The Top 5 Running Backs In The NFL

Although the running back position may quickly be going the way of the dodo in the NFL landscape, there are still a few ultra-productive ball carriers remaining in the league at present. A good all-around back is able to do more than simply tote the rock however as most of today’s best are asked to catch the pigskin out of the backfield and often times step up to pick up the blitz in pass protection.

It may be a dissolving position as of 2011, but here are the top 5 running backs currently in the NFL according to BOLTHYPE:

1. Adrian Peterson

Consistency on a year-to-year basis earns Peterson the top spot at this point. He is still just 26 years of age and four years into his professional career, but A.D. has already set an incredible pace for himself moving forward. At 1,298 yards on the ground in 2010, last season was his least productive to date which is quite a tremendous accomplishment in its own right. If his next four years are anywhere near as productive as the previous four, Peterson could be making his march toward multiple NFL records somewhere down the line. The one knock on him coming out of school was durability with a unique upright running style, but he has remained healthy for the bulk of his NFL career to this point (knock on wood).

2. Chris Johnson

Explosive doesn’t even begin to cover it when it comes to this guy as the only thing most wannabe tacklers see are his dreadlocks bouncing out of the back of his helmet. Johnson is both ridiculously fast and elusive yet still powerful enough with his leg drive to move the pile for a back of smaller stature. His 2009 season of 2,509 all-purpose yards was an astounding feat as 2,006 of those came on the ground. 2010 didn’t quite yield the results that Johnson was hoping for, but he will be a factor in the race to the rushing crown for the better part of the next decade. The fact that the Titans will be breaking in a rookie quarterback in the coming season will likely mean an even more run-heavy offense for Johnson.

3. Arian Foster

Undrafted free agents are always nice stories for the media to latch onto, but Arian Foster could prove to be more than just a one-year wonder with the Houston Texans. Foster went bananas in 2010 leading the entire league in rushing and doing so with a variety of different runs both on the edge and in between the tackles. With his head coach Gary Kubiak being a disciple of the Denver Broncos’ zone blocking scheme, Foster figures to get a ton of carries and continue to compile gaudy statistics running the football. His 6’1” 227lbs. frame is big enough to handle the pounding of a heavy workload while his feet remain agile in side-stepping opponents in the open field.

4. Michael Turner

This particular spot on the list stings a bit for many Bolts’ fans as the former Charger Michael “The Burner” Turner finds his spot on the countdown. Turner is 5’10” 244lbs. with legs the size of tree trunks and an incredible burst through the line of scrimmage normally found in backs much smaller than him. That unique skill set made him a coveted player in 2008 when the Bolts unwisely decided to move on from “The Burner” and become a more pass-heavy offense. Since being signed by the Atlanta Falcons as their feature back, Turner has been selected to the Pro Bowl twice and eclipsed the 1,000 yard barrier in each of those seasons. He has also been a touchdown machine with 10 or more scores on the ground in all three of his years with the Falcons.

5. Rashard Mendenhall

Highly touted coming out of Illinois as a first round pick to the blue collar running game of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mendenhall started slow in his rookie year with the black and gold. That injury-shortened rookie season gave him something to build off of as he has steadily developed into a dependable starting back for the Steelers. Mendenhall’s carries, yards, and touchdowns have all increased year over year and he is beginning to look like the player the Steelers hoped they had drafted three years ago. His versatility is a great asset and Pittsburgh has used him as a receiver out of the backfield on many occasions as well. His stock is definitely on the rise in a run-heavy, cold weather city like Pittsburgh.

The NFL may be rapidly progressing toward a passing league, but the running back spot has certainly etched its place in the history of the game. There are still plenty of guys carrying the ball in the league today who feel that they too should be one day worthy of a bust in Canton. As for now they will just have to settle for a spot on the BOLTHYPE top 5 list of running backs in the NFL.

Agree or disagree with the five running backs listed above? See any glaring omissions or guys ranked way too high? Use the comment section below and give us your top 5!

June 4, 2011

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