Picking the top 10 RBs in the NFL is a much harder task than picking QBs. There are some good running backs who don’t get to run as often because there team is always down (Steven Jackson) and some running backs who are more a product of their system than being talented (Darren Sproles). There’s no “game winning drive” statistic because when a team needs a score, it’s not usually the RB that is called on to get it and there isn’t a RB rating. However, these 10 guys are the guys I’d want on my team right now.
10. Jamaal Charles – Jamaal Charles sort of came out of nowhere in 2009 with 1,120 yards and 7 TDs on the ground. He followed it up with 1,467 yards last year and 5 TDs on a pretty mediocre Chief’s offense. His injury this season may bring a bit of a downgrade to his future performance but in the 2 full seasons and brief action this year and in 2008, Charles has a career average of 6.1 YPC. He’s also played a big role in the passing game by picking up 117 reception for over 1,000 yards with at least 1 TD each year, including 2011.
9. Matt Forte – Matt Forte has gotten some criticism during his career because he isn’t the best rusher in terms of yards per carry and he had a knack for losing the football. He has turned both of those issues around drastically. In Forte’s first 2 seasons, he averaged 3.9 and 3.6 YPC and fumbled 6 times (5 times in 2009). Even with those numbers he still put up 12 TDs (16 if you count receiving) and averaged 60 receptions and 475 yards. 2010 was a completely different story, he got over 1,000 yards on the ground, averaged 4.5 YPC and didn’t fumble once. He had another 51 receptions for 547 yards and had 9 total TDs. This season, he’s been even better. He’s recorded 672 yards on the ground for an average of 5.4 YPC, still hasn’t fumbled and already has 38 receptions for 419 yards. If his pace keeps up, he will end the season with 1,500 yards, 86 Rec, and 958 Rec yards. He’s also been one of the most explosive players as he has 7 TDs of over 20 yards.
8. Darren McFadden – McFadden has been plagued with injuries his entire career. He’s never played more than 13 games in a season and finds himself injured again this season. However, when he’s healthy, he’s explosive. He has averaged 4.8 YPC over his career and in this season, when he’s been most healthy, he’s got 5.4 YPC with 614 yards in 7 games (6 he actually played through). Putting him at #8 is more of liking how he looks when he’s healthy rather than seeing a benefit of great stats since his numbers have been hurt by his injuries. If he is healthy, he’s one of the best in the game.
7. Frank Gore – In Gore’s 6 full seasons, he’s gotten over 1,000 yards on the ground 4 times despite only playing in all 16 games 1 season. He’s had success as a receiver too, typically a shoe in for 50 Rec and 400 yards each year. What’s especially nice about Gore is he is both an explosive open field runner and a goal line back as he has 15 of his 44 TDs from inside the 3 yard line and 10 of his TDs came on rushes of 30 yards or more. His biggest weakness is fumbling which he has done 28 times during the course of his career.
6. Maurice Jones-Drew – MJD does it all. He’s going to pass 6,000 career rushing yards this year and has 63 TDs in his 5 and a half year career. He’s had over 10 TDs in a season 3 different times and like Gore, is just as likely to bust a 30 yard TD as he is punch it in from the goal line. His contribution to the passing game has been great as well with 246 Rec and 2,173 Rec Yards. He’s also been a model for ball security, never losing more than 2 fumbles in a season.
5. Chris Johnson – Chris Johnson is quick. Really quick. His first 3 seasons in the NFL, he put up 1,228 yards on the ground in his worst season. 2,006 in his best. He also has 38 TDs in 3 seasons and has never had less than 10 in a year. In 2009, when he had over 2,000 rushing yards, he also had 500 yards receiving to add to his historic season. The only reason he isn’t in the top 3, is because this year he seems to have lost his speed. There have been many experts saying his quickness isn’t there and his stats seems to prove this to be true since his 4.8 YPC average has dropped due to him only getting 2.9 this year with only 1 TD.
4. Arian Foster – I thought Arian Foster was a fluke last year. I’m quite convinced he’s not. Last year, his first season as a starter, he collected 1,616 rushing yards, 66 Rec, 604 Rec Yards, and 18 TDs. He started this year hampered by injuries but now that he’s healthy, he’s picking up where he left off. Few RBs in the game right now are able to put up the enormous numbers so consistently as Foster has done.
3. Ray Rice – Rice has been one of the most consistent players in the NFL since becoming the starter in 2009. He had 1,339 yards in 2009 and 1,220 yards in 2010 with another 702 and 556 Rec yards respectively. He has 18 TDs through 2.5 seasons and that was with Willis McGahee, who is arguably a professional TD hawk more than RB, stealing his scores.
2. LeSean McCoy - McCoy wasn’t expected to make a huge impact on the Eagles. Andy Reid is known to be a pass heavy coach and it was assumed few RBs could be like Brian Westbrook was and make use of limited opportunities. Well, McCoy has done just that. He’s averaging just under 5 YPC and last year with only 207 carries, McCoy still got over 1,000 yards. His 78 Rec for 592 yards showed just how Westbrook-like he was. This year, his receiving numbers are down but his YPC are up and he already has 6 TDs on the ground when he had only 7 all last year. There is only more upside to come for McCoy.
1. Adrian Peterson – Like there was any doubt. Peterson has been the best RB in the NFL from the moment he came into the NFL. In his 4 full NFL seasons, his lowest rushing total was 1,300 yards (with 13 TDs) and the fewest TDs he put up was 10 (with 1,760 yards). In 7 games this year, he has 712 yards and 8 TDs. He’s on pace for 1,500 yards and 17-18 TDs right now. In 2008, he fumbled 9 times followed by 6 in 2009 giving him a reputation for not being able to hold onto the ball. Since then, he’s fumbled twice. He only gets better. There is no question here, AP is number 1.