Running backs: Who’s No. 1? We’ll rank them

Written by TK


40.) Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions

2017 stats: 14 games played. 165 car., 552 yards, 3.3 ypc., 39.4 ypg., 4 TD’s / 25 rec., 162 yds., 6.5 ypc., 1 TD

By far the worst starting running back in the NFL last year, he failed to record a single game of more than 100 yards on the ground. During his last 10 games, he was even worse and failed to surpass 60 yards on the ground.

New Lions head coach Matt Patricia is dead set on helping this porous running game improve in 2018.

39.) Giovanni Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

2017 stats: 16 games played. 105 car., 458 yards, 4.4 ypc., 28.6 ypg., 2 TD’s / 43 rec., 389 yds., 9.0 ypc., 2 TD’s

After being replaced as the starter this season, Gio Bernard continued to prove his worth long time with his ability to block and catch out of the backfield.

With Joe Mixon as the starter moving forward, Bernard’s value as a backup will only rise.

38.) Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins

2017 stats: 16 games played. 175 car., 603 yards, 3.4 ypc., 37.7 ypg., 1 TD / 22 rec., 182 yds., 8.2 ypc., 1 TD

The running back situation was like a revolving door in Washington this season, due to the injury to opening day starter Robert Kelly who led the team in rushing last season.

However, Perine would soon get comfortable in his role and posted back to back 100-yard games in games against the Saints and Giants. He will have to make his case this off season to prove that he belongs as a starter.

37.) Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions

2017 stats: 16 games played. 84 car., 286 yards, 3.4 ypc., 17.9 ypg., 3 TD’s / 53 rec., 444 yds., 8.4 ypc., 2 TD’s

Even though he was equally as bad running the football as his teammate that we alluded to earlier, Theo Riddick’s calling card came by way of the passing game.

He was 3rd on the team in receptions and accumulated 730 total yards from scrimmage.

36.) Jerrick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 150 car., 370 yards, 3.8 ypc., 35.6 ypg., 3 TD’s / 51 rec., 421 yds., 8.3 ypc., 2 TD’s

The 4th year back out of Georgia Southern had the best year of his career as a backup behind Latavius Murray, totaling 791 total yards from scrimmage this past season.


35.) Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons


2017 stats: 15 games played. 156 car., 628 yards, 4.0 ypc., 41.9 ypg., 5 TD’s / 27 rec., 299 yds., 11.1 ypc., 3 TD’s

Atlanta’s 1-2 punch of Devonta’ Freeman and Tevin Coleman added another year of synchronized play-making amongst one another and kept the Falcons’ offense fresh for the majority of the season.

Although not as electrifying as he was last year with 11 total TD’s and 941 yards from scrimmage, he was still able to help solidify the running game and is a Class A backup running back who could start for numerous teams.

34.) Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins

2017 stats: 10 games played. 64 car., 294 yards, 4.6 ypc., 29.4 ypg., 2 TD’s / 39 rec., 510 yds., 13.1 ypc., 4 TD’s

This guy came out of nowhere last year and seemed to be on highlight reels almost every night before his season ended with a trip to injured reserve.

His 6 total touchdown’s and 804 yards from scrimmage were both career highs.

33.) Duke Johnson Jr., Cleveland Browns 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 82 car., 348 yards, 4.2 ypc., 21.8 ypg., 4 TD’s / 74 rec., 693 yds., 9.4 ypc., 3 TD’s

One of the few bright spots for the 0-16 Cleveland Browns last year, Duke Johnson Jr., was an absolute threat to score every time he touched the ball.

With a career high 7 total TD’s and over 1,000 yards from scrimmage, he is a dual threat back whose workload will only appear to get larger as time goes on.

32.) Javorius ‘Buck’ Allen, Baltimore Ravens  

2017 stats: 16 games played. 153 car., 591 yards, 3.9 ypc., 36.9 ypg., 4 TD’s / 46 rec., 250 yds., 5.4 ypc., 2 TD’s

In a deep stable of running backs, Buck Allen was forced to reinvent himself in order to find decent playing time. Without registering a single start, he went on to have the best season of his career while being utilized mainly as a short yardage back.

He also improved on his ability to catch out of the backfield. He is a very valuable player for the Baltimore Ravens.


31.) Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears

2017 stats: 16 games played. 87 car., 370 yards, 4.3 ypc., 23.1 ypg., 2 TD’s / 53 rec., 353 yds., 6.7 ypc., 1 TD / 26 kick returns, 583 yds., 22.4 ypr. (long; 46 yds.) / 29 punt returns, 272 yds., 9.4 ypr., 1 TD (long; 61T)

His explosiveness and craftiness in the return game made him a young buck that everyone had to take notice of. Especially after his whirlwind punt return touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers.

The rookie form North Carolina AT&T was a big help to Chicago’s floundering offense, but it remains to see what his overall impact will be in Chicago in years to come. He might be regulated to just special teams.

30.) Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals 

2017 stats: 14 games played. 178 car., 626 yards, 3.5 ypc., 44.7 ypg., 4 TD’s / 30 rec., 287 yds., 9.6 ypc.

The rookie sensation from the University of Oklahoma came into the NFL with some character concerns as he slipped to the middle of the 2nd round.

Mixon kept his nose clean and led the Bengals in rushing yards behind a broken up and rather porous offensive line. If they can upgrade the trenches, watch out. No. 28 can be sensational someday very soon.

29.) Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 110 car., 435 yards, 3.7 ypc., 27.2 ypg., 2 TD’s / 80 rec., 651 yds., 8.1 ypc., 5 TD’s

As predicted by many, Christian McCaffrey struggled mightily running between the tackles and finished the season with sub 500 yards rushing.

However, his value in the passing game would not be denied as he finished 2nd behind Le’Veon Bell amongst running backs in catches with 80.


28.) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers 

2017 stats: 15 games played. 198 car., 680 yards, 3.4 ypc., 45.3 ypg., 6 TD’s / 8 rec., 52 yds., 6.5 ypc., 1 TD

Jonathan Stewart played the role of the short yardage back for the Carolina Panthers in his worst year as far as yards from scrimmage since 2013, an injury riddled season.

His future as the starter is still not completely clear, especially with Christian McCaffrey waiting in the wings.

27.) Demarco Murray, Tennessee Titans 

2017 stats: 15 games played. 184 car., 659 yards, 3.6 ypc., 43.9 ypg., 6 TD’s / 39 rec., 266 yds., 6.8 ypc., 1 TD

After a career rebirth last season in Tennessee with 12 total TD’s and 1,664 yards from scrimmage, Demarco Murray ran head first into a brick wall of ineptitude.

Gone was his explosiveness and quickness hitting holes. Murray looked like an average player and was quickly replaced with former Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry.

26.) Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 133 car., 644 yards, 4.8 ypc., 40.3 ypg., 3 TD’s / 32 rec., 239 yds., 7.5 ypc., 1 TD

After the Dolphins literally gave away Jay Ajayi to the Eagles, Kenyan Drake outplayed Damien Williams to eventually grasp hold of the starting running back spot and did not disappoint.

Although his numbers look average, he is Miami’s most versatile back and will be given more opportunities next year. They are very high on him.

25.) Orleans Darkwa, New York Giants 

2017 stats: 15 games played. 171 car., 751 yards, 4.4 ypc., 50.1 ypg., 4 TD’s / 19 rec., 116 yds., 6.1 ypc.

Orleans Darkwa was one of the few bright spots on the Giants roster. He flashed potential, displaying vision and good contact balance.

He’ll need to show that he can claim the starting job, however heading into next year.


24.) Legarrette Blount, Philadelphia Eagles  

2017 stats: 16 games played. 173 car., 766 yards, 4.4 ypc., 47.9 ypg., 2 TD’s / 8 rec., 50 yds., 6.3 ypc., 1 TD

He had a very underwhelming season after leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year with 18, yet his ability to run unlimited concepts allowed the Eagles to be creative in designing their run game.

Blount runs his paths well and does a great job lowering his shoulder to finish powerfully.

23.) Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 176 car., 744 yards, 4.2 ypc., 46.5 ypg., 5 TD’s / 11 rec., 136 yds., 12.4 ypc., 1 TD

Derrick Henry did a terrific job creating his own yards. On numerous occasions, Henry managed to either burst away from defenders or run them over to gain extra yardage.

Not much of a receiving threat out of the backfield, his size, athleticism, and his running style, gives him a bright future in the league.

22.) Bilal Powell, New York Jets 

2017 stats: 15 games played. 178 car., 772 yards, 4.3 ypc., 51.5 ypg., 5 TD’s / 23 rec., 170 yds., 7.4 ypc.

Powell is a very reliable veteran running back. He rarely coughs up the ball and has the ability to run both power and zone schemes well.

He’s a very sound runner of the football, running with good pad level that enables him to break many arm tackles.

21.) Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings


2017 stats: 16 games played. 216 car., 842 yards, 3.9 ypc., 52.6 ypg., 8 TD’s / 15 rec., 103 yds., 6.9 ypc.

Latavius Murray took over as the No. 1 back when 1st round pick Dalvin Cook went down with an ACL tear in Week 4.

He runs high at times (which is expected of a 6’3″ back), but he doesn’t run over or break as many tackles as his solid 228 lb. frame might suggest.

20.) Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns


2017 stats: 16 games played. 208 car., 853 yards, 4.2 ypc., 53.3 ypg., 2 TD’s / 28 rec., 182 yds., 6.5 ypc.

Crowell still showed flashes of his overall talent and ability. He runs powerfully and enables himself to keep balance through contact and fight for extra yards.

At 5’11”, 225 lbs., Crowell can withstand a heavier workload than he’s had. He has been horribly underused and with more carries, he could wear down defenses more.

19.) Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles 

2017 stats: 14 games played. 208 car., 873 yards, 4.2 ypc., 62.4 ypg., 1 TD / 24 rec., 158 yds., 6.6 ypc., 1 TD

The Eagles’ trading for Jay Ajayi was one of the biggest surprises of the year. The price he came at was even more surprising. The ‘Fins dumped him for a 4th round draft pick after averaging an egregious 3.4 yards a carry.

Ajayi averaged over five yards per carry since the trade and gave the Eagles a nasty one-two punch splitting carries with LeGarrette Blount.


18.) Devonta’ Freeman, Atlanta Falcons 

2017 stats: 14 games played. 196 car., 865 yards, 4.4 ypc., 61.4 ypg., 7 TD’s / 36 rec., 317 yds., 8.8 ypc., 1 TD

Freeman is a violent inside runner, a quick outside runner with an explosive extra burst upfield.

In what could easily be tapped as the worst year of his career since joining the Falcons, he was a mere 18 yards away from having a 3rd consecutive season of more than 1,200 yards from scrimmage.

17.) Lamar Miller, Houston Texans


2017 stats: 16 games played. 238 car., 888 yards, 3.7 ypc., 55.5 ypg., 3 TD’s / 36 rec., 327 yds., 9.1 ypc., 3 TD’s

2017 was a disappointing year by Lamar Miller’s standards. He failed to average at least four yards per carry for the first time in his career.

The Texans will certainly be looking for more out of Miller next year, despite yet another year of 1,200 + yards from scrimmage.

16.) Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 261 car., 961 yards, 3.7 ypc., 60.1 ypg., 3 TD’s / 29 rec., 245 yds., 8.4 ypc., 1 TD

Even at 34, he still ran with excellent technique while amassing 1,206 total yards from scrimmage.

He reads the game well and rarely makes poor decisions. He was still a viable option out of the backfield as a receiver as well.

15.) Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders 

2017 stats: 15 games played. 207 car., 891 yards, 4.3 ypc., 59.4 ypg., 7 TD’s / 20 rec., 151 yds., 7.6 ypc.

Marshawn Lynch’s return to football went under the radar somewhat.

His 1st year back, however was pretty solid. With 1,042 total yards from scrimmage and 7 TD’s, Lynch was considered a bright spot on an otherwise dull Oakland offense.

14.) Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 240 car., 938 yards, 3.9 ypc., 58.6 ypg., 8 TD’s / 59 rec., 350 yds., 5.9 ypc.

After struggling to stay healthy his first few seasons in the NFL, Carlos Hyde finally managed to put together a full 16 games.

He is a solid, well-rounded back who still ran tough and executed Shanahan’s zone scheme well enough to give the 49ers a foundation to build around.

13.) Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens 

2017 stats: 15 games played. 212 car., 973 yards, 4.6 ypc., 64.9 ypg., 6 TD’s / 23 rec., 187 yds., 8.1 ypc.

Alex Colllins was one of the pleasant surprises of the season. He was waived by Seattle and picked up by the Ravens where he has since thrived behind a solid offensive line and a diverse running scheme.

He has earned the starting role for the Ravens and gives their offense a sound foundation.

12.) Dion Lewis, New England Patriots 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 180 car., 896 yards, 5.0 ypc., 56.0 ypg., 6 TD’s / 32 rec., 214 yds., 6.7 ypc., 3 TD’s

Lewis closed the 2017 NFL regular season with a bang. He had 83 carries for 398 yards and three touchdowns in December. They were all season highs for a month and he also added 17 catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

Dion Lewis is without inquiry one of the most underrated backs in the league. If not, the most in the league already.


11.) Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 120 car., 768 yards, 6.1 ypc., 45.5 ypg., 8 TD’s / 81 rec., 826 yds., 10.2 ypc., 5 TD’s

Kamara proved to be a big-play machine in the backfield. He led the league in yards per carry at 6.1 and his abilities as a receiver set him apart and make him such a crucial component of the offense.

Kamara makes the most of every touch he gets. He has incredible balance through contact and somehow manages to stay on his feet through huge hits.

10.) C. J. Anderson, Denver Broncos 

2017 stats: 15 games played. 245 car., 1,007 yards, 4.1 ypc., 62.9 ypg., 3 TD’s / 28 rec., 224 yds., 8.0 ypc., 1 TD

C. J. Anderson is a very reliable workhorse who can switch between zone and gap schemes effortlessly.

Despite the issues at quarterback, Anderson managed to average more than four yards per carry and produced the first 1,000-yard season of his career.

9.) Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 276 car., 1,122 yards, 4.1 ypc., 70.1 ypg., 9 TD’s / 23 rec., 125 yds., 5.4 ypc.

Jordan Howard was an absolute steal for the Bears last season. Despite being the focus of defensive game plans every week this year, Howard still finished in the top 10 in the NFL in rushing yards.

Howard faced eight or more in the box on 43.1% of his carries in 2017, which was the seventh-highest figure in the league.

8.) Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys 

2017 stats: 10 games played. 242 car., 983 yards, 4.1 ypc., 98.3 ypg., 7 TD’s / 26 rec., 269 yds., 10.3 ypc., 2 TD’s

His season will likely be remembered for the suspension, which it should if the allegations against him are true.

Although still an immensely talented runner, Elliot dropped a full yard per carry in his second season and that is a cause for concern. Not to mention, he wasn’t in tip top shape. For him, 2017 could not have ended sooner.

7.) Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 230 car., 1,124 yards, 4.9 ypc., 70.9 ypg., 12 TD’s / 58 rec., 416 yds., 7.2 ypc.

Mark Ingram is quietly having the most productive year of his career. He’s a fantastic back in his own right and has run multiple schemes at a high level.

He’s passed the 1,000-yard mark in each of the last two seasons, and he ranks sixth in the league in rushing yards this year.

6.) Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars 

2017 stats: 13 games played. 268 car., 1,040 yards, 3.9 ypc., 80.0 ypg., 9 TD’s / 36 rec., 302 yds., 8.4 ypc., 1 TD

Leonard Fournette had a streaky rookie year. He had 100-yard games against the Texans, Steelers, Rams, Browns and Seahawks. However in games against the 49ers (48 yards) and the Cardinals (25 yards), he missed a few lanes and was ultimately bottled up.

Nonetheless, Fournette gives the Jaguars encouragement going forward. However, he will need to improve his consistency to get to the next level.

5.) Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 284 car., 1,105 yards, 3.9 ypc., 69.1 ypg., 8 TD’s / 58 rec., 476 yds., 8.2 ypc., 4 TD’s

Melvin Gordon has been a breath of fresh air these past two years after his nightmarish rookie season. He’s at his best in the open field where he can make defenders miss.

The 3rd time would prove to be the charm as Gordon finished in the top 5 in rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage. Consistency will be key for him, however in year 4.


4.) Lesean McCoy, Buffalo Bills 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 287 car., 1,138 yards, 4.0 ypc., 71.1 ypg., 6 TD’s / 59 rec., 448 yds., 7.6 ypc., 2 TD’s

LeSean McCoy stood tall as the reliable foundation of the Bills offense. He produced the sixth of 1,000 or more yards rushing in his career and was equally effective catching the ball.

He’ll be 30 entering next season, but Shady doesn’t appear to have lost a step.

3.) Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs 

2017 stats: 16 games played. 272 car., 1,327 yards, 4.9 ypc., 82.9 ypg., 8 TD’s / 53 rec., 455 yds., 8.6 ypc., 2 TD’s

The 3rd round pick out of the University of Toledo has been one of the best backs in the league this season. He led a Chiefs offense that took the league by storm to start the year.

Kareem Hunt’s abilities as a rusher and receiver are clear as day. Yet with Kansas City’s option-based offense, it’s his ability to create misdirection and confusion that makes him one of the best fits team wise from the 2017 draft.

2.) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers


2017 stats: 16 games played. 321 car., 1,291 yards, 4.0 ypc., 86.1 ypg., 9 TD’s / 85 rec., 655 yds., 7.7 ypc., 2 TD’s

Le’Veon Bell is simply one of the best running backs in the NFL. His running style consists of coming to a complete stop while blocks develop before suddenly bursting through the hole.

Bell is also a fantastic receiver and has the ability to move outside or line up in the slot and run routes.

1.) Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams 

2017 stats: 15 games played. 279 car., 1,305 yards, 4.7 ypc., 87.0 ypg., 13 TD’s / 64 rec., 788 yds., 12.3 ypc., 6 TD’s

Surprise! Todd Gurley’s revival shouldn’t be overlooked. Sean McVay had a huge  part in making him a back that finished the season leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage. He was also in the top 5 for MVP voting.

Gurley was the best all-around back this season. He led the league in yards from scrimmage with 2,093 and touchdowns with 19. He has great power, speed, and he’s developing into a top receiver as he led the L. A. Rams in receptions.

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I’m a Browns fan... enough said.