Totally Biased Top Ten: NFL Runningbacks

Travis breaks down the ten best runningbacks in the NFL

In a league filled with excellent running backs, there are some that have break out seasons, and fall into oblivion shortly thereafter. That doesn’t happen to those that are elite.

The ten following runningbacks have proven, whether in the past, or the current season, that they are here to stay. They come in many different size, from five foot seven, to six foot three. But one thing remains consistent, they rack up the yards, and hit pay dirt often.

Without further ado, here are the 10, and totally biased, runningbacks in the NFL.


10. Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills
Best Season (2009): 237 att, 1062 yds, 2 TD’s … 46 rec, 371 yds, 2 TD’s
Current Season: 106 att, 601 yds, 6 TD’s … 24 rec, 279 yds, 0 TD’s

As a side note... DAMN the Bills have some slick throwbacks.

When it comes to runningbacks, the NFL is a carousel, whooshing around at about 120 MPH. The second you think someone’s career might be on the decline, they’ll string together a couple more solid years. That, or course, works the other way as well. After two mediocre seasons sitting behind Marshawn Lynch, Jackson was finally given a fullworkload in 2009, and did excellent with it. After another good outing in 2010, Jackson has broken out in 2011. Clearly this is going to be his best season thus far. He is averaging a full 1.2 yards per carry higher than in 2009, and should finish with almost 500 receiving yards, to compliment 1200-1300 rushing yards. Jackson is here to stay.

9. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
Best Season (2009): 254 att, 1,339 yds, 7 TD’s … 78 rec, 702 yds, 1 TD
Current Season: 97 att, 426 yds, 2 TD’s … 26 rec, 337 yds, 2 TD’s

I like to credit his low center of gravity.

For Rice standards, 2011 might be an off-year… and THAT is saying something. Rice, from Rutgers, completely dominated opponents in 2009. His versatility through the air goes a long way for the Ravens, and he has been the absolute pristine check-down that every QB dreams of. Rice had 370 touches last season, and after six games this year, he’s at 123. The Ravens could afford to give him a few more totes, and I think they will. Rice should finish right around 2K total yards… again.

8. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Best Season (2008): 316 att, 1,238 yds, 8 TD’s … 63 rec, 477 yds, 4 TD’s
Current Season: 124 att, 672 yds, 2 TD’s … 38 rec, 419 yds, 1 TD

Just another trot to the endzone... NBD.

A totally bold prediction, but I spent years and years watching Tiki Barber catch the ball out of the backfield for the G-Men, so I know a little bit on the subject. I truly believe Forte could go down in history as one, if not THE, best at catching balls out of the backfield. His best season was his rookie year, but he has strung together some great seasons, and he will be able to add 2011 to the list. Something bizarre happened this year. Mike Martz decided MAYBE it would be better for the Bears if they let Forte carry it some more, instead of everyone wincing every time Jay Cutler got lambasted in the pocket. It has worked wonders for Forte, who is 3rd in the league in rushing yards, and his 1,091 yards from scrimmage currently sits him number one in the league.

7. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
Best Season (2010): 223 att, 1,157 yds, 7 TD’s … 47 rec, 507 yds, 3 TD’s
Current Season: 113 att, 614 yds, 4 TD’s … 19 rec, 154 yds, 1 TD

It's not a facemask penalty if you look THIS badass...

Run-DMC finally had the season that everyone was waiting for in 2010. As a rookie out of Arkansas, everyone thought that McFadden would be getting the majority of the carries on the Al Davis owned team. Well. Not exactly. McFadden was pranced around, and criticized for not running North-South. The reins were finally cut in 2010, and he pulled together his first 1,000 yard season. He was only given 223 carries, so imagine what he COULD have done. Actually. Don’t imagine. If McFadden had been given 280 carries, something reasonable, he would have come in with just a tick under 1500 yards. Scary. A great threat out of the backfield to catch the ball, he finished 5th in the league last year in yards from scrimmage, and will probably destroy that number if he can return to the field. Run-DMC is here to stay.

6. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
Best Season (2008): 376 att, 1,699 yds, 17 TD’s …  6 rec, 41 yds
Current Season: 138 att, 621 yds, 6 TD’s … 7 rec, 98 yds

Yep.. That about sums it up.

Turner, after finally leaving San Diego after four seasons, completely broke loose in his first season in Atlanta. His 1700 rushing yards in 2008 was second only to Adrian Peterson. He looked poised to have an even BETTER 2009, where after 11 games, he had 871 yards, a better YPC than in 2008, and had found the pay dirt 10 times already. Injury aside, Turner could’ve gone for 1600 again. Though not a vast improvement by any means, you can see that receiving wise, Turner is already having a better year than in 2008, and could even see that number approach 250 by year’s end, which would destroy a career high (…87 yds). Turner is approaching 30, the RIP stage for backs, but don’t look for him to slow down. His first four season in SD, he only had a combined 220+ touches, so really, this big boy is about 28 when it comes to the game.

5. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
Best: (2009/2010): 312-1391-15 TD’s/53-374-3 TD’s … 299-1324-5 TD’s/34-317-2 TD’s
Current Season: 148 att, 677 yds, 2 TD’s … 11 rec, 74 yds

I was lucky enough to meet the man himself a few years back... If he's 5' 7", I'm 6' 2"...


Something that will always go unnoticed is how professionally the Jacksonville Jaguars handled the departure of Fred Taylor. It was known, early into MJD’s career, that he would supplant Taylor eventually. The Jags stuck with a two back system, before finally letting Taylor slip into anonymity in New England. MJD hasn’t let Jacksonville down, and has been destroying opponents ever since.

With a low center of gravity, opponents have often claimed that it is near impossible to see MJD behind his offensive line, until it is often too late. Although his reception numbers are way down, I think Jacksonville is allowing MJD to carry the full work load of carries, and not risk injury swinging him outside too often. Good plan by Jack Del Rio, MJD is the cog that’s turning the wheel, and will be for years to come.

4. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
Best Season (2009): 358 att, 2,006 yds, 14 TD’s … 50 rec, 503 yds, 2 TD’s
Current Season: 93 att, 268 yds, 1 TD … 24 rec, 143 yds

First off, let me say, totally biased statement statement coming up in about 5… 4… 3… 2… 1. I absolutely hate Chris Johnson. I think he’s a punk, overrated, and now over-paid, dumbass. If you haven’t heard him do an interview, go find one, and right now. He’s had a twitch ever since he was younger, so let me clarify I am in no way making fun of it. He just talks like he has no education whatsoever. But hey, power to him, he’s rich as hell.

Football wise, Johnson gave fans perhaps the best season by a runningback we will ever witness. Over 2500 yards from scrimmage, he ripped off some incredible games (see above). That being said, I still think CJ2K is a tad overrated. He hasn’t pulled off anything spectacular since. His reception numbers are way down this year, and he’s averaging an abysmal 2.9 YPC this season. But hey, give us a season like 2009, and you’ve earned your spot on potential alone.

3. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
Best Season (2010): 207 att, 1,080 yds, 7 TD’s … 78 rec, 592 yds, 2 TD’s
Current Season: 105 att, 569 yds, 6 TD’s … 21 rec, 123 yds, 2 TD’s

Shady McCoy's one flaw? His middle name is Kamel. You can't make this stuff up.

LeSean McCoy, without a doubt in my mind, is probably the most underrated runningback in the NFL. In only his third season, he is quite the force. As a Giants fan, I dread playing the Eagles because of McCoy. He is insanely shifty, and is probably one of the biggest “three cut backs” since Barry Sanders. Not comparing the two of them in terms of skill, but LeSean McCoy is right up there in terms of shiftiness.

Although McCoy isn’t on pace to repeat his receiving numbers from last year, if the Eagles can right the ship, he will definitely start seeing more balls thrown his way from Vick. Look for McCoy to put up fantastic numbers year after year. When Peterson and Co. start to decline, McCoy could become the best runningback in the league.

2. Arian Foster, Houston Texans
Best Season (2010): 327 att, 1,616, 16 TD’s … 66 rec, 604 yds, 2 TD’s
Current Season: 102 att, 420 yds, 3 TD’s … 21 rec, 305 yds, 1 TD

See: Caption, Darren McFadden...

Foster, a third year pro from Tennessee, completely broke out in 2010. His 2,220 yards from scrimmage ranked 18th all time, and of course, 1st in the league for the year. Foster was banged up earlier this season, but has had some incredible games since coming back to action. He is probably the best ball catching back in the NFL, and even with the missed time, could surpass last years total of 600+ yards through the air.

Foster could be number one, if he was able to stay healthy. His receiving skills are out of this world, and for how big he is [6′ 1”, 230 LBS], he can certainly rip off some huge runs, with some shifty cuts thrown in. Only 25 years old, Foster has plenty in the tank.

1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Best Season: See Figure 1.0
Current Season: 146 att, 712 yds, 8 TD’s … 11 rec, 49 yds

If you honestly thought this spot could belong to anyone else, than you, my good sir, are a fucking idiot. The runningback position is completely loaded with inconsistency. While trying to find the best season for some of these guys, usually it stood right out. Why? Because usually it was straddled in-between a couple season with only 800 yards, and a few TD’s. Adrian Peterson, is without a doubt, the best runningback in the National Football League, and is the epitome of consistency.

Figure 1.0: This, ladies and gents, is called fucking DOMINATION.

Although critics used to point to AD’s fumble numbers, he has brought them down considerably the last two seasons. The man runs like an absolute savage, with vengeance on his mind. He also has multiple feel good stories about the kind of person that he is.

When Peterson was a youngster, he was playing outside his home, and watched his older brother get gunned down in a drive by shooting. Peterson claims his older brother was even better than he was, and credits him for making Peterson the back that he is.

It doesn't matter if you catch him, he'll just run you over anyway.

A year ago, a lucky ESPN The Magazine subscriber won the chance to meet Peterson and hang out for the day. A Viking’s fan won, obviously, and after he spent the day with Peterson on a photo shoot in the Minnesota stadium, he went to take his leave. Peterson asked why he was leaving so early, and asked him to stay longer to hang out. Before he finally left, late at night, Peterson insisted he take a couple footballs, and his cleats, all signed of course.

The final story, and perhaps the best, happened during this off-season. During the Chris Johnson lockout, Peterson’s father, and mentor, called Adrian to remind him that he had signed a contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Because the Vikings had honored their end, by making Peterson the main back, and by giving him as many carries as he desired, that Peterson would honor his end, and finish up his contract. Peterson said of course he would. When a reporter asked him if he was worried about his contract situation, Peterson said that the only thing he cared about was playing football.

Beast. Plain and simple.

How did the Vikings reward Peterson? A six year extension worth 97 million dollars, the richest ever for a runningback. Just to prove his importance, the deal will pay Peterson a whopping 40 MILLION over the next three years, while Chris Johnson will be receiving 31 million. Suck it CJ.

All in all, Peterson has been on a team with a good deal of lineman switches, and plenty of QB experiences, yet one thing has remained constant. Adrian Peterson is a complete and total monster. Armed with a new deal, at only 26 years of age, Peterson is poised to finish in the top 10 in career rushing yards. The man is a beast. All Day, every day.

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