Now that the top 5 quarterbacks piece is safely in our rear view mirror, we can begin to move on to positions where there is likely to be more disagreement and discussion about who belongs in the top 5. Today, we’ll attempt to tackle the top 5 running backs in the NFL. In reality, there were just over five guys I felt deserved consideration, and as always, you probably won’t agree with most of these. Let’s jump right in.
5. LeSean McCoy
In just his third year in the NFL, McCoy burst onto the scene in 2011 with nearly 5 yards per carry and just over 1,300 yards. Add 17 rushing touchdowns to that list, and you have yourself one of the best young runners in the league. He’s rated at just 5th on this list because I’m always cautious about giving too much credit to one hit wonders. Still, I see no reason why he won’t climb this list as his career progresses.
4. Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson would have been first on this list had he avoided tearing his ACL and MCL against the Washington Redskins at the tail end of the Vikings’ disappointing 2011 campaign. These types of injuries have the potential to derail great careers, especially at the running back position. We’ll all be holding our collective breath when Peterson finally takes the field in a game situation later this year.
3. Arian Foster
Foster’s production dropped significantly from 2010 to 2011, but he’s still earned his place on this list. Foster is a rare blend of speed, quickness, and power. Basically, he’s an all around runner that is difficult to hit and even more difficult to take to the ground. He averaged a career low 4.4 yards per carry. Most runners in the NFL would love to average 4.4 yards each touch they get, so I’d say he’s doing just fine.
2. Darren McFadden
Am I aware that McFadden only played in 7 games in 2011? Sure I am. Are you aware that he’s averaged over 5 yards per carry over the past two years? I doubt it. McFadden is probably the one guy on this list many of you will disagree with. He, like Foster, is quick and difficult to take down. He’s a more powerful runner than Foster, and that’s what gave him the nod at 2nd on this list. Look for big things from McFadden in 2012.
1. Maurice Jones-Drew
Almost all of you would have Maurice Jones-Drew on your version of this list, but I venture to say that almost none of you, the readers, would put him at number 1. Jones-Drew led the league in rushing yards in 2011 with 1,606 yards on the worst passing offense in the league. In short, he was playing with a stacked box all season, and he still was able to force the ball down the defense’s throat, and for that, I rank him as the NFL’s best running back.
Ray Rice ranked 6th on our list. I feel that he’s a very similar guy to Jones-Drew, but he doesn’t show the same determination and toughness that I believe Jones-Drew does.
Matt Forte ranked 7th on our list. He’s a great all around runner, but he’s often given more credit than he likely deserves. He’s a franchise running back, but he’s not what I would call among the “elite” runners in the league.