• June 10, 2023

The Top Ten NFL Running Backs

The future of the NFL remains in doubt thanks to an ongoing dispute between the league’s owners and the association formerly known as the Player’s Union.

While the labor talks and appeals processes are taking place, the NFL Network has put together a list of the leagues top 100 players.

It’s hard for me to discern the top overall football players because of the various positions. Even the different positions have different roles depending on which team a player is on.

Moving on to running back, this is a difficult position to judge because each team uses their backs differently.

Would Adrian Peterson be as productive in Andy Reid’s offense? Could LeSean McCoy become a 30 carry per game workhorse? The answer to both questions is: Probably not.

Based on how they maximize their skill set for the team they play for, these are my current top 10 running backs in the NFL.

1. Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings): The NFL has become a passing league where you need great QB production and/or a committee of 2-3 running backs to be successful. Peterson is one of the last running backs that can the focal point of an offense (Although a quality QB makes things much easier). In 2010, he proved he could reduce his fumbles as well.

2. Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans): Johnson is evidence that speed kills. He may be the fastest guy in the league and every time he touches the ball, he’s a threat to go the distance. Just like Peterson, Johnson could use a quality starting QB to take the pressure off him.

3. Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons): After leading the league in rushing and getting closer to the age of 30, I’m not sure how long Turner can stay at the top. Right now though, he’s still a threat to reach 1500 yds rushing and 10+ TDs.

4. Steven Jackson (St. Louis Rams): Because he plays for the Rams, a lot of people have forgotten how good Jackson is. Until last year, he also had a tough time lasting an entire season.

5. Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs): Charles rushed for almost 1500 yards and he wasn’t even supposed to be the starter for the Chiefs. Going in to 2011 with Thomas Jones as his backup from the beginning, he might be even more productive.

6. Rashard Mendenhall (Pittsburgh Steelers): People are going to judge him for his use of Twitter. His drive killing fumble in the Super Bowl won’t be easily forgotten either. Still, Mendenhall is one of the better running backs in the league who’s improved each season. The boos at Heinz Field will stop after he scores his first TD of 2011.

7. Darren McFadden (Oakland Raiders): McFadden was the leader of the Raiders No. 2 rushing attack. With Michael Bush possibly leaving via free agency (whenever that is….), Run DMC will be expected to carry a bigger workload.

8. LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles): If Andy Reid utilized McCoy on the ground more, he could be one of the top three running backs in the league. On the pass happy Eagles, McCoy still reached 1000+ yards thanks to his 5.2 yards per carry. Thanks to Philly’s offense, he led all running backs in receptions.

9. Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars): What’s amazing about Jones-Drew is his ability to carry a heavy workload at his size (5’7”, 208 lbs). He’d be higher on this list if he didn’t show that he’s starting to break down at the end of last season.

10. Arian Foster (Houston Texans): Foster led the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. He needs another year like 2010 to move up higher though.

Honorable mention: Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens)- needs to get in the end zone more; Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers)- injuries ended what would’ve been a great season; Peyton Hillis (Cleveland Brown)- how many Browns have had two good seasons in a row lately?

I know the debates are coming and I look forward to reading them.

Next: Wide Receivers

Haran Knight

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May 19, 2011 8:18 am

No way that you can put McCoy ahead of Jones-Drew. You can’t put him their on what he could do if he got the ball more.

May 19, 2011 9:02 am

I put. McCoy where I put him based on his yards per carry and the fact that he was the leagues best pass catching RB. Jones-Drew has to show that he can be available health-wise in December again.

May 19, 2011 9:09 am

I’ll put Jones Drew before Jamal Charles so that will make Jones Drew #5, Ray Rice over Mendenhall, so that will make him #6, and then Lesean McCoy at #7 and Rashard Mendenhall at #8, Jamal Charles #9, and then Arian Foster at #10……. Mcfadden in my book is honorable mention…….. 1-4 sounds just about correct no argument their…….

May 19, 2011 9:40 am

Lot’s of Good RB around the leauge
It’s hard to overlook DeAngelo Williams from the Panthers (who was injured a lot last season)
Matt Forte from the Bears catches a lot of balls,blocks well.
Ahmad Bradshaw is very effective in his role as part of the Giants Tandem
Cedric Benson even has has 2 solid Seasons in a row with the Bengals

I think a very underrated RB is Fred Jackson of the Buffalo Bills,
He missed their first 2-3 games last season due to injury and still ended up
925 Yards Rushing with another 30 Catches for 200 more yards. These are even more impressive when you think that he plays for the Buffalo BIlls who are most likely losing most of the time by the 2nd Half which would limit his total touches…

May 19, 2011 9:45 am

I’ll be keeping an eye on Legarrette Blount this season. With over 1,000 yards in just seven starts, he’s definitely going to be in that second tier of backs.

May 19, 2011 10:05 am

Agree Ron,
I meant to mention him.. He runs with a nasty attitude and has a major chip on his should since he went undrafted due to his punching incident on Natinal TV a couple of years back.. I think Tamp Bay is a definitee playoff contendor and will be a major competitor with the Eagles for the next 5-6-8 years since they are so young like the Eagles are…

May 19, 2011 10:09 am

So I guess the question is how you put this in a context because if you were given the choice between the 2, would you choose McCoy over MJD? I wouldn’t. He is 2 seasons removed from a 16 td season and the only reason why he didn’t have that many last year is that they Jags put in a big back on the goal line. He is also a better blocker than McCoy.

And honestly you are going off of 1 seasons worth of stats for McCoy which brings Foster into the picture. He had a better season that McCoy, so I would put him ahead of McCoy too. 2200 total yards to 1800.

And Ron, you are right, Blount is a monster and he will punch you in the face if you disagree.

May 19, 2011 10:11 am

And Roc is right about Rice too.

May 19, 2011 11:32 am

Blount will punch you in the face and run away. MJD is on another level than Mccoy, as is Ray Rice. I would say Mcfadden is better than Mendanhall who I feel should be honorable mention. Blount is an undrafted rookie free agent who didnt get a full season, yet you are all on his bandwagon folks? How about some consistency? Matt Forte was a joke last season paulman, he stinks. So does fred jackson. Thats just a joke of a mention. He isnt in the top 20. I really think that Cedric Benson deserves a mention, as he ressurects his carrer in a very difficult place to look good. Also think Peyton Hillis could be higher, but as you mention, as a brown, he could have been a flash in the pan.

May 19, 2011 12:00 pm

Forte had 1600 total yards last year and 9 TDs. He is not in my top 10, but he is hardly a joke coming off of last season.

As far as your point on Blount, many on this list are based off of 1 solid season and their potential for more, so why wouldn’t you consider what he could do in a full season?

May 19, 2011 12:46 pm

@Bugsyhawk….. I agree……. a lot of guys are just Baha Men compared to consistant running backs who do this every season like Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson……. Blount had a great rookie season…… He also had 1 hit in college and jumped around like the house of pain in anger……. He might be the next Cadillac excuse me…….. Corolla Williams this season perhaps…… the same with Arian Foster who beasted last season but with Kubiak and that zone blocking scheme….. Home of the Denver Bronco’s system……. Anyone can become a +1,000 yard rusher in that scheme…… Hell Reno Mahe can come out of retirement and revive his career there in Houston….

May 19, 2011 12:56 pm

This really depends if were are rating from 2011 only or overall carriers. I would assume active players period. Id take maurice and put him at number 3. The guy is the only damn thing the jags have period!! Teams key in on him and he still gets it done. Mcfadden was a beast this past year but lets see what he does next year id put him at 10!

May 19, 2011 12:59 pm

Paulman’s Ranking’s on RB who are Overrated/Busts in the NFL
#1) Knowshon Moreno
#2) Reggie Bush
#3) Brandon Jacobs
#4) Cadillac “Dodge” WIlliams
#5) Marion Barber

May 19, 2011 1:07 pm

What about the top ten no-names who kill the eagles or perhaps made a name for themselves and became bums once again!!!!!!

1) Deshawn Foster
2) Sam’con Gado
3) Eddie Kennison
4) Bethel Johnson
5) Michael Jenkins
6) Joe Webb
7) Jamarcus Russel had his best game ever in his career against the eagles… SMH!!!!!
8) Ahmad Carroll still SMH!
9) Earl Bennett….. He’ll have 10 catches all season long and when he plays the eagles he’ll get 8 catches 162 yards and 2 tds.??????? Why????
10) Kenny Britt…… Last season made a name for himself!!!!!! After injury I heard one of the commentators saying…… “The Titans wish they had Britt after his game against the Eagles”, “Now that the Titans have aquired Randy Moss”!………

May 19, 2011 1:14 pm

@Paulman…… Marion Barber fell of like Hedo Turkoglu has fallen in his career…… Marion is no-longer the Barbarian anymore……. More like Marion the Vegetarian Barber……. Him taking those hits took a toll on him….. So did Christian Okoye……. Steve Atwater laid the wood to him…….. Brandon Jacobs has fallen as well……. Big boys become toys after a while…..

May 19, 2011 1:20 pm

To Jroc

You forgot James Starks as Eagle Killers from last year Packer Playoff game who ran for 122 yards (80 of which came running around the left end past and at Trent Cole)
And of course, who can never forget James Mungro from the Colts a few years back who slashed the Eagles D for almost 200 Yards..
I have to take a walk for some fresh air…

May 19, 2011 1:21 pm

dawkplex’s top ten

1. Adrian peterson
2. CJ2k
3. Maurice jones Drew
4. Frank gore (frank makes up 50 percent of there offense)
5. Stephen jackson
6. Jamal charles
7. Arian Foster ( my sleeper in fantasy this past year, had him and peterson)
8. Michael Turner ( this is probably a little low but his 2009 season was nothiing to brag about)
9. Mcfadden ( he was a BEAST)
10. Lesean mccoy (between him and mcfadden im torn)

May 19, 2011 1:21 pm

hahaha jroc dont get me started on that list of no names lol hahah

May 19, 2011 1:23 pm

To Jroc

Add Redskins RB R Torrain to the list too..( I think Nate Allen’s bell is stll ringing from getting run over by Torrain at the 5 yd line last year)

May 19, 2011 1:23 pm

you know it also depends on what style of offense your trying to play, michael turner would never do well in the eagles system, but mccoy is a stud

May 19, 2011 1:42 pm

Almost forgot and would be remiss if I didn’t inlcude the Best/Worst Dressed Category at RB…

Best Dressed RB – Clinton Portis of the Redskins

Worst Dressed RB – Clinton Portis of the Redskins

May 19, 2011 2:00 pm

Jroc’s 10 ten adjustments for Andy Reid and the Eagles organization to change/get/improve!!!!!!

1) Nnamdi Asomugha……… We haven’t had a solid corner core since Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent with Al Harris in the slot A-……. Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown were good perhaps a B+……. Sheldon Brown had gained weight throughout his career in Philly and was looking like Trotter on the field when you looked at your television from a far……. Lito was good but struggled against tall receivers and a ton of no-name guys who beat him on plays….. With his injuries and him crying about a new deal wasn’t going to pan out in Philly much longer……

2) A more balanced approach on offense…….. Since the Rams of the late 90’s early 2000’s offense was the key to success…… They also had a hall of fame Qb Kurt Warner/Marshall Faulk/Issac Bruce/ and Tory Holt and they were almost unstoppable on offense……. With a great offensive core with Mike Martz running this system they were like the Saints of now…… Their defense was just good enough/ make a few stops and get the offense back on the field type deal and it worked for them…….. But now The Nfl is a defensive game and Defense wins championships!!!! They didnt run the ball that often but who would with a core like this in place…… Passing and running the ball will help your team in so many ways…… Everyone learned the Mike Martz system and now he’s been on 3-4 different teams since and just got it right to finally run the ball or Cutler is going to get killed!!!!!! Being balanced is the key!!! It makes your defense rest and it opens up more trick plays to happen!!!!

3) Test the free-agent market……. Jevon Kearse, Terrell Owens……. We went to the Super Bowl that year and haven’t seen it since…… That was in 2004-2005 it’s 2011 now???? Maybe we need to get back to what got us to the superbowl shall we?????

4) D-Jax no longer at Punt Return unless needed……. How many times do you look at the T.V. or at the game and you see D-Jax return a punt and it looks as if theres no room for him to make a good return and you yell “GOOOOO OUT OF BOUNDS DESHAWN”!………… But he takes a hit and rolls his ankle and he’s hobbling off the field……. It’s a gift and a curse if you ask me……. He could return one like he did against the Giants or he can get hurt as well…….. But the eagles recently aquired Sinorance Moss and if healthy he could do damage for us on special teams……

5) Omar Gaither……. This kid once lead our team in tackles if not he was second and looked like a promising player to make plays for us……. If the Eagles dont’t release him or just give him a whistle please let this man go…….. He’s smart and knows the game but give him an eagles polo shirt and a sun visor and let him be an intern coach or something…… Dont let him put on pads please!!!!!!

6) Getting Bigger…….. Speed is good…… But we need Big boys……. We drafted two years straight on Patterson and Bunkley and they aren’t worth TWO DEAD FLIES SMASHED compared to Antonio Dixon who the Redskins drafted…… Makes you think Hmmmmmm!…….. Laws is coming around a bit better but he’s a speedster who is used just for the pass rush…… We need a Haynesworth or Shaun Rogers type guy to blast the holes so everyone else can make plays…….. Cant argue with that!!!!!

7) Big Reds have a twix moment on clock management!!!!! My gosh…….. There needs to be a pager or something to let andy know when to call a timeout……. he’ll call two timeouts in the 4th quarter with 9 mins. left in the game?????? Please Andy go to time management classes or something while the lockout is still in place!!!! I’ll pay for the course….. JUST GO!!!!

8) Trent Cole to be moved more on the defensive line……. Let him play LE and RE but not the LB position……. If theirs a tackle who gives up a ton of sacks…. Put him in that position….. If theirs a rookie on the LE side put Trent Cole on that side……. Common knowledge Andy Reid….. Our best defensive player and you keep him on one side of the field????? I’m not saying he’s Julius Peppers but he’s athletic and has a great motor to make plays happen….

9) King Dunlap……… Man O Man O Man……. I would have him and Howard Mudd stay together like flies on S@*%…….. If he’s going to make it in Philly Green he must learn how to become an NFL ready OT……… Throwing players in to your Qb aint going to cut it…….

10) Andy Reid’s Challange Flag…….. Dont put it in your pocket Andy…… Tom Coughlin pulls it right out his sock quick fast and a hurry and he’s almost always right when he comes to challenges……. Why wont andy put it in his HAT perhaps?????? Or how bout his mustache LOL…… Just joking…… Andy has to be the worse when it comes to challenges……. Can I get a HOT TUB!!!!! LOL

May 19, 2011 2:01 pm

LMAO @Paulman James Mungro OMG!!! I forgot about him…… Man O Man!!!!!

May 19, 2011 2:12 pm

@Dawkplex……. Brother Clayton Bigsby from the Chapelle Show said…… If you got hate in your heart let it out!!!!!!….. LOL!!!!! Why these no name bums become special against the eagles…….. I just dont get it……. If you have some guys you feel should be on this list as well…….. Let the hate out!!!!!!! Some of these guys haven’t been on anyones fantasy draft!!!!! But they sure make a name for the following week against someone else and what happens……. They get shut down!!!!!

May 19, 2011 3:30 pm

to Jroc757
I was so upset and pissed after that Mungro game that I called out of work that
Monday and told my boss I had a bad case of “Mungroitis”..

May 19, 2011 5:55 pm

1.Kevin Kolb
2.Chris Johnson
3.Adrian Peterson

May 22, 2011 8:33 am

To Jroc…

1. Nnamdi Asomugha… The guy needs to be willing to come to us as well. We are not some lame duck team. He needs to come at a value. Does not necessarily need to be a steal but he can’t just demand what he has been.

2. I couldn’t agree more than balancing out the offense more. I would love to see teams try to figure out a way to contain Djax and Vick, AND more often, lesean McCoy. I think that is the key here though.. McCoy. The guy is good and proved it last year. I think we need to ride on him a little more often to open things up or close deals and or close out the clock. We will absolutely need to run more on the Giants this year.

3. The area I’ve been super content with is Free Agency. I love how everyone points to us having T.O. and Kearse and we go to the superbowl that year as the reason to jump in the pool. First off you could look at either as bust in one way or another. Look at teams like Green Bay, Pittsburgh.. Where is there huge free agency splash? Now lets look at teams like the Redskins.. With Big Al and so on..

Busts are far more common via FA than the Gems.. I think that by signing Vick we are looks pretty damn good right now. With the direction this team is going based off the draft I must say I feel REALLY good about our offense.

6. Dixon did a bang up job last year and I think with our new scheme Bunkly really will have a chance to shine. There were times last year that bunk tossed people around, I’m not sure you get how strong that guy is. He was simply doing his job since he has been in the league. I’m optimistic that the system Castillo is implementing will only benefit that guy. Patterson is forgettable to me and so is Trevor Laws but like I said with this new system in place. I can’t wait to see what could happen.

8, I agree with you, if you smell blood in the water you move Trent Cole there in my opinion. I really feel like he is a another guy that was misused so much in recent eagles football that we really haven’t see this guy peak yet.

I read stuff on the Eagles all the time just like you guys.. The one year I actually buy into what the eagles are trying to do as a team and the league shuts down… ugh.