Top 10 running backs entering 2017

This week on cover32's Top 10, Patriots' Managing Editor Ian Glendon ranks the best running backs heading into the 2017 season.

4
1586
Top 10 Running Backs
Dec 24, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Washington Redskins defensive back Greg Toler (20) and Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) during the game at Soldier Field. The Redskins defeat the Bears 41-21. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In this week’s edition of cover32’s Top 10, we will rank the Top 10 running backs entering the 2017 season. Keep in mind that when determining the ranking of each player, the running back’s receiving ability plays a factor. Let us know your reaction! Use #cover32Top10 on Twitter and give us your own Top 10!

Check out last week’s Top 10 – The best QB/WR combinations

Honorable Mentions:

Adrian Peterson – New Orleans Saints
LeGarrette Blount – Philadelphia Eagles
Lamar Miller – Houston Texans


AROUND COVER32

Around the NFL: Despite the threat of a lawsuit, Raiders still have Las Vegas in their sights

Fantasy Periscope: Andrew Erickson breaks down the RB position ahead of the 2017 fantasy season

NFL Player Spotlight: With new deal in hand, Patriots’ WR, Julian Edelman, is ready to compete

Father’s Day: Taking time out to pay appreciation to fathers on this very special day

This Week in NFL History: Taking a look at some of the biggest moments to impact the NFL from June 18 – 24


 

10. Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers

Melvin Gordon destroys Lebeau's defense
Aug 13, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) carries the ball away from Tennessee Titans inside linebacker Avery Williamson (54) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

Cracking the Top 10 may be a bit of a surprise for Melvin Gordon, however, the third-year pro out of Wisconsin made tremendous strides in his second year. In just 13 games, Gordon rushed for 997 yards on 254 carries. His 10 rushing touchdowns were seventh best in the league. He also added 419 yards and two touchdowns on 41 receptions.

Over the span of two weeks, Gordon had 307 yards rushing, highlighted by a 196-yard performance against the Titans. His season was cut short in a Week 14 game against the Panthers with a hip injury. Before the injury, Gordon was on pace for 1,328 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.

9. Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints

Saints RB Mark Ingram scores on the San Francisco 49ers defense
Nov 6, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) carries the ball to score a 75-yard touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Ingram had a career year in his sixth season in the league in 2016. He broke the 1,000-yard mark for the first time, rushing for 1,043 yards on 205 carries. It’s the second time in his career that he has carried the ball more than 200 times. The first coming in 2014 when he had 964 yards on 226 carries.

He scored six times on the ground in 2016. Ingram added four receiving touchdowns, the first of his career, to bring his season touchdown total to 10. Another career high set. Like several players on this list, his best game came against the 49ers in Week 9. Ingram had 158 yards rushing and one touchdown. In addition, he added a receiving touchdown on two receptions for 13 yards.

8. Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons

Dec 18, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) dives but is unable to score a touchdown against San Francisco 49ers defensive back Vinnie Sunseri (40) in the first quarter of their game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) dives but is unable to score a touchdown against San Francisco 49ers defensive back Vinnie Sunseri (40) in the first quarter of their game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Freeman will enter his fourth season having already had back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons, as well as appearing in a Super Bowl. He hit the 1,000 yard mark for the second time in 2016, amassing 1,079 yards on 227 carries. His 11 touchdowns tied his career high from a season prior.

His best game of the season came in Week 15 against the 49ers. Freeman scored three times that day while rushing for 139 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown run. He tallied over 200 yards from scrimmage in Week 3 against New Orleans. He had 152 yards on the ground and 55 through the air, with one receiving touchdown.

7. Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins

Oct 16, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) celebrates his touchdown run during the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins won 30-15. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The third-year player out of Boise St. took over the starting duties in his second year when newly signed Arian Foster announced his retirement before the season. After just 49 rush attempts his rookie year, Ajayi carried the ball 260 times for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns.

He racked up 418 yards in back-to-back 200-yard rushing games, the second of which coming against Buffalo in Week 7. Ajayi repeated the feat on Christmas Eve with 206 yards on the road against the Bills. He had four plays of over 40 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown scramble against the Steelers.

6. DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans

Oct 27, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray (29) is called for a face masking penalty on Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (56) after a short gain in the second half at Nissan Stadium. The Titans won 36-22.
Oct 27, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray (29) is called for a face masking penalty on Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (56) after a short gain in the second half at Nissan Stadium. The Titans won 36-22.

In his first year with the Titans, Murray returned to what he was with the Cowboys. Before his unfortunate pit stop in Philadelphia. Coming off a 1,845 yard and 13-touchdown final year with the Cowboys, he managed just 702 yards in his lone season with the Eagles. It was the second fewest yards of his career.

However, Murray carried the ball 293 times in 2016, 100 more than the previous year. The uptick in usage resulted in a 1,287 yard rushing season, the second highest of his career. In addition, he added three touchdowns through the air on 53 receptions. The up-and-coming Titans would love for a repeat performance in year two.

5. Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears

Bears
Dec 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) rushes the ball past San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Gerald Hodges (51) and defensive end Ronald Blair (98) during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

After running for just 67 yards on 12 attempts in his first two games, Howard burst onto the scene with an 111-yard rushing performance against Detroit. It was the first of seven 100-yard running games. For the year, Howard finished second behind Elliot with 1,313 yards rushing, finding pay dirt six times.

Howard had a career-high, 153 yards rushing against the Vikings midway through the season. He added 49 yards through the air to break 200 yards from scrimmage. The highlight of his year came in Week 13 against the 49ers. Howard rushed for 117 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.

4. LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills

Dec 13, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) carries the ball in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

McCoy had a subpar first season in Buffalo in 2015. He missed four games and had only 895 yards on the ground, with three touchdowns. His 1,187 yards from scrimmage were his fewest since his rookie campaign. However, McCoy rebounded in year-two. He crossed the goal line 13 times in addition to his 1,267 yards rushing on 234 carries. He had 5.4 yards per attempt in 2016.

After only 60 receptions over the span of the 2014-15 seasons, McCoy nearly matched that in 2016 alone. McCoy caught 50 passes for 356 yards and one touchdown. His 1,623 yards from scrimmage was his highest total since his career year in 2013. His 14 total touchdowns were the second highest of his career.

3. Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is great, but a lot of his success is credited to the offensive line. Texans running back Lamar Miller does not have the same luxury. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the fanfare that followed fellow rookie Dak Prescott, Elliot was the real MVP for the Cowboys last year. As a rookie, Elliot led the league in rushing with 1,631 yards in just 15 games. He had over 300 more yards than Jordan Howard of the Bears, who finished second. Elliot was third behind LeGarrette Blount and David Johnson with 15 rushing touchdowns. He also added one receiving touchdown to his season total.

Elliot crossed the 100-yard rushing threshold seven times as the Cowboys earned the top seed in the NFC. Twice he broke 150 yards rushing. He totaled 157 yards in Week 6 against the Packers and 159 against Tampa Bay in Week 14. He managed an absurd 2.9 YPC after contact. In a year’s time, he could easily be at the top of this list.

2. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers

Dec 11, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) tries to jump over Buffalo Bills cornerback Ronald Darby (28) during the second half at New Era Field. Steelers beat the Bills 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) tries to jump over Buffalo Bills cornerback Ronald Darby (28) during the second half at New Era Field. Steelers beat the Bills 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Surprised to see Bell this low? In just 12 games Bell amassed 1,268 yards. Good for fifth best in the NFL. His 105.7 yards per game was second, only to Ezekiel Elliot’s 108 YPG. Six times Bell went over 100 yards rushing, including a 236-yard performance against the Bills. The versatile running back added 75 receptions for 616 yards and two touchdowns.

So why is he not number one? In his four years as a pro, he has played in one full season. In the past two years, he has missed 14 games for various reasons and was unable to finish the AFC Championship game due to injury. The talent gap between him and David Johnson is not large enough to justify putting Bell ahead of him on this list.

1. David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals

Sep 25, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) jumps to avoid a tackle by Buffalo Bills defensive back Robert Blanton (26) during the second half at New Era Field. Bills beat the Cardinals 33-18.
Sep 25, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) jumps to avoid a tackle by Buffalo Bills defensive back Robert Blanton (26) during the second half at New Era Field. Bills beat the Cardinals 33-18.

In just two seasons, David Johnson has established himself as the ultimate all-purpose running back. Johnson was seventh in the league in total rushing yards with 1,239 yards and second with 16 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 4.2 YPC and nearly 80 yards rushing per game.

However, where Johnson really separates from the pack is in the receiving game. In addition to his impressive rushing totals, Johnson added 80 receptions for 879 yards and four touchdowns. Giving him 20 total touchdowns on the year. His 2,118 yards from scrimmage led the entire league, garnering him serious MVP consideration. And of course the top spot on this list.

What are your thoughts? Who is the best running back entering 2017?

Be sure to vote in our poll and let us know in the comments who you think the best running back is!

– Ian Glendon is the Managing Editor for cover32/Patriots and covers the NFL and New England Patriots. Like and follow on and Facebook.

SOURCEStats Courtesy of: Pro Football Reference
Previous articleBears Using Virtual Reality Training
Next articleRaiders K Janikowski Aims to Finish Career In Silver and Black
  • Mike624

    Great rankings. I like that Johnson is getting the nod as the leagues best. Agree completely! Well done, Ian

    • Ian Glendon

      absolutely! Johnson is the man. Wouldn’t be surprise to see him hit 1,000 yards receiving as a back

  • Chris Morgan

    Completely agree with this list. Had Bell played the entire year I think he would’ve surpassed everyone. Hopefully he stays on the field this year, one of my favorites beside Zeke!

    • Donnie

      Bell will finally play a full season this year!