Are these the top five running backs in the NFL?

Following on from my last article, Are these the top five Wide Receivers in the NFL?, I am going to list you what who I think have been the best running backs playing in the last ten years.

Again, my list consists of players drafted since 2010 and are in no order. All stats are regular season only.

Le’Veon Bell

Draft: 2013, Round 2, Pick 48 (Steelers)

Games played 77
Attempts 1474
Yards 6125
Touchdowns 49

When I think about Le’Veon Bell, my mind generally casts back to the era of the three B’s, Big Ben, Brown and, of course, Bell. I always found watching the Steelers entertaining in this era. This combo of players was great to watch and made for a deadly offence.

Bell has almost been able to create his own style of play over the years. Known for being ‘The Great Hesitator’, Bell has developed an ability to be patient behind his O line and wait for gaps to appear rather than forcing himself through.

This type of style makes it look like plays are over or amounting to nothing, but he will exploit that small opportunity with his bursting speed and powerful running.

Bell’s time with the Steelers came to an end in 2019 when he signed with the Jets. The move came after he sat out the 2018 season after being franchise tagged by Pittsburgh. Being a free agent, the Jets picked him up and made him the second highest paid back in the league. After a solid enough 2019 season, I am looking forward to seeing if he can replicate some of his old form.

Leonard Fournette

Draft: 2017, Round 1, Pick 4 (Jags)


Games played 36
Attempts 666
Yards 2631
Touchdowns 17

For me, Leonard Fournette is one of those players that is a beacon of hope for a team. Since being drafted in 2017 he has probably been the main threat for the Jags offence.

Jacksonville have been lacklustre at best since the glorious 2017 season and making the AFC championship game in 2018. This also coincides with Fournette’s rookie season when he rushed for over a thousand yards.

What I like about him is his running style. It is almost opposite to Le’Veon Bell’s in the fact that he is a powerful runner who will smash through defences. His physicality means he is very hard to take down and he is able to grab some big yards, taking the 225 he got against Denver last season as an example.

He is a free agent in 2021 and will be a massive signing for whoever takes him next. I personally think he will and should move on, as I think it is a case that the Jags can not live up to his talent.

Todd Gurley II

Draft: 2015, Round 1, Pick 10 (Rams)

Games played 73
Attempts 1265
Yards 5404
Touchdowns 58

Gurley is a Running Back with all the attributes you want. Speed, size, power and with great balance and vision.

Multiple Pro Bowl appearances, Offensive Player of the year in 2017 and led the league in rushing touchdowns in 2017 and 18. Todd Gurley should be one of the greats of the game. The biggest drawback for him unfortunately is he is very susceptible to injury. This does not however deter me from putting him in my top five.

Gurley is a workhorse. He will attack defences in multiple ways. He has the ability to power through staying on his feet and breaking tackles. He can use his speed to go round and exploit the holes in a defence and he also uses the agility of his big frame to jump and hurdle the opposition.

Gurley is a great all-rounder, but it is probably this ability that has attributed to so many injuries. The more a player can do, the higher the workload. His injuries have gotten too much for the Rams and they have released him. Gurley is now starting the 2020 season as a Falcon on an initial one-year contract.

Derrick Henry

Draft: 2016, Round 2, Pick 45 (Titans)

Games played 62
Attempts 804
Yards 3833
Touchdowns 38

Derrick Henry is another back that has great power and strength. A large guy, standing at 6’3 and 247lbs he is another one that can break tackles easily and is hard to handle for any defence.

He is also very quick and extremely hard to catch if he does break free down the field. He creates a big presence on the field too and knowing that he could be handed the ball at any time must be quite distracting for the opposition. What is making him one of the best now is the fact that he can perform consistently in both his style and play.

The 2019 season has been his best so far and will have got a lot of people talking about him. His work for the Titans was second to none and his consistent performances on the field helped lead them not only to the playoffs, but the AFC championship game too. He finished the season as the league’s rushing leader and the joint rushing touchdown leader.

Christian McCaffrey

Draft: 2017, Round 1, Pick 8 (Panthers)

Games played 48
Attempts 623
Yards 2920
Touchdowns 24

If you are making a list about running backs, it is not complete without the name Christian ‘Run CMC’ McCaffrey in it.

An outstanding performer for the Carolina Panthers, he is currently paving the way for the future of the position. The 2019 season saw him be only the third player in NFL history to have over a thousand yards rushing and a thousand yards receiving. This is impressive by any standard, but it makes it even more so because the Panthers did not have their first choice quarterback nor did they make the playoffs, despite this record. I personally think this shows how good he really is and how impressive his performances were.

His versatility shows with the record but is he in possession of the complete set of skills? In a word, yes.

He has the power and the speed, the vision and the balance, powerful and tough to tackle. He is also quick, elusive and athletic, diving and hurdling for extra yards or touchdowns. He is an every down back if you wanted him to be and an absolute workhorse. With 2020 expected to be no different for him, the only question that remains is, can anyone emulate him? For me, the answer is no, but I suppose that is down to the rest of the running backs to answer.

Agree with my list? Have I overlooked anybody? Who would you change? We would love to hear your thoughts.

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