The running back scene in the NFL is a changeable one. This is clear when we notice the fact that before last season, Trent Richardson would have been sitting near the top of many running back rankings. After six weeks of the 2014 season he isn’t even his team’s best running back.
The point is, these rankings need to be regularly updated if we want them to be anything close to accurate. For this reason, NFL Ireland’s weekly positional rankings are going to focus on the running back position this week.
These rankings are mostly based on this season’s form (Although past success may influence the results slightly). This is a ranking of the 32 currently starting running backs in the league (Even if there are backups who could be better than another team’s starter) , so we’re going to exclude players who are sitting on the bench, backs who are currently suffering from long-term injuries, and those who are having legal troubles.
Guys who should be worrying about their job!
32. Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars: To start in this league, Gerhart has to do better than failing to eclipse 50 rushing yards in a game after 5 starts. The fact that he has only recorded one touchdown in that span doesn’t improve the situation. He always looked impressive as a backup in Minnesota, but he doesn’t seem up to task of being a starter in this league.
31. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers: Is he even the Panthers starting running back? That whole situation is a mess of injuries. No Panthers back has played enough to tell how they compare to the rest of the pack. Maybe it’s wrong to assume that he’s better than Gerhart. Let’s do it anyway.
30. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It’s easy to see why Martin is losing carries to Bobby Rainey. He has also failed to reach the 50 yard rushing mark in a game (Although he has played fewer games). He had a brilliant rookie season, but that was a long time ago, and since then Martin hasn’t looked like a starting NFL running back.
29. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders: McFadden is carrying the load in Oakland’s running game. Injuries aren’t the problem for McFadden anymore, a lack of production is. He has struggled to a 3.4 YPC this season. Maurice Jones-Drew isn’t getting anywhere near as many carries as McFadden at the moment, but expect that to change in the coming weeks as McFadden’s lacklustre play continues.
28. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions: Bush is coming off the best season of his career, but that seems like a distant memory now. He has been hampered by injuries, but even when healthy, his play hasn’t been impressive.
27. Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans: Before the season started, Sankey was expected to be the starter in the Tennessee backfield. Shonn Greene held him at bay for a while, but his hamstring issues have made Sankey the lead back for the Titans. Sankey has looked competent in his limited appearances, and in his start last week. Not spectacular, but competent.
26. Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos: Montee Ball was ineffective as the starter in Denver, but Hillman is going to start for the next few weeks. Hillman looked impressive in his first start, going off for 100 yards on the ground. However, he once again showed off his fumbling issues late in the game. We’ll need to see more from him to get a fair indication of his rank.
Decent with the rock put you’re not going to hang your franchise on them.
25. Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons: Jackson is the primary rusher for the Falcons, but that doesn’t mean much. The Falcons are often left chasing games through the air, leaving Jackson with little to do. He’s clearly not the same player he used to be, but he can still play.
24. Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings: McKinnon has effectively become the starter in Minnesota. He has dominated the carries in the Vikings backfield (11 last week), but he has also made an impression in the passing game. Overall, he has about 300 yards from scrimmage in the last 3 weeks. McKinnon is going to be a big factor for the Vikings this year.
23. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots: With Ridley out, Vereen is going to have to step up. He’s likely to be the leader of a committee, so he’ll need to produce more rushing yards. However, his talent as a receiver out of the backfield can’t be denied.
22. Ben Tate, Cleveland Browns: Tate has been unstoppable since his return from injury. He has over 200 yards, and 2 touchdowns in only two games. His carries are stacking up (25 last week), but it doesn’t look like an issue for him.
21. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams: This year, Stacy isn’t getting the carries that made him such a superstar last season. His stats seem to decline every week, and the committee running back strategy is knocking at his door. Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham seem to be taking more and more carries away from him.
20. Khiry Robinson, New Orleans Saints: It’s hard to know what Saints running back should be sitting on this list, but Robinson has certainly been their most effective rusher in recent weeks. He has come close to 100 yards rushing in his last two games, and has dominated the carries in New Orleans. Thomas has been a non-factor in terms of carries, and Ingram is only recovering from injury.
19. Branden Oliver, San Diego Chargers: Oliver has rushed for over 100 yards in his last two outings. He has three total touchdowns in that span. He’s not just a fill-in for Ryan Mathews, this guy can be a big part of this San Diego offense even when Mathews is healthy. Just don’t call him “The Next Sproles”.
The Middle of the Road
18. Rashad Jennings, New York Giants: Jennings won’t play this week, but he should be back after their bye week. He has secured close to 400 yards on the ground, and he has more of a chance to succeed as the Giants passing game improves. He’ll be a solid producer for the rest of the season, unless Andre Williams impresses in his absence.
17. Chris Ivory, New York Jets: Ivory, and the Jets are a match made in heaven. The Jets love playing ground-and-pound with tough running backs, Ivory loves being a tough running back. He easily shook off Chris Johnson, and proved he was the starter. If the Jets passing game was more threatening, Ivory’s numbers would improve.
16. Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills: CJ Spiller’s presence in the Buffalo backfield doesn’t seem to bother Jackson. He has gathered almost 500 yards on the ground, and continues to get most of the carries. However, Spiller is a talented back, and would also be on this list if he started for a different team. He limits Jackson’s ceiling.
15. Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins: Miller is quickly becoming the back people thought he would be last year. His YPC is over 5, and he has secured 330 yards on the ground. Unfortunately, he also has 3 fumbles leaving a stain on his stat sheets. He’s now set to lead the Dolphins rushing attack for the rest of the season, with Knowshon Moreno injured.
14. Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis Colts: I don’t care how many carries he gets, I refuse to put Richardson in this list instead of Bradshaw. Bradshaw’s YPC is far superior to Richardson’s, and plays a much bigger part in the passing game. Let’s just pretend that Bradshaw is the starter.
13. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers: Nothing’s going right for Lacy this season. He’s getting the touches, but he’s not getting the yards. He’s had injury troubles, but even when healthy he hasn’t reached the same heights as he did last year. It’s strange that in such a dynamic offense, Lacy can’t keep his YPC above 4.
12. Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals: Ellington seems to have constant injury problems, but he still manages to be his usual playmaking self. However, many of his yards come through the air. He could be a more effective rusher if his team gave him the chance.
11. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: Gore laughs in the face of those of us who age. No matter how many seasons he plays, Gore still produces 1000-yard seasons like they’re nothing.
10. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs: Charles hasn’t been given much of a chance this year. Injuries limited the first few weeks of his season, but he has also been utilised less in this offense than usual. He is still putting up good numbers, but he can do better.
9. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins: Morris is like a young Frank Gore. He just churns out yards quietly every season. There’s not a lot to say about Morris, he just does his job, and he does it well.
8. Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens: It looks like Ravens fans won’t be mourning the loss of Ray Rice for too long, given the way Forsett is playing right now. He has over 6 YPC, and 400 rushing yards after 6 games. Ray who?
7. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals: Bernard is electrifying. He’s quick, he’s always a threat to break off a big play, and plays a big part in the passing game. He has put up well over 500 yards, even though Jeremy Hill is stealing carries off him.
6. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: People thought that Lynch would collapse this year. People were wrong. Lynch is the same machine that he always was. He’s scored 6 total touchdowns already this year.
5. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: People have been disappointed by McCoy so far this season, but he has still amassed over 400 rushing yards in 6 games. When he starts getting back in the end zone, people will stop worrying about him.
4. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears: He has 775 total yards.
3. Arian Foster, Houston Texans: It’s not easy being Arian Foster. He seems to always have some sort of injury, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is his QB. However, he has managed to put these problems behind him this year to rush for over 500 yards in 6 weeks.
2. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers: Bell’s consistency is ridiculous. He has put up over 100 total yards in every game he has played this season. That’s enough for 2nd place on the list.
1. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: No running back in the game is playing as well as DeMarco Murray is right now. Sure, his offensive line is solid, but we can’t take his numbers away from him for that. His 785 rushing yards are by far the most in the league, and his 6 rushing touchdowns lead the league too. Yes, he has trouble holding on to the ball, but when he’s on pace to beat the single-season rushing yards record, he has to be at number 1.