In a league full of big flashy receivers and quarterbacks who are better than ever, the Running Back position seems to be a dying breed. The Tailbacks are being forced into a more passing attack role, causing their receptions and reception yardage to skyrocket.
There are few “bruiser” like running back left in the league like LeGarrett Blount or Adrian Peterson. A much more nimble back is required to make it up on the field. Someone like Jeremy Hill, or Shane Vereen.
5) LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills
At 28 years old, McCoy is the oldest of the bunch here. He still runs like he is in his mid twenties and gains yards like he used to back in Philly. Last season he finished fifth in the league for rushing yards with 1,267 yards and third in the league for rushing touchdowns with 13 Touchdowns in 2016.
He currently has 8,903 career rushing yards. McCoy will most likely eclipse 10,000 for his career this season barring any injuries.
Amidst all the trade rumors flying around him, no matter what team he ends up on, he is a wonderful power back who can take control of the running game. When you put the ball in his hand, you are very likely to get at least his career average of 4.6 yards per carry.
4) Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys
I’m not a fan of putting first or second year players on a list like this. They could be a flash in the pan. We don’t know. Elliott could very well be a one and done kind of back, or he could run the NFL for the next five to seven years.
As a rookie, behind one of the best offensive lines in football, Elliott rushed for a league leading 1,631 yards. He was third only behind Legarrette Blount and David Johnson in touchdowns with 15. The Cowboys lost a few soldiers on their line but I don’t think that will have much of an effect on Elliot.
The one thing we have to keep a close eye on is his suspension. When he comes back from it, will he be determined to be the player he was last season or will he falter away into normal running back like numbers? This suspension could detail any and all momentum that he had ending last season.
3) Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons
Mr. Freeman. Given the contract he just accepted making him the highest paid Running Back in the league you would think he would be at least number two on this list. Now don’t get me wrong, Freeman is a huge part of the Falcons offense and deserved the contract he got. He’s just not the best.
In his three seasons with the Falcons he has gone over 1,000 yards twice. He led the league in 2015 with 11 touchdowns and tied that number last season. He is the first one on this list that is a true legit receiving back that has taken over the NFL. Last season, he had 54 receptions for 462 yards and two touchdowns.
His numbers just don’t add up to top money, but on an Atlanta team that just went to the super bowl, he is the perfect fit. I expect a third season just above 1,000 yards and just over 10 touchdowns.
2) David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals
As the Arizona Cardinals get older and look towards the future without Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald, they can take solace in the fact that they have 25 year old duel threat in the backfield. When Johnson’s payday comes, it’s going to be higher than what Freeman signed this offseason.
Last season, out of the backfield, he had 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns. As a receiver, he had 80 receptions for 879 yards. David is the cornerstone of what the Running Back position is becoming.
The Running Back is such a short lived position in football due to the beating that the players take. When you have a guy as good as Johnson, you build your offense and your scheme around him. His goal should be to carry Palmer and Fitzy to their final sunset in the league.
1) Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
Anyone who knows football knows that Le’Veon Bell is the best Running Back of this generation. The biggest controversy in Pittsburgh this offseason has been all about Bell. Will he re-sign? Will he hold out? Apparently, he had a deal that his agent had worked out worth around $12 million per year. When it got to Le’Veon, he refused to sign. He wants more money. He wants to be paid like a wide out, not like a Running Back.
If I were the Steelers, I would pay him whatever he wants. I would go as high as $16 million per year to keep his services. He’s turning 25 this season. He has the experience that no one else but McCoy has on this list. The biggest concern for him is his suspension history. He’s one strike away from a full year suspension.
Last season, he rushed for 1,268 yards and 7 touchdowns. In the pass game he was second on the team behind star WR Antonio Brown is almost every stat. He had 75 receptions for 616 yards. Another guy, who like Johnson, is the pure definition of a true passing back.