he proves ineffective, rookie Samaje Perine is waiting in the wings.
Image Source: Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports
30. Jamaal Williams – Green Bay Packers
2016 stats: N/A
Career stats: N/A
No one threw out a more bizarre cast of ball carriers in 2016 than the Green Bay Packers. Eddie Lacy, Knile Davis, James Starks and receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery all took hand-offs from Aaron Rodgers. With none looking to be the long-term solution, it came as little surprise when Green Bay selected Jamaal Williams in the fourth round. Even though Montgomery is slated as the top rusher for the time being, his slender frame will likely result in him being moved back to receiver as Williams gains familiarity in Green Bay’s offense. At only 22 years old, Williams is an explosive runner more than capable of leading the Packers’ rushing attack in 2017.
29. Paul Perkins – New York Giants
2016 stats: 112 carries, 456 rushing yards (4.1 yards per carry), 0 rushing touchdowns, 15 catches, 162 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 112 carries, 456 rushing yards (4.1 yards per carry), 0 rushing touchdowns, 15 catches, 162 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
After watching Rashad Jennings limp to 3.3 yards per carry in 2016, Giants fans have to be happy to no longer see him atop the depth chart. While Paul Perkins didn’t exactly wow anyone in 2016, he is tasked with trying to resuscitate a New York ground game that has been nonexistent since 2012. The former UCLA Bruin averaged a pedestrian 4.1 yards per carry during his rookie year, but should be much improved in year two. New York’s terrifying receiving duo of Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall should open up plenty of running room for Perkins. With decent speed, good hands and excellent vision, Perkins is more than capable of becoming New York’s much-needed franchise back.
28. Matt Forte – New York Jets
2016 stats: 218 carries, 813 rushing yards (3.7 yards per carry), 7 rushing touchdowns, 30 catches, 263 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
Career stats: 2,253 carries, 9,415 rushing yards (4.2 yards per carry), 52 rushing touchdowns, 517 catches, 4,379 receiving yards, 20 receiving touchdowns
After eight very productive years with the Chicago Bears, Forte’s production fell off a cliff in his first season with the New York Jets. The 31 year-old was never known for his speed or explosiveness during his best years, but he looked legitimately slow hitting the hole in 2016. With his ability as a receiver nullified due to Bilal Powell’s presence, Forte offers little value to a sputtering Jets offense. As Powell continues to poach touches from Forte, there’s a very good chance the Tulane alum finishes the 2017 season second on the depth chart.
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27. Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts
2016 stats: 263 carries, 1,025 rushing yards (3.9 yards per carry), 4 rushing touchdowns, 38 catches, 277 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 2,965 carries, 13,065 rushing yards (4.4 yards per carry), 74 rushing touchdowns, 414 catches, 3,427 receiving yards, 16 receiving touchdowns
It’s pretty unbelievable that Frank Gore is still a starting running back in the NFL. Now 34 years old, the former Miami Hurricane simply continues to chug along. In 2016, Gore exceeded the 1,000-yard mark for the ninth time in his 12-year career. He certainly won’t blow anyone away with his speed, but he remains a tremendous between the tackles runner and pass blocker. At some point, Gore is going to have to call it quits, but having played in every game since 2011, he’s as reliable as they come.
26. Ameer Abdullah – Detroit Lions
2016 stats: 18 carries, 101 rushing yards (5.6 yards per carry), 0 rushing touchdowns, 5 catches, 57 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
Career stats: 161 carries, 698 rushing yards (4.3 yards per carry), 2 rushing touchdowns, 30 catches, 240 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
Ameer Abdullah’s first two years in the NFL have not gone according to plan. While he appeared in all 16 games of his rookie year, his touches dwindled throughout the season as fumbling became a more prevalent issue. Expected to make a noticeable leap in his sophomore season, Abdullah suffered a foot injury in Week 2 and was out the rest of the year. Now, in year three with Matthew Stafford playing the best football of his career, it is up to the Nebraska alum to put the pieces together. Abdullah possesses tremendous speed, underrated power and is a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, but until he can protect the football and stay on the field, he can’t crack the top 25 on this list.
Image Source: Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports
25. Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns
2016 stats: 198 carries, 952 rushing yards (4.8 yards per carry), 7 rushing touchdowns, 40 catches, 319 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 531 carries, 2,265 rushing yards (4.3 yards per carry), 19 rushing touchdowns, 68 catches, 588 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
After two less than stellar seasons to start his career, Crowell firmly asserted himself as the team’s first and second down back in year three. With the speedier Duke Johnson Jr. breathing down his neck for more touches, Crowell did enough in 2016 to keep the role as the team’s primary ball carrier. He is a tough, physical runner unafraid of dishing out punishment to would-be tacklers, and has the speed to break off long runs. With the quarterback position remaining a huge question mark, Crowell’s effectiveness (or lack thereof) will go a long way in dictating Cleveland’s offense.
24. Jeremy Hill – Cincinnati Bengals
2016 stats: 222 carries, 839 rushing yards (3.8 yards per carry), 9 rushing touchdowns, 21 catches, 174 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 667 carries, 2,757 rushing yards (4.1 yards per carry), 29 rushing touchdowns, 63 catches, 468 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
Jeremy Hill is a perfect example of how quick things can change in the NFL. After putting together a monstrous rookie year in 2014, averaging 5.1 yards per carry with 1,124 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns, Hill looked well on his way to becoming a top-five back in the league. Instead, two horrendous seasons in 2015 (3.6 yards per carry) and 2016 (3.8 yards per carry) now have Hill in danger of losing his starting role. The 6’1”, 235-pound plodder is good in short yardage situations, but with Giovani Bernard and rookie Joe Mixon both on the depth chart, Hill is unlikely to post a fourth straight season with 220+ carries.
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23. Eddie Lacy – Seattle Seahawks
2016 stats: 71 carries, 360 rushing yards (5.1 yards per carry), 0 rushing touchdowns, 4 catches, 28 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 788 carries, 3,435 rushing yards (4.4 yards per carry), 23 rushing touchdowns, 101 catches, 900 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns
With everyone so focused on his weight, it’s easy to forget Eddie Lacy won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and had back-to-back 1,100-yard rushing seasons his first two years in the league. Now a member of the Seattle Seahawks after spending his first four years with the Green Bay Packers, Lacy should be more motivated than ever before. His bruising running style meshes perfectly with an offense accustomed to having Marshawn Lynch, and Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise will also be crucial in the running game to prevent Lacy from getting overworked.
22. Latavius Murray – Minnesota Vikings
2016 stats: 195 carries, 788 rushing yards (4.0 yards per carry), 12 rushing touchdowns, 33 catches, 264 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 543 carries, 2,278 rushing yards (4.2 yards per carry), 20 rushing touchdowns, 91 catches, 639 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
After four years in Oakland, Latavius Murray inked a three-year, $15 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings this offseason. With Adrian Peterson now in New Orleans, Murray inherits the impossible task of replacing one of the 10 best running backs in NFL history. Even though he doesn’t possess great speed or agility, he is solid as a pass catcher and has a nose for the end zone. Plus, Minnesota’s decision to draft Dalvin Cook in the second round is a strong indication that they plan to have both running backs heavily involved.
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21. LeGarrette Blount – Philadelphia Eagles
2016 stats: 299 carries, 1,161 rushing yards (3.9 yards per carry), 18 rushing touchdowns, 7 catches, 38 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 1,168 carries, 5,122 rushing yards (4.4 yards per carry), 49 rushing touchdowns, 46 catches, 337 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
After signing with the Eagles for 1-year, $1.25 million this offseason, it was clear LeGarrette Blount would have a prominent role in the offense. However, Philadelphia’s decision to cut Ryan Mathews now puts Blount in line for an even bigger workload. Coming off the best season of his career while helping lead the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl trophy, the Eagles know what they are getting with the bruising back. Blount won’t wow you with his speed or agility, but he is a strong, powerful runner who will help the Eagles move the chains. And with Darren Sproles occupying the third down back role, Blount is a perfect two-down back for the up-and-coming Eagles.
20. Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
2016 stats: N/A
Career stats: N/A
After watching Cam Newton hand the ball to mundane running backs (Jonathan Stewart/DeAngelo Williams/Mike Tolbert) for the first six years of his career, Carolina finally got the 2015 MVP a dynamic player in Christian McCaffrey. The Stanford speedster is electric lined up anywhere on the field, and has the vision and speed to score every time he touches the ball. His 197-pound frame will quickly be tested by the physicality of the NFL, but McCaffrey has shown a surprising propensity to deliver punishment to would-be tacklers. Only one year removed from playing in the Super Bowl, Carolina is hoping McCaffrey is the missing piece to return to the NFL’s biggest stage.
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19. C.J. Anderson – Denver Broncos
2016 stats: 110 carries, 437 rushing yards (4.6 yards per carry), 4 rushing touchdowns, 16 catches, 128 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
Career stats: 448 carries, 2,044 rushing yards (4.6 yards per carry), 17 rushing touchdowns, 75 catches, 635 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns
2016 was supposed to be C.J. Anderson’s breakout season after Denver handed him a four-year, $18 million contract in the offseason, but the Cal alum couldn’t stay on the field. A torn meniscus forced him to miss the final nine games of the season, resulting in rookie Devontae Booker taking over starting duties. Since Booker was far from impressive, it’s no surprise the four-year veteran is back atop the depth chart. Anderson has proven to be a very effective runner when not overworked, so Denver’s addition of Jamaal Charles should pay big dividends in 2017. As a perfect change of pace guy to complement Anderson, Denver now has one of the more formidable rushing attacks in the league.
18. James White – New England Patriots
2016 stats: 39 carries, 166 rushing yards (4.3 yards per carry), 0 rushing touchdowns, 60 catches, 551 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 70 carries, 260 rushing yards (3.7 yards per carry), 2 rushing touchdowns, 105 catches, 984 receiving yards, 9 receiving touchdowns
In 2017, it’s going to be tough for James White to top his final carry of 2016 – a game-winning 2-yard rushing touchdown in Super Bowl LI. However, with LeGarrette Blount now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, White is set to become New England’s lead back. Most expected the former Wisconsin Badger to be a third down receiving specialist in the league, but with Dion Lewis already occupying that role, White looks poised to lead the running back committee in carries. The 205-pounder failed to top 39 carries in each of his first three seasons, but with Lewis, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden and D.J. Foster serving as the other running backs competing for touches, expect White to lead the way.
Image Source: Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports
17. Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2016 stats: 144 carries, 421 rushing yards (2.9 yards per carry), 3 rushing touchdown, 14 catches, 134 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 1,012 carries, 4,227 rushing yards (4.2 yards per carry), 23 rushing touchdowns, 121 catches, 1,007 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
Coming off a career year in 2015, a hamstring injury slowed Martin down for the majority of 2016 – the third time in five years he failed to play all 16 games. However, Martin now faces a new challenge in 2017, as he has been suspended the first three games of the season for violating the NFL’s drug policy. With his future looking murky in Tampa Bay, 2017 will likely be Martin’s last chance to prove himself. His solid blend of speed, power and agility makes him a crucial component of Tampa Bay’s suddenly dynamic offense, but health will need to be on Martin’s side if he wants to suit up for the Buccaneers beyond this season.
16. Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders
2016 stats: N/A (retired)
Career stats: 2,144 carries, 9,112 rushing yards (4.3 yards per carry), 74 rushing touchdowns, 252 catches, 1,979 receiving yards, 9 receiving touchdowns
Beast Mode is back. Those four words are enough to make anyone who has ever tried to tackle Marshawn Lynch quiver. The former Buffalo Bill and Seattle Seahawk has come out of retirement to join forces with his hometown Oakland Raiders. At 31 years old, it remains unclear how much Lynch still has left in the tank, but we know he is certainly well rested. Lynch’s best days are most likely behind him, but the former Cal product will still bring physicality and toughness to an Oakland team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
Image Source: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
15. Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars
2016 stats: N/A
Career stats: N/A
The addition of Leonard Fournette is the latest move for a Jacksonville franchise quietly piecing together one of the younger, more dynamic offenses in the league. Arguably the best running back prospect out of college since Adrian Peterson, expectations are high for Fournette in 2017. At 6’1” and 235 pounds, Fournette is not an easy man to bring down. When healthy, he absolutely dominated college football with his punishing running style, and will be a welcomed addition to a Jaguars team that has lacked any semblance of a run game over the past decade. Fournette will alleviate much of the pressure on quarterback Blake Bortles, and is a good bet to take home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2017.
14. Spencer Ware – Kansas City Chiefs
2016 stats: 214 carries, 921 rushing yards (4.3 yards per carry), 3 rushing touchdowns, 33 catches, 447 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 289 carries, 1,334 rushing yards (4.6 yards per carry), 9 rushing touchdowns, 39 catches, 452 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
If there’s one thing the Kansas City Chiefs are masters at, it’s finding talent at the running back position. Jamaal Charles is no longer in Kansas City, meaning the Chiefs’ days of employing a running back committee are in the past. In 2017, Ware is set to be the work horse for a team that is always successful running the ball. Although the former LSU Tiger doesn’t have the same home-run threat ability as Charles, he is a more than capable receiver out of the backfield and is a better between the tackles runner. Only 25 years old and playing behind a strong offensive line, Ware is poised for an enormous 2017.
Image Source: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
13. Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers
2016 stats: 217 carries, 988 rushing yards (4.6 yards per carry), 6 rushing touchdowns, 27 catches, 163 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 415 carries, 1,791 rushing yards (4.3 yards per carry), 13 rushing touchdowns, 50 catches, 284 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns
Much like many of the players on this list, Carlos Hyde’s greatest enemy has been his own body. Now gearing up for his fourth NFL season, the former Ohio State Buckeye has yet to play more than 14 games in a season. Largely due to his punishing running style, the 235-pounder has excellent power and surprising burst through the hole. However, the lack of weapons around him has led to him constantly facing seven or eight defenders in the box – skewing his production in a negative manner. With offensive guru Kyle Shanahan now in control, Hyde has an excellent chance to enter the top 10 in 2017.
12. Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins
2016 stats: 260 carries, 1,272 rushing yards (4.9 yards per carry), 8 rushing touchdowns, 27 catches, 151 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 309 carries, 1,459 rushing yards (4.7 yards per carry), 9 rushing touchdowns, 34 catches, 241 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
2016 was a breakout year for the former Boise State Bronco. After failing to beat out Arian Foster for the starting role entering the season, Ajayi was handed the gig following a Foster injury, and never looked back. The 229-pound behemoth rushed for over 200 yards in three separate games in 2016, showing off his tremendous blend of speed, power and vision. It’s too early to call Ajayi the next great young running back, but with Miami putting emphasis on handing him the ball, the sky appears to be the limit in 2017.
11. Lamar Miller – Houston Texans
2016 stats: 268 carries, 1,073 rushing yards (4.4 yards per carry), 5 rushing touchdowns, 31 catches, 188 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
Career stats: 906 carries, 4,003 rushing yards (4.4 yards per carry), 24 rushing touchdowns, 148 catches, 1,075 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns
After spending the first four seasons of his career with the Miami Dolphins, Miller’s first year with the Texans had its ups and downs. Houston’s dreadful quarterback tandem of Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage allowed defenses to stack the box against Miller, but the former Miami Hurricane still managed to find room to run. Criminally underused in Miami, the Texans have reaped the rewards for making Miller an every-down back. Another year of familiarity in Houston’s offense should help the 26 year-old build upon last year’s success, as his elite-level speed and ability as a receiver out of the backfield make him a threat to find the end zone whenever he’s on the field.
10. Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams
2016 stats: 278 carries, 885 rushing yards (3.2 yards per carry), 6 rushing touchdowns, 43 catches, 327 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 507 carries, 1,991 rushing yards (3.9 yards per carry), 16 rushing touchdowns, 64 catches, 515 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
Purely from a statistical perspective, Todd Gurley shouldn’t even crack the top 20 on this list. Playing behind the worst offensive line in the NFL in 2016, the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year experienced the dreaded sophomore slump. Horrendous quarterback play hasn’t made life any easier for Gurley, but the former Georgia Bulldog has too much raw talent to place any lower on this list. At only 22 years old with the perfect blend of size, speed and power, Gurley’s ability as a rusher and receiver ensures he will be terrorizing the league for the foreseeable future.
9. Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears
2016 stats: 252 carries, 1,313 rushing yards (5.2 yards per carry), 6 rushing touchdowns, 29 catches, 298 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
Career stats: 252 carries, 1,313 rushing yards (5.2 yards per carry), 6 rushing touchdowns, 29 catches, 298 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
With a below-average defense and dreadful quarterback play, 2016 was not a good year for the Chicago Bears. However, rookie running back Jordan Howard was certainly a bright spot for the organization. Drafted in the fourth round out of Indiana, Howard looked the part of a franchise running back. He is a strong between the tackles runner who is also dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield. With check-down specialist Mike Glennon and rookie Mitch Trubisky vying for the starting quarterback role, Howard’s effectiveness in helping take pressure off the quarterback will be crucial if Chicago is to experience success anytime soon.
8. Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers
2016 stats: 254 carries, 997 rushing yards (3.9 yards per carry), 10 rushing touchdown, 41 catches, 419 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 438 carries, 1,638 rushing yards (3.7 yards per carry), 10 rushing touchdowns, 74 catches, 611 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
Few players in NFL history have had more of a roller coaster first two seasons than the Chargers’ Melvin Gordon. The former Wisconsin Badger never looked comfortable during his rookie season, averaging an abysmal 3.5 yards per carry while somehow never finding the end zone on 184 carries. It’s safe to say things could only go up for Gordon in 2016, and they certainly did. An unfortunate ACL injury to Danny Woodhead turned Gordon into an every-down back, and Gordon made the most of the opportunity. While he still needs to improve in pass protection, Gordon excels in virtually every other category and has firmly asserted himself as a cornerstone for LA’s newest franchise.
7. Adrian Peterson – New Orleans Saints
2016 stats: 7 carries, 37 rushing yards (5.3 yards per carry), 0 rushing touchdowns, 5 catches, 16 receiving yards
Career stats: 2,418 carries, 11,747 rushing yards (4.9 yards per carry), 97 rushing touchdowns, 241 catches, 1,945 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns
This ranking might be giving too much credit to a 32 year-old coming off a torn meniscus, but as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, Peterson has shown throughout his career that he can return to peak form following an injury. Better yet, with the presence of Mark Ingram also on the roster, Peterson shouldn’t be overworked as was so often the case in Minnesota. There’s no better head coach at maximizing an offensive player’s talent than Sean Payton, and with Peterson playing alongside Drew Brees, defenses won’t be able to stack the box against him. His vicious running style will be a valuable addition to an already-dangerous Saints offense.
6. Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons
2016 stats: 227 carries, 1,079 rushing yards (4.8 yards per carry), 11 rushing touchdowns, 54 catches, 462 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 556 carries, 2,388 rushing yards (4.3 yards per carry), 23 rushing touchdowns, 157 catches, 1,265 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns
An injury to Tevin Coleman in 2015 handed the starting gig to Devonta Freeman by default, but in 2016 with both backs healthy, Freeman outshined his counterpart. Forming one of the scariest running back duos in the league, Freeman was an integral part of Atlanta’s league-best offense, averaging 4.8 yards per carry to give the Falcons a much needed rushing attack. As a strong downhill runner with the ability to make defenders miss, underrated speed, and excellent hands out of the backfield, Freeman should continue to be a force in 2017.
5. DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans
2016 stats: 293 carries, 1,287 rushing yards (4.4 yards per carry), 9 rushing touchdowns, 53 catches, 377 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 1,420 carries, 6,515 rushing yards (4.6 yards per carry), 43 rushing touchdowns, 268 catches, 1,899 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns
DeMarco Murray’s brief, disastrous stint in Philadelphia in 2015 left many wondering whether Murray or then-head coach Chip Kelly deserved the blame. After winning the rushing title in 2014 with the Dallas Cowboys, Murray totaled 702 yards on 3.6 yards per carry under Chip Kelly’s tutelage. With Murray getting a fresh start in Tennessee alongside Marcus Mariota, it’s safe to say Kelly was the one at fault. Murray looked completely rejuvenated with the Titans, consistently rattling off big plays as the best between the tackles runner in the game. Murray’s underappreciated value as a receiver out of the backfield helps him sneak into the top five.
4. LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills
2016 stats: 234 carries, 1,267 rushing yards (5.4 yards per carry), 13 rushing touchdowns, 50 catches, 356 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
Career stats: 1,898 carries, 8,957 rushing yards (4.7 yards per carry), 60 rushing touchdowns, 382 catches, 2,930 receiving yards, 13 receiving touchdowns
2016 was a perfect reminder that when healthy, “Shady” McCoy remains one of the premier running backs in the league. That notion has been far from a guarantee though, as McCoy battled a nagging hamstring injury throughout last season. Despite being listed on the injury report virtually every week, McCoy posted a career high 5.4 yards per carry, along with 13 rushing touchdowns (his most since 2011). With unmatched agility and mesmerizing breakaway speed, McCoy, who will be 29 at the start of the 2017 season, still has plenty left in the tank.
3. Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys
2016 stats: 322 carries, 1,631 rushing yards (5.1 yards per carry), 15 rushing touchdowns, 32 catches, 363 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
Career stats: 322 carries, 1,631 rushing yards (5.1 yards per carry), 15 rushing touchdowns, 32 catches, 363 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown
Everyone had high hopes for the No. 4 overall pick in 2016, but no one could have imagined Elliott would be this dominant, this soon. Playing behind the best offensive line in football certainly helps, but Elliott’s combination of speed, power and vision is even better than advertised. Already the best pure rusher in the NFL, Elliott runs with a reckless abandon reminiscent of Marshawn Lynch. However, until Elliott improves as a pass catcher, he will still be looking up at two of his peers…
2. David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals
2016 stats: 293 carries, 1,239 rushing yards (4.2 yards per carry), 16 rushing touchdowns, 80 catches, 879 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 418 carries, 1,820 rushing yards (4.4 yards per carry), 24 rushing touchdown, 116 catches, 1,336 receiving yards, 8 receiving touchdowns
David Johnson entered 2016 as a bit of a wild card, but proved that the immense hype surrounding him was completely justified. The Northern Iowa alum is a powerful runner with tremendous straight-line speed, but it’s his ability to make would-be tacklers miss that makes him so special. Capable of lining up anywhere on the field, Johnson is simply a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses. After going for over 2,100 total yards in 2016 as Arizona’s work-horse back, Johnson will likely be selected first overall in many fantasy football drafts. However, he still comes up just short of the No. 1 spot on this list…
1. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
2016 stats: 261 carries, 1,268 rushing yards (4.9 yards per carry), 7 rushing touchdowns, 75 catches, 616 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
Career stats: 908 carries, 4,045 rushing yards (4.5 yards per carry), 26 rushing touchdowns, 227 catches, 2,005 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns
Despite the frequent distractions involving violations of the league’s substance abuse policy, when on the field, Le’Veon Bell has proven himself to be the best running back in football. Bell’s talent as both a rusher and pass catcher is unmatched. His unorthodox, extremely patient running style works perfectly with his sharp cuts and deceptive power. Fresh off a season averaging 157 total yards per game, the 25 year-old has a legitimate chance to one day be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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