Duncan’s attempt at a Top Ten: Running Backs

As we work our way through the positions, Dan, Dylan and Simon have been diligently ranking and providing in depth reasons behind the ranks, I thought I would chime in with some off the cuff ranks (as I have done on the podcast) for running backs. You may have an inkling on who is going to be on the list and so my list may involve some fence sitting and rankings that you may well disagree with. If so please let us know on Facebook and twitter or email us at hellochaps@gridirongentlemen.com
Here goes…

The known unknown

Not really a word but I wanted this guy to be mentioned as at time of writing, he is still due to play this season. He was ranked no.1 going into this season and was then rightly held out of playing whilst he went through due process of law. Yes I am talking about Adrian Peterson. How do you rank him? We don’t know if he will play and if he does play for the Vikings, if his mindset will affect his performance. If he gets back into the game and just enjoys himself he could easily be one of the top 3 running backs or even the best.

10. Frank Gore 

Is he past his best? Well generally he has loitered around the 9 or 10 spot in terms of total yards per season and yards per game. He has been solid and reasonably consistent, not making waves necessarily last season but always there and making yards and third downs when needed. He is going to be no.1 for the Colts and should bring Indianapolis a running game they have sorely missed for the last two seasons. So I put Frank at no.10 purely because I don’t see him improving but neither do I see his performance dropping off in continuing to power his way through lines.

9. Jamaal Charles

The lynch pin of the Chiefs offense for the last few seasons but he is prone to knackering his ankle. Yet he still posted reasonable figures and was the Chiefs lead receiver. This season he is unlikely to be their lead receiver with the addition of Jeremy Maclin and Knile Davis did a good job whilst Jamaal was out injured. However, he did still score 9 touchdowns and average 68.9 yards per game and 5 yards per carry. So the only reason I am ranking him this low is because of his injury history.

8. Matt Forte

Last season was not one of Matt’s best having come off a career high 2013. I am worried that he might struggle this year but Forte seems happy with Gase and it is likely he will be relied upon whilst Kevin White gets into his groove. Ok I confess, I like Forte and just have a feeling he will have a good season.

7. Jeremy Hill

He had an excellent rookie year, averaged 5.1 yards per carry and 70.3 yards per game as well as 9 touchdowns (the same as Eddie Lacy below). But he fumbled 4 times, and his ball security did sometimes seem to be an issue. He is fast and exciting, ran good routes, pretty well over shadowing 2013s exciting Bengals prospect Giovani Bernard. I think Hill will continue to see carries and take the no.1 RB spot at the Bengals. It is just, he is going into his second season and could well be like Lacy and drop off in production. He may struggle to match what he did last season and Giovani could still compete for carry time. It is because of those two things, I was not comfortable putting him higher.

6. Eddie Lacy

I liked Lacy last season, I think he ran well, was consistent in putting yards on the ground though was a bit slow to begin with picking up most of his yards in the second half of the season. A few fumbles (3) but he was there generally having a good game. Yes he was not quite on the same form that he had in 2013 but what a rookie season that was and he was only 39 yards off (though with one more game this season). Interestingly his yards per carry were higher in 2014 which is a good sign. He has the ability to get over 1500 yards and should break 1200. Lacy’s slow start last season may have been symptomatic of the apparently slow start (with the famous “R.E.L.A.X”) of the Packers but he did not seem to hit the ground running. Attitude maybe? Injury concern? It is because he set the standard so high in his rookie season and the slight drop off last season that I have ranked Lacy slightly lower. The players ranked above him I think just have that slight higher consistency or potential for higher consistency.

5. Arian Foster

Actually I was tempted to put him higher. I even see him having his best season since 2010 if he can stay healthy. My main reason for possibly putting him higher was that he averaged the second highest number of yards per game (95.8), was ranked 6th in total number of yards and scored 8 touchdowns all in 13 games. For 3 seasons before suffering from injuries, he scored over 10 touchdowns in a season. Last season the whole of the Texans looked a bit better and certainly Foster helped make them look better and with a good off season and draft the Texan are looking to be getting back on track. I can see Foster having a good season, but the uncertainty about whether he will make it through injury free and if he can improve on last season, means he sits below the others to come.

4. DeMarco Murray

I really hope DeMarco makes it in Philadelphia, but I fear that he may take some time to settle and that the Eagles o-line is not as good as DeMarco is used to. I will be happy if I am wrong, as his numbers have only been increasing and 2014 saw him break the 10 touchdown and 1500 yards mark. So yes I have no predictive or descriptive stats to say why I think he will not do so well, but more I think he may drop slightly this season, possibly 1500 yards and 10 touchdowns, but I do not see this season to be as stellar as last season.

3. Marshawn Lynch

This was a tough move to make. Marshawn is one of my favourite players just because of that Skittles interview. He is instrumental in the Seahawks (Ospreys) offense, they struggle when they do not use him, cemented by the fact that he jointly lead the league with DeMarco for touchdowns scored. Since 2011 he has scored over 10 touchdowns in each season, only Adrian Peterson has done better since 2010. So why the step down? I think he will continue to be integral but the addition of Jimmy Graham does suggest that the workload is going to be spread a bit more. So I think the number of carries he has and the reliance on him will drop, if it works with Jimmy. If it doesn’t after up to four games I think Marshawn will be back in the fold. But last season did show that the Seahawks were willing not to use Marshawn as much (or at least try to). And so because of Jimmy, Lynch falls.

2. LeSean McCoy

Yup I am going to put him here, swapping him for DeMarco. He gives the Bills a run game they have missed as C.J Spiller and Fred Jackson dropped off. He posted the third highest total yards last season, was the top in 2013, had an injury troubled 2012 and finished fourth in yards in 2011.  He will see a lot of carries in Buffalo as they sort out their QB situation. The o-line is pretty good and LeSean will surely get a lot of carries, possibly more than he would have done at the Eagles (though I know it was money that was the reason he was traded away). Of the RBs that switched teams I think LeSean will do the best and potentially thrive. He just needs to improve on holding onto the ball (3 fumbles last season).

1. La’Veon Bell

This lad can only go up, the Steelers are looking dangerous and Bell has been improving every season. I know this is a bit controversial, but last two seasons his stats have only been improving and last season he finished with the second highest number of yards and first downs. Yes he scored only 8 touchdowns but he had no fumbles. No one else who had a similar number of carries had zero. He has safe hands, is athletic and physical and is a joy to watch.

There we have it, my tuppence worth in the debate. There are many who have not been mentioned or ranked here. So here are a few that should get a mention: Justin Forsett (one good season showing he is up to being the no.1 RB for the Ravens but not sure he will replicate it), Joseph Randle, Isaiah Crowell, Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Bishop Sankey and C.J Anderson. Yup all of these may have a surprising 2015.

I am sure you will let me know if I am talking rubbish so please do!

Toodle pip!