Ranking the best running backs ahead of the 2021 campaign

Nick Chubb
Nick Chubb was a lock for this list. Photo from Forbes.

Just because the running back position isn’t as important in the NFL as it used to be doesn’t mean it should be ignored. The best running backs 2021 will still make a significant impact on their teams and will likely be playing on winning teams.

Just wait until December and January and it’ll become obvious that teams still need a running back who can be a difference-maker.

Best Running Backs 2021

Of course, deciding the best running backs in 2021 is no easy task.

Nowadays, most teams have at least two running backs that see significant carries. It’s also a young man’s position, which means talent is far more important than experience. With that in mind, here is our list of the best running backs in 2021. 

10. Josh Jacobs, Raiders

It’s hard to argue with a back who’s rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons.

But why did the Raiders get Kenyan Drake if they had Josh Jacobs? Keep in mind he doesn’t have great receiving skills and averaged less than four yards per carry last season despite scoring 12 touchdowns, so there are a couple of negatives with Jacobs.

9. David Montgomery, Bears

David Montgomery didn’t quite have the rookie year most expected him to, but he came around and made huge strides in 2020. He’s a bonafide workhorse back who can take 20-plus carries a game, even if the Bears don’t use him like that.

His numbers as a receiver were much improved in his second season, so he’s clearly rounding out his game. 


8. Jonathan Taylor, Colts

It took just one season for Jonathan Taylor to become one of the best running backs in the league, racking up over 1,100 yards while averaging five yards per carry.

Since he comes from a college program at Wisconsin that’s known for producing great running backs, we’ll assume it’s not an aberration. Of course, Taylor still isn’t an exceptional pass-catcher, although he lost just one fumble as a rookie, which is a promising sign.

7. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

There’s just a little bit of concern with Ezekiel Elliott, who failed to reach 1,000 yards rushing last year and had the lowest yards per carry of his career.

He’s also been a little less productive as a pass-catcher over the last three seasons. However, he’s also eclipsed over 1,300 rushing yards in three of his five seasons, so he’s allowed one semi-down season.

6. Alvin Kamara, Saints

One could argue that Alvin Kamara has a better reputation than he deserves.

After four seasons in the league, he’s never reached 1,000 rushing yards in a season. However, he had over 900 rushing yards last season and has also averaged over 700 receiving yards over his four seasons. There aren’t a lot of running backs who can do that, making him one of the best overall playmakers in the NFL.

5. Aaron Jones, Packers

Aaron Jones is on the shortlist of running backs who’s rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons.

He’s also scored 30 total touchdowns over the past two seasons. It’s worth mentioning that he’s averaging 5.2 yards per carry in his career over four seasons. Jones looks the part of a back who’s in the prime of his career, which helps make him one of the most productive running backs in the league.

4. Dalvin Cook, Vikings

The only thing that’s hurting Dalvin Cook is his inability to play 16 games in a season, which he hasn’t done in four years.

That being said, he only needed 14 games to rush for over 1,500 yards last year. He’s also a little better as a pass-catcher than most people realize. If he plays anywhere close to a full season this year, he’ll rack up a lot of yards.

3. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers

We’re willing to give Christian McCaffrey a little bit of a pass for last season when he was limited to just three games.

Keep in mind he had nearly 2,400 all-purpose yards in 2019, amassing over 1,000 yards as both a rusher and a receiver. There aren’t many backs in the league who could even dream of such a season. If he’s healthy in 2021, McCaffrey will be an elite back.

2. Nick Chubb, Browns

Nick Chubb missed four games last season and still managed to rush for over 1,000 yards, and that’s while sharing carries with Kareem Hunt, who nearly made our top-10 last as well.

His numbers as a pass-catcher aren’t that impressive, although that’s why the Browns have Hunt. Plus, Chubb has averaged at least five yards per carry in each of his first three seasons, which isn’t easy to do.

1. Derrick Henry, Titans

There’s no way we could list anybody higher than Derrick Henry after he’s led the NFL in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in back-to-back seasons.

He was Offensive Player of the Year last season after racking up 2,027 yards at a clip of 5.4 yards per carry. By running back standards, Henry is starting to get a little old. But we haven’t seen any signs of him slowing down.

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About Bryan Zarpentine 68 Articles
Bryan Zarpentine is a freelance writer and editor with most of his work focusing on the world of sports. He is a 2008 graduate of Syracuse University and still resides in upstate New York.

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