The best running backs in the NFL share some familiar traits – they play all three downs, they can catch, run and block, and amazingly, they’re almost all under the age of 25.
1. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
Had 1,994 total yards as a rookie, then was robbed of his second year by a terrible suspension decision. The best 3-down back in the NFL only turns 23 next month.
10. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
Has been an elite, Top 10 back for several years, but his best days are behind him. After three years with the Bills, it’ll be interesting to see how his 2nd coach in Buffalo uses him. Turns 30 next month.
2. Todd Gurley, LA Rams
Totaled 2,093 yards from scrimmage last year, plus 19 TDs. Turns 24 in August. I wouldn’t fight you if you pounded the table for Gurley over Zeke. It’s that close.
3. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Has a strong case for the #1 spot, but between injuries – he led the NFL in carries with 321 last year – the holdout threats and the seven fumbles in the last two years (after having just one in his first three years) Bell has been passed by the young stars.
4. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
After back-to-back monster years, Freeman got a massive extension (5-years, $41.25 million) and took a bit of a step back, plus had a career-high in fumbles (4).
5. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
A rookie year nobody expected: 728 yards rushing, 826 yards receiving, and 13 TDs. Led the NFL with 6.1 ypc. Turns 24 in July.
6. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Had modest rushing stats as a rookie (435 yards, 3.7 ypc), but caught 80 passes, which was more than AJ Green, Mike Evans, Dez Bryant and Gronk. Just turned 22.
7. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
The only bigger rookie surprise than Alvin Kamara was Hunt, who led the NFL with 1,327 rushing yards and totaled 11 TDs. He’s going to make the transition to Patrick Mahomes much easier for the Chiefs. Hunt turns 23 in August.
8. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
Faced more 8-man fronts than any other back in the NFL and still managed 1,040 yards as a rookie in 13 games, and caught 36 passes. Can you imagine how dangerous he is if the Jaguars get a passing attack?
9. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
A rookie at 24 who had a good year, then exploded for a career year in 2016 (a total of 2,118 yards), and then missed 99% of last year due to a wrist injury. But he’s bouncing back with a rebuilding team.