1 Todd Gurley, LA Rams
He was coming back from a knee injury in college, and missed the season opener still recovering. In just 13 games as a rookie – and three of those were single-digit carry games – he rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 TDs. Led the league with 14 carries of 20+ yards. Turns 22 in a few days.
2 Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
The 31-year old led the league in carries (327) and yards, but his 4.5 ypc is way down from his MVP year in 2012. Fumbled a league-high six times.
3 Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Suffered injuries each of the last two years, and has had two drug suspensions, as well. When healthy – which he should be post-suspension – he’s probably #1 on this list. Had eight carries of 20+ yards in just 113 carries.
4 Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
Tied for league-high with 11 TDs and feels like a breakout season awaits. Only 24 years old. May already have the best power-speed combination in the league. Fumble issues scare me a bit, especially with talented Tevin Coleman waiting for his shot.
5 Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Bucs
Outstanding, 1,440-yard rookie year, then two down years (950 yards, combined; there were injuries) and then another 1,402 yards last season. I’m expecting a good year from Jameis Winston, the Bucs, and Doug Martin.
6 Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
Too high? Too low? Who can tell with a rookie, but Elliott is the most complete back to enter the league since Adrian Peterson. He blocks better than Gurley. Still in awe of his Wisconsin-Alabama-Oregon back-to-back-to-back games at the end of his 2014 season: 76 carries, 696 yards, 8 TDs. The Cowboys offensive line helped Darren McFadden finish 4th in the NFL in rushing last year.
7 LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
Just turned 28 and coming off a down year in Buffalo. Was a very good back and then Chip Kelly turned him into a superstar (2,926 yards rushing in two seasons). It could just be that he’s not a good fit for Buffalo’s running style, but McCoy did miss four games in 2015.
8 Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
Fourth round pick had two so-so seasons, then two strong ones in Miami, and the guess here is he breaks out big-time in Houston. Texans have been trending downward in yards per carry the last three years (4.2 in 2013, 3.9 in 2014, 3.7 in 2015), but Arian Foster did rush for 1,246 yards in only 13 games in 2014.
9 David Johnson, Arizona
The rookie only carried 125 times for 581 yards but did have 8 TDs. HE catches passes well (36 receptions) and ran a kick back for a touchdown, too. Why here above vets like Forte, or fast-risers like Murray? Johnson’s pegged to be the starter, and he’s going to put up monster stats in that loaded offense.
10 Jamaal Charles, Kansas City
He’s 29 and his best days are behind him, but he had 14 TDs in 2014 and 19 the year before. When healthy (only played in five games last year) he’s a monster, and deserves to be higher on this list, but given last year and his age, there’s no telling whether he’s a 5.0 ypc guy anymore.
Just missed: Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati; Matt Forte, New York Jets; Latavius Murray, Oakland; Chris Ivory, Jacksonville; Eddie Lacy, Green Bay; Thomas Rawls, Seattle.