We started with everyone’s favourite position, and now we are back with the Running Backs. Last season was a great time for the feature with some players continuing their lofty play and some new kids arriving on the block. In today’s NFL, everyone is looking for that 3 down back, the guy who can do his primary job of running the ball, but who can also catch out of the backfield and block those blitzing Defensive Backs and Edge Rushers. Teams who have one player who can do this are naturally more successful on the ground. You get my way too early 2021 top 5 and the Rookie set to break up the party.
But, you ask, what makes a great Running Back? How do we actually quantify what is the best? Well for a start, as a runner, yardage on the ground has to be the most important thing. If a player can take receiving reps great, but if they catch for 1000 yards but only run for 500, you have no running game. This will therefore make up the most important part of the rankings. Finding the Endzone is important too, but with the growing popularity of Redzone runners, this again is less important against those hard earned yards.
|Derrick Henry||Derrick Henry|
|Dalvin Cook||Dalvin Cook|
|Jonathan Taylor||Nick Chubb|
|Nick Chubb||Jonathan Taylor|
|Alvin Kamara||Cam Akers|
As with the Quarterbacks, both these lists are subjective. I based the picks however on their ability at their primary position, what they bring to their team and the potential next time out.
I can guarantee, this pick will be the consensus first pick on everyone’s board, and how can it not be. Henry became only the 8th Running Back in history to go over 2000 yards, which in itself is such an important statistic. He dominated defenses all year and there is no reason that will change. When a player becomes the featured piece of your Offense, the majority of Defensive Co-ordinators will primarily work to shut that piece down, and it can work (this was proven by the Ravens in the playoffs). However, even if Henry runs for 500 less yards this season, he will still be favourite to win the rushing title.
The only player who seems like a credible threat to the Henry’s dominance atop the Running Backs tree, Cook put together some serious numbers last year. He went over 1500 yards, and while that still put him nearly 500 behind Henry, it also put him 300 ahead of the rest of the pack. In the last two years he has collected over 2700 yards and 29 touchdowns, and that is just on the ground. Dalvin Cook is the only person I can see truly keeping up with Henry.
Nick Chubb averages a touchdown per game last year, scoring 12 touchdowns for the 12 games he played. In those 12 games, he still managed to collect over 1000 yards, which has become the minimum benchmark for a good season in the books of any Running Backs mind. Had he played a full slate of games, based on his production he may have been able to rival Cook, and when healthy he absolutely deserves third on this list.
In his first year with the Colts, Taylor finished with over 1100 yards and 11 touchdowns, which is incredible for his Rookie campaign. It was difficult to put him third on this list, and the only reason is because a healthy Chubb, I believe, is currently at that next level. That being said, there is no reason Taylor will not take those next steps to superstardom. The problem for Taylor and another reason he ends up third here, is that Indianapolis changed Quarterbacks, and based on recent form have downgraded. If Wentz returns to his former glory, Taylor can thrive, however if he does not, Taylor will see 8 men in the box on every running play.
So first let me preface this by saying that Cam Akers ranked 32nd in Running Backs as per ESPN this past season. Then why is he in my top 5 for 2021? Well he went over 15 carries only 6 times last year and those were his last 6 games, including two in the playoffs. He proved himself to be a player on the upside, however his ascendency is tied to an offseason move the Rams made, Matthew Stafford. The man has a cannon for an arm, and is going to immediately improve their passing attack, as a result Cam Akers will be free to exploit teams worried about the pass.
Williams was the third player off the board in April, however his situation is the best. Only three players are seen as workhorses as Rookies, Williams, Etienne and Harris. Harris who was picked first of the three comes into a Steelers team ready for a rebuild, Etienne has a Rookie Quarterback and a stablemate with 1000 yards on the board last year, and Williams enters Denver as the starter. With rumours flying that Aaron Rodgers may be on the move, and with Denver a preferred spot, Williams goes from a good pick, to Rookie of the Year.