Jan 20, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) hands the ball to running back Stevan Ridley (22) during the first quarter of the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

AFC East – Ranking Teams by RB Depth Charts

Some fans feel that the running back position is less important in the modern NFL. While that may be true, it is still necessary to have a strong stable of running backs. A strong running game can open up play-action, run time off the clock, grind out first downs, create personnel mismatches and change the defense’s expectations. With the completion of minicamps, I have seen enough to start ranking the AFC East, this time regarding the RBs.


1. New England Patriots: The Patriots have, by far, the deepest roster in the East when it comes to RBs. Stevan Ridley is coming off a break out season in which he rushed for over 1,200 yards and 12 TDs. Shane Vereen will be Danny Woodhead’s “replacement” as the change of pace/third down back. I can confidently say to look for Vereen to have a big impact on the passing game; that is one area where he is surely better than Woodhead. Behind them is Brandon Bolden, who makes the most of his opportunities. He may not get the guaranteed carries every week, but he is one of the better third string RBs in the league. LeGarrette Blount will be competing for a spot on the roster this season. He has potential to be a strong situational back if he makes the team.


2. Buffalo Bills: The Bills were a very close second to the Patriots, and lost out on first because of depth issues. There is no doubt that the Bills running game is more important to their offense. When C.J. Spiller has the ball in his hands, he has the tendency to make big plays. However, the Bills are clearly devoted to improving their passing game. Three of Buffalo’s first four picks were QB, and two WRs. You don’t invest that much into the passing game just to hand the ball off 30+ times per game. After C.J. Spiller, there is Fred Jackson who seems to be losing a step. Beyond that is Tashard Choice, who is merely an average back that was signed for injury insurance. Spiller is likely to be a running highlight reel for the near future, but I’d bet on the Bills to continue to shift into a strong passing offense. That’s all depending on how E.J. Manuel transitions to the NFL.


3. New York Jets: The Jets made a big move with their signing of Chris Ivory from New Orleans. Ivory fits the Jets much better than the Saints, and I think most Jets fans were happy when they heard the news. With Shonn Greene dressed in a Titans uniform, the bulk of the carries this season will go to Ivory. The rest of the depth chart is filled in with Mike Goodson and Bilal Powell, who will likely compete for the number two spot. I don’t believe either of these players can successfully take over as the starter in the event of Ivory being injured. If Ivory can stay healthy, I’m expecting a big year from him. If he does go down with an injury, then the Jets will be forced to rely on their passing game (which is not what the fans want to see).


4. Miami Dolphins: It’s tough for me to put the Dolphins in last, but their players are still so unproven. Lamar Miller has the chance to be a dangerous back in the NFL, but has yet to serve a season as the starter for Miami. Daniel Thomas is decent at best, and could be competing with Mike Gillislee for the backup gig. I think Dolphins fans could live without seeing Thomas getting carries this season. Gillislee is a player who shows good potential. It’ll be interesting to see if he can develop for the Dolphins into an impact player. I wouldn’t expect him to have a great season statistically, but he could be a player to watch.

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Tags: AFC East Buffalo Bills Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets

  • Tyler Cary

    One thing, as a Dolphins fan I would put Daniel Thomas at lat place in the AFC East. I remember, on more than one occasion when Tannehill threw and interception, then Thomas fubmled for a turnover on the next two consecutive offensive plays. That guy has been the bane of my existence.

    • AndrewGibbs

      Daniel Thomas is definitely a disappointment. And as I said, most Dolphins fans probably want to see Gillislee get some work in preseason and hopefully outplay Thomas for the no. 2 RB spot. The best part of the Dolphins group of backs is their youth.

  • Hal Bent

    Nice job, Andrew. Tough to rank anyone ahead of CJ Spiller, but the Patriots have a bit better depth probably. That said, Spiller is so sadly underutilized in Buffalo. Its too bad for him he hasn’t had a creative offensive coordinator who gets the ball in his hands in a variety of ways in space.
    Reggie Bush was such a huge part of that offense in Miami, I can’t fathom their offense improving drastically without him at running back.

  • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

    You know, I love what the Patriots have at running back especially in terms of depth, but I have hard time believing that they have a better group of RBs than the Bills. C.J. Spiller is the league’s most efficient back, while Fred Jackson is at least as good as Stevan Ridley. He’s more of an all-around player than Ridley, and the Bills 1-2 punch is the best in the NFL right now. As for Daniel Thomas, he is awful, and it took the ‘Fins too long to figure that out. Lamar Miller is legit, but Thomas is somebody who needs to be upgraded to give Miller a better No. 2 guy behind him going forward. Chris Ivory is incredibly underrated, and I am so glad the Saints are no longer holding his talents hostage.

  • Wesley McElhinny

    As a Bills fan (yes I’m out of my confort zone on this site, although I do have a lot of respect for the Patriots organization), I think you did a great job Andrew on this article. Also wished you would have put the Jets last because lets be honest..nobody likes the Jets. I look forward to reading the next article.

    • Wesley McElhinny


  • Johnny

    Real ranking::
    1. Buffalo
    2. Miami
    3. NE
    4. NY

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      I completely agree with the first and last teams on your list, but I don’t understand why you think the Dolphins are better. I love Lamar Miller and think the world of him, but Daniel Thomas is a poor No. 2 option. The Pats have a proven feature back in Ridley, an explosive pass-catcher in Vereen, a hard-nosed second-year back in Bolden with promise, and a former 1,000-yard rusher in Blount (go ask Bucs fans how good he is and how much Schiano did him wrong).

      Real ranking? Let’s put that by the test by asking you to back it up.