Running backs were once the cornerstone of NFL offenses. Those days have come and passed and today running backs are being used far less than ever imagined. With that said, there are still certain players in this league whose skillset transcend the heavy pass mold. Many of these players do this by becoming more competent as receivers.
As the game evolves, so does the position. Runners are being asked more frequently to block and catch passes out of the backfield. A versatile running back is one of the most valuable commodities in the game today. We’re going to look at the top 5 NFL running backs, whether they do their damage on the ground or through the air.
- Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Though Bell lost nearly the entire 2015 season to suspension and injury, he is still tops on my list of best running backs. A Superman like combination of power and speed, Bell makes life difficult for any opposing defense. He is expected to make a full recovery from his gruesome knee injury to be ready for the 2016 season to make his claim as king of the running backs.
- Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Coming off of a 2014 season in which he spent most of the time on the bench with a suspension, Peterson came back with a vengeance. In 2015 Peterson led the NFL in rushing yards, touchdowns and first downs. Peterson was the clear-cut best running back going into the NFL playoffs and is likely deserving of a comeback player of the year award, though that award is likely going to Kansas City Chief’s safety, Eric Berry. Berry returned this season after winning his fight against cancer. This year could spell the end of Peterson’s reign, as running backs typically hit a wall after their 30th birthday. To be fair, Adrian Peterson is not a typical running back.
- Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams
After a sensational college career at The University of Georgia, Gurley picked right up where he left off in the NFL after returning from injury, which caused him to miss his first 2 games. In bursts, Gurley was the best running back in the NFL. In his first 2 starts, TG3 put up 128 and 133 yards, respectively, and 3 touchdowns. Though his yards tapered off (other than a bigtime week 14, where he put up 140 yards and 2 touchdowns) Gurley was still amongst the most productive at the position. Had he not missed 3 games to injury, Gurley would have made a run at the yards and touchdown trophies. For his season he finished with 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in just 13 games. To put that into perspective, the leader for rushing touchdowns only had 11 touchdowns.
- Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
After his season ending prematurely due to another ACL tear, there are many questions about the direction of Charles’ career. Approaching 30 years old, Charles, like Peterson, is expected to fall off a cliff statistically. This is especially true for Charles’ speed-back style of play. Though there will be doubt in the heads of many analysts, experts and coaches; if Charles believes he can play, the world should trust him. Because of some of his injuries, his body does not have as much wear and tear as some others. This could give his career a little extra life. Though it should be expected that Charles will be the player to debunk the myth about running backs at age 30, I do believe Charles has one season left in those track star legs.
- Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
One of the most confusing, unpredictable players in the entire league. Martin goes from being replaced, to taking the league by storm. After a tremendous rookie year and subpar years to follow, most believed Martin to be a flash in the pan player. After being trade bait all offseason, Martin started the season #1 on the Buccaneers depth chart, but had as short of a leash as any player in the league. With the help of Charles Sim’s poor play, Doug Martin never gave up the job through his poor play to start the season. Martin eventually got hot and ended the season as the NFL’s second best rusher with over 1,400 yards. Martin was also the most efficient runner, logging 4.9 yards per carry, which was tops in the NFL (min. 150 carries).