One of the most debated questions across the country when it comes to football is, who are the best quarterbacks in the league? This is a great question to start an argument, and it can keep a group of friends occupied for quite some time. However something that isn’t debated near as much in my eyes, is who are the best running backs in the NFL. I think that this is a question that provides just as much intrigue, and disagreement as the quarterbacks do. Running backs may not be as important to a teams success as a quarterback is, but there are some really talented guys out there. Here are my top five running backs in the league as of right now.
1. Adrian Peterson
I don’t even have to justify why AP is number one right now. After his monster season last year, he has cemented himself as the top running back in the game. Everybody talks about how he came back from an ACL injury so quickly, and how he came back so effectively, but that is not what impresses me the most about him. What impresses me the most is how he is such a balanced running back. He has the speed, he has the power, he has the vision, he has the agility, and he possess a great talent for breaking tackles. You don’t find running backs that have the entire package like AP does. That is why he is easily the top running back in the league, and by the time his career is over, I think he will be one of the best of all time.
2. Ray Rice
Patriots fans may not like where I have Rice, but sometimes you have to put your emotions aside and look at the facts. Rice had a down year in 2012, and still came away with 1,621 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns. Rice is not only a great running back, but he is a great receiver. His ability to come out of the backfield and make a play in the passing game is unrivaled in the NFL. He has great hands, and when you combine that with his strength and quickness, you get a tough guy to bring down. Another thing that makes Rice so tough to handle, is his frame. Rice is 5’8 and 212 pounds. There are not many backs built like that, and Rice benefits greatly from his size. When a guy is built so low to the ground and still has a lot of muscle on him, it makes it extremely tough for linebackers in this league to take him down. He also has shown the ability to “hide” behind his humongous lineman, and that gives him an edge before the play unfolds. Rice has had to carry his team countless times in that past, and until Joe Flacco started to step up in last years playoffs, Rice was there offense. I think that Rice can be even more effective now that the Ravens have a guy that knows how to run an offense and help out Rice.
3. Arian Foster
Arian Foster is an interesting running back. He doesn’t have freakish talent like AP. He doesn’t have a unique build that helps him attack defenses like Rice. But year after year Foster keeps putting up great numbers. In 2012 he finished with 1,424 yards and 15 touchdowns…and that was a down year for him. Foster isn’t really athletically gifted, but he knows how to play running back. He has great vision and because he is in the Texans zone-blocking scheme, he is one of the best in the league at making the right read, and in turn making the right cut. Foster is a big guy, as he weighs in at 228. He knows how to use his size to his advantage, and when a team plays the Texans, there are always a couple of defenders that end up on their butt after running into Foster. Again, Foster isn’t as physically gifted as guys like AP, but he gets the job done year after year, and that is what counts in the NFL.
4. Reggie Bush
That’s right, Reggie Bush. If these rankings were based on most improvement, then I would have Bush at number one, two, three, four and five. He went from a pure third down back in New Orleans to a guy that plays every down, and he plays solidly on all three. Bush came into this league with a reputation as a guy that has some great athleticism and explosion, but he didn’t have what it took to be an every-down back. Well, he has finally proved everybody wrong. He compiled 2,072 yards in his two years with Miami, and 15 total touchdowns. Those stats may not seem like much, but the impact he had on that team was much greater. Those two Miami teams had pretty much no weapons on the offensive side of the ball (with the exception of Brandon Marshall in 2011) and Bush was forced to do pretty much everything. I think Bush responded really well. He showed an ability to use his speed in between the tackles, as well as an ability to be a “bruiser” to some degree. Bush is now in Detroit, where he will probably be utilized more for his speed, but I was really impressed with what Bush did in those two years with Miami, and I think he deserves a spot in the top five.
5. Jamaal Charles
I am a bit biased towards Charles, because he attended the University of Texas and if there is one team that can challenge the Patriots in terms of my fan-hood, it is the Longhorns. But with that being said, there are a couple of reasons why Charles is in the top five. The first thing is he is a fast dude. Watching him on the football field, he seems like the fastest guy in the league most of the time. He has great straight line speed, but he also has great quickness, which he uses to avoid tackles because he isn’t the biggest guy in the world. The second thing is the numbers he has put up in his career. Putting aside his rookie season and his 2011 knee injury season, he has put up 5,097 yards from scrimmage, with 23 touchdowns and longs of 76, 80, and 91. Those are some pretty impressive statistics for three years of work. Despite having the frame of a third down running back, he has found a way to put up these numbers, and stay on the field for all three downs. When you put all of these thing together, I think you definitely have a top five running back in today’s NFL.