November 12, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) rushes for a twelve yard touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Top 5 NFL Running Backs


Jan 5, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) prior to the snap in the second quarter of the NFC Wild Card playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Jan 12, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) is tackled by Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) during the fourth quarter of the AFC divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field. The Ravens won 38-35 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Jan 5, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans running back Arian Foster (23) runs the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter of the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

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.

May 22, 2013; Allen Park, MI, USA; Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush (21) during organized team activities at Lions training facility. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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Tags: Adrian Peterson Arian Foster Jamaal Charles NFL Offseason Ray Rice Reggie Bush

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

    Reggie Bush? I would never put him in the top five, especially after a fairly average 2012 campaign. I can’t help but feel that you snubbed C.J. Spiller. How did Lynch and Gore stack up, by the way?

    • Cyrus Geller

      I know Bush is not a popular pick, but I really liked what I saw from him in his two years with Miami. As for Gore and Lynch I think they both put up great numbers but I think Gore benefited greatly from an explosive offense. He is older now, and less dynamic. He is a very good back for what the niners want him to do, but I don’t think he is top 5 anymore. Lynch was solid as well and I really wanted to put him in, but I think Bush will just be better in 2013. I have never been a big fan of Spiller. He reminds me of Bush before he got to Miami. If Spiller can develop some sort of “Bruiser mentality” is what I like to call it, then I think he could vault to the top couple of guys.

  • Tim Dillon

    Good piece but I agree with Joe, Reggie Bush probably would have been at the bottom of my top 10, not in the top 5. I would have put Lynch/Gore over him and even considered Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, and Chris Johnson.

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

      Morris? Possibly. Johnson? Too inconsistent. Martin? He’s not quite there yet.

    • Cyrus Geller

      Most people disagree with the Bush pick, and I am fine with that. I just see something in him in these last couple of years that I really liked. Morris is on the move and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in everybody’s top ten next season.

  • NWBill

    How close, if at all, would you rank CJ Spiller with this group? Spiller was one of a few guys to average around 6 yds a carry last year – I think he opened a lot of peoples’ eyes around the league as a very dangerous player. Too bad Chan Gailey was his coach – he wasn’t used to his best potential, and he STILL managed to make headlines. This year, with a coach who has a history of knowing how to use effective running backs? Who knows what this guy can accomplish!

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

      I would rank Spiller as the second-best back in the league. I mean, look at how many yards he averages per carry.

      • mitch

        Charles has more YPC than Spiller. In fact he broke Jim Browns record.

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

          Ugh, can’t believe I forgot about his insane 2011 season. Charles could really explode this year in Reid’s offense, since they’ll be passing more. On second thought, Spiller still needs to prove something (give him more carries, Bills), so I’d put him at fourth, move Charles up to third, and then bump Foster to fifth while throwing Bush off the list (that’s the only pick I completely disagree with, Bush being in there).

    • Cyrus Geller

      Spiller is definetly top 10, but I still think he has to prove he can be a solid three down runner.

      • NWBill

        Isn’t that kinda what he did last season? I mean, even Chan Gailey didn’t take him out during a series when he was in there – of course, Fred Jackson was injured for most of the year, but Gailey COULD have removed Spiller on third down many times …. and didn’t. Spiller is a beast of an athlete with breakaway speed, and proved that he could run between the tackles in 2012 – I think of him as a slightly smaller, faster version of Marshan Lynch in his prime.

  • Dave

    This article is very biased. I agree with the first 3 maybe but Bush and Charles do not belong in this list. I think number 4 should be Lynch and number 5 should be Alfred Morris

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

      How exactly is this biased? Do you mean to say that you disagree with his rankings? I don’t agree with them either, but Cyrus was definitely not biased in all of this. I mean, who would he have been biased for/against in this? There is no evidence of bias.

    • Cyrus Geller

      I agree with Joe, you may disagree with the picks, but I don’t see where I am being biased anywhere.

  • Austin Wagner

    Peterson, Foster, Lynch, Rice, Charles. Bush has no business being ahead of Lynch. Please tell me that you would choose Bush over Lynch on your fantasy team.