Denver, CO. Everyone who watches the NFL is aware of what is going on. As time goes on, the league has continually made changes to the rules to ensure that games are typically high scoring, and points scored now are at an all-time high. Although there are plenty of old school fans who love a 10-7 grudge match between two defensive teams, most fans love an aerial shootout where the pigskin is consistently sailing through the sky. The NFL is experiencing all-time popularity, and a huge part of it has to do with teams scoring more points on average than they ever have before. Defenses are no longer allowed to do much more than even breathe on offensive players without incurring some sort of penalty. The QB’s today, as a whole, are the best signal callers this league has ever seen as well. So many things are contributing to the bulbs in the scoreboards staying very active on any given Sunday. So where does this leave current running backs in the NFL today? We have seen the fullback basically disappear over the last decade or so, as the position is almost completely extinct. With wide open offenses being the norm now, there are plenty of offensive schemes where there isn’t anyone in the backfield on certain plays except for the QB. Will we one day see an NFL where there literally are no running backs whatsoever? That is probably a stretch, but the game is evolving to a point where teams are currently throwing well over 50% of the time. This means the teams that do have a high quality running game have a leg up on other teams that do not. Take a look around the league, and it would be easy to argue that the best teams today have some of the best running backs the NFL has to offer. The average career span of an NFL running back is under four years, so the duration where they are in their prime is typically extremely short. As time goes on, there are also less “stud” backs in the league compared to even five or ten years ago. But with this said, there are still some outstanding runners who can lay claim to being difference makers in the game today. Here are the top 7 backs in the National Football League……
7 – Marshawn Lynch - Beast Mode. Lynch has had a rebirth up in Seattle, after a few years where he was inconsistent in Buffalo. He has several off-field incidents which has also curtailed his career to an extent, but he seems to have left those in his rear view mirror. When this guy is on top of his game, he is a handful to try and bring down. His power style of running is quite rare in today’s NFL, and he always seems to keep his legs chugging. He is one of the few running backs who can say he is the key to his teams offense. Lynch can break away in the open field, and is no treat to tackle for any defensive back.
6 – Matt Forte - Forte is easily one of the most versatile backs in the NFL, as his pass catching ability allows him to line up almost anywhere on offense. He is a threat out of the backfield as a runner, but can also take a screen pass the distance. He has the combination of possessing power, speed, and elusiveness, while also having great hands as a receiver. Simply put, he is one of the best all around offensive players in the NFL today.
5 – Maurice Jones-Drew - Pocket Hercules. Coming out of UCLA a few years ago, most teams felt he was just too small to flourish in the pro game. Pretty safe to say, he has proven those critics dead wrong. MJD led the NFL in rushing in 2011, and even though defenses continue to focus on him, he is still getting it done. At times, he is difficult to see behind his offensive linemen, which gives him a huge advantage sneaking through the holes they provide for him. He is also an excellent pass catcher, and is easily the biggest offensive threat on the Jaguars team. It’s amazing he is still as productive as he is with all of the attention gets every week from opposing defenders.
4 – LeSean McCoy - Shady McCoy is the closest thing I have seen to Barry Sanders since he left the game over a decade ago. LeSean has speed, quickness, and an outstanding burst no matter where he is on the field. He is one of the few players in the NFL who is a threat to score on any given play. This guy can do it all, and is equally as good as a runner or receiver. If Philly ever game him the ball enough on running plays, there is no doubt that he would lead the NFL in rushing.
3 – Adrian Peterson - The bionic man. Rarely do we see a running back come back from an ACL tear and be even close to what he used to be. But the following year? What this guy is already doing this season, just nine months after injuring his knee is simply remarkable. He is a freak of nature, and a physical beast. Before the injury, he probably would have been #1 on this list, but being ranked #3 is still amazing considering how things looked for him last December. If he can stay healthy, he should go down as one of the top 10 running backs of all-time.
2 – Ray Rice - This guy stays under the radar somewhat, as his quiet demeanor is mainly why. But his production cannot be ignored, as a runner and a receiver. Rice rarely misses any time, as he has proven to be very durable. His low center of gravity makes tackling him extremely difficult. Baltimore has moved to more of a pass-oriented offense, but when they decide to give the ball to Ray, he typically comes through in a major way. Rice is one of the biggest threats in the league, and when gets the ball a lot, the Ravens usually win.
1 – Arian Foster - Simply put, there is nothing as a running back that Foster cannot do extremely well. He runs with power over defenders, can run past them with his outstanding speed, and has great hands as well. He is what many fans call a “down-hill” back, as he rarely gets tackled in the backfield for a loss. Foster is #1 on the list because he can do it all, and has great size to add to it. When healthy, he is simply the best running back in the NFL today. Can you believe he wasn’t even drafted in 2009? Just goes to show how inexact scouting is and what a crapshoot the NFL draft is each and every year.
Denver Sports by J Simp