Next up in our 2017 NFL Position Rankings is Running Back.
The NFL running back hierarchy looks quite different than it did just a few short years ago. The likes of Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, Jammal Charles and Marshawn Lynch ruled the running back world over the last decade. An influx of dynamic backs over the past few years has generated fresh blood into the fraternity.
Here are our NFL running back rankings for the 2017 season.
TOP 32 RUNNING BACKS
- LeVeon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers: Widely considered the most complete back in the NFL, Bell is well adept at rushing, receiving, route-running and pass-blocking. He may not lead the league in rushing, but is a prime candidate to be the leader in total yards from scrimmage.
- David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: Johnson is not far behind Bell in the versatility department. Johnson’s only detriment is the fact that he plays behind an inferior offensive line in Arizona. But, you really have to pick nits in order to not have Johnson at the top of this list.
- Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys: Likely the best pure runner of the football on this list, Elliott has secured his spot among the elite backs in this league. He has one of the best run-blocking lines in the NFL. As he improves in pass-protection and as a receiver, he’ll challenge for #1 in short time.
- Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons: Freeman is one of the more underappreciated players in all of football. Atlanta’s Super Bowl run allowed Freeman to put the world on notice that he’s an elite force to be reckoned with.
- DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans: After many had given up on Murray, he revived his career in Tennessee in 2016. Behind a stellar offensive line, look for Murray to continue posting big numbers in 2017.
- Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams: With improvements along the offensive line and Jeff Fisher’s prehistoric offense gone, Gurley should revert to his rookie season form. There are few backs with Gurley’s combination of size, speed and quickness.
- LaSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills: While Shady is no longer consistently capable of making 13 people miss on one run, he’s still plenty quick. Buffalo’s new offense will also allow McCoy to be showcased in the passing game much more.
- Adrian Peterson, New Orleans Saints: Now the he’s healthy, Peterson is ready to return to his rightful spot among the best backs in the NFL. A solid offensive line, a moderate workload and solid surrounding weapons should open things up for AP. He must show he can catch the rock in New Orleans, however.
- Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars*: The top rookie back in this class, Fournette is ready to take the league by storm in the same fashion that Gurley and Elliott have in the past 2 years. This guy was an NFL back coming out of high school.
- Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears: Largely forgotten when the topic of great, young running backs, Howard hit the league hard in his 2016 rookie campaign. He rushed for 1313 yards and 5.2 yards per carry. Chicago has a gem in Howard.
- Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers: In 13 games during the 2016 season, Gordon combined for over 1400 yards from scrimmage. If he can stay healthy for a full season, Gordon will be a household name in this league.
- Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins: Ajayi is an anomaly, wrapped in a conundrum, shrouded in mystery. In 2016 he became the only back in NFL history to post 3 200-yard rushing games in the same season. However, he only rushed for over 100 yards one other time. Consistency is the key for Ajayi.
- Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals*: The polarizing rookie back may have been the most talented player in the entire 2017 draft. He’s making a good early impression in Cincy and could make plenty of noise on an offense needy of of a consistent playmaker out of the backfield.
- Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers: The veteran Stewart started to show some wear in 2016 and will see a decreased workload in 2017. However, this will maximize his abilities as a power back, as Carolina looks to get back on track as a team.
- Lamar Miller, Houston Texans: Miller went over 1000 yards (1073) in 2016, but was not the explosive option the Texans expected when signing him in free agency. Lots of that was due to poor quarterback play. Unfortunately for Miller, that may be the case again in 2017.
- Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints: Ingram broke out in 2016, only to have the Saints bring in Peterson to share the load. If he buys in, Ingram could benefit from being fresher later in the season.
- LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia Eagles: Blount will be without the benefit of playing in New England’s offense and will be become more of a focal point in Philly. We’ve seen him falter throughout his career when he’s counted upon as a lead piece. We shall see…
- Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers*: The ultra-versatile McCaffrey should provide a different element in Carolina, as well as loads of excitement from all over the field.
- Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers: When healthy, Hyde is a competent back. However, there in lies the issue with Hyde. He’s frequently dinged up and limited health-wise. Rookie Joe Williams may take some carries from Hyde in 2017.
- Matt Forte, New York Jets: Long gone are the days when Forte was a threat to log 1800 yards from scrimmage in a season. However, he’s still quite effective, even as the Jets’ offense struggles in on a macro level.
- Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings
- Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns
- Terrance West, Baltimore Ravens
- Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts
- Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
- Telvin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons
- Mike Gilleslie, New England Patriots
- Chris Ivory, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
- Bilal Powell, New York Jets
- James White, New England Patriots
- Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
- Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders
- Jamaal Charles / Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos
- Giovanni Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
ROOKIES WITH A CHANCE TO RANK
- Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
- James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
- D’Onta Foreman, Houston Texans
- Samaje Perine, Washington