Top Running Back Power Rankings
The continuation of my power rankings going position by position. Thanks to the pandemic rankings have been all the rage and without college football in the foreseeable future it will be difficult to try to make mock drafts for a bit. After completing the quarterback rankings and ruffling some feathers, I will move onto the running back position that has quickly become a diminishing position on the field. However, if you have a top back they can still be a key cog to your victory. Unfortunately, a trend of top backs has them stuck on mediocre or bad teams. So without further adieu, here we go!
25) David Montgomery - Chicago Bears
24) Adrian Peterson - Washington
23) Sony Michel - New England Patriots
22) Chris Carson - Seattle Seahawks
21) Rashaad Penny - Seattle Seahawks
There are a few intriguing names here who still have a lot of work to do to make sure they stay on their respective teams here. Montgomery played in an anemic offense last year and with teams loading the box unafraid of Trubisky’s passing prowess it was tough sledding for him. He did display strong ability to keep moving after first contact and displayed sneaky strong hands. Maybe with Nick Foles to keep defenses honest he could have a much better sophomore season. Peterson out of respect deserves to be on this list and it’s incredible he can still be pegged as a top back for a team. To be honest Washington is holding him back with poor blocking and quarterback play. Michel looked great during his rookie year, but continues to be nicked up and injured. He might be leaned on more with Brady gone and may have more opportunities to shine. Carson and Penny might as well be the same ranking with their ability to play very well, but also be injured and hamper their respective offenses. I put Penny higher just with his upside and talent to be a top back.
20) D’Andre Swift - Detroit Lions
19) Melvin Gordon - Denver Broncos
18) Todd Gurley - Atlanta Falcons
17) Kenyan Drake - Arizona Cardinals
16) Leonard Fournette - Jacksonville Jaguars
It might be bold to put Swift this high right away, but I think he is a talented enough back to keep defenses honest in Detroit. He has great speed, hands, and shiftiness. To me he looks like a more spry version of Sony Michel and could be a nice hand off partner for Matthew Stafford to finally work with. The next two are overhyped backs in my opinion with Gordon and Gurley both not aging gracefully at all. Gordon boldly sat out a handful of games for the Chargers and saw Austin Ekeler shine and upon his return he basically threw the whole offense out of whack. He is a talented back, but injuries continue to sap his talent away and his unwillingness to take a back seat if the offense is clicking is a bit worrisome. Gurley is the same, but his peak was much much higher. With an arthritic knee I doubt he ever returns to his peak. Drake proved to be plenty talented behind a solid quarterback like Kyler Murray. Unfortunately, the trend continues where injuries continue to slow down his ascension. Fournette could easily be a top 10 or even top 5 back with his talent. His issue has been lethargy and unwillingness to play banged up. I knew the Jags overdrafted him and I am sure they realized as well.
15) Austin Ekeler - Los Angeles Chargers
14) Jonathan Taylor - Indianapolis Colts
13) Clyde Edwards-Helaire - Kansas City Chiefs
12) Raheem Mostert - San Francisco 49ers
11) Mark Ingram - Baltimore Ravens
The Chargers had two great backs in Gordon and Ekeler at one point or another. Unfortunately, they could never figure out how to use both to the best of their abilities. Ekeler is the more dynamic of the two in my opinion with his hands and ability to work out of the back field. He has a lot of upside now as the top back on the roster and if he again can stay healthy he could be a great crutch for Justin Herbert. I want to lump the two other rookie backs Jonathan Taylor and Clyde Edwards-Helaire together here. Both have a ton of potential and I would not be shocked if they jockey together to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award between them. I give Edwards-Helaire a bit of a lean with him playing on a much better offense, but Taylor does have the better o-line. It will be an interesting race between the two. Mostert may be over playing himself to get paid since I think if he leaves the 49ers he will never put up those numbers. Kyle Shanahan’s offenses are conducive to producing great numbers for running backs. He will be much better suited staying in the Bay Area. Ingram is quietly one of the better backs in the league and has been overshadowed by the likes of Alvin Kamara and now Lamar Jackson throughout his career. His lack of pass catching ability does limit his potential to be one of the best backs.
10) James Conner - Pittsburgh Steelers
9) Josh Jacobs - Las Vegas Raiders
8) Aaron Jones - Green Bay Packers
7) Joe Mixon - Cincinnati Bengals
6) Alvin Kamara - New Orleans Saints
Conner to me needs to stay healthy like many backs on this list to really shine. When healthy he is the key cog for the Steelers offense and with an aging Big Ben he could be even more relied on. They do have a stable of backs to roll in and out to keep him fresh next season. Plus, with Big Ben healthy he might have an easier time with a less loaded box this season. Jacobs displayed a great amount of talent during his rookie season and in the Raiders run first scheme he can continue to shine. I would like to see him make more “home run plays” to make him more dangerous, but his lack of elite speed hinders him there. Overall, though he is a great back and could continue to improve going into their sophomore year. Jones is a sneaky great back for the Packers and is a touchdown machine when they get near the red zone. It will be interesting to see if A.J. Dillon’s arrival will eat into his carries or will they use the rookie to help pave the road for Jones in the running game. Mixon could get a nice boost with Burrow’s arrival giving them a dangerous quarterback for the first time in his career to play behind. He should also be heavily leaned on as Burrow gets his feet wet during his rookie season. Kamara is one of the most dangerous backs in the league with his elite speed, but I worry he is being too heavily leaned on in the running game. He misses his running mate Ingram who took up a lot of the tough yards during their time together.
5) Ezekiel Elliott - Dallas Cowboys
4) Nick Chubb - Cleveland Browns
3) Derrick Henry - Tennessee Titans
2) Saquon Barkley - New York Giants
1) Christian McCaffrey - Carolina Panthers
In a league where running backs are going to the wayside, these five guys are really standouts and continue to push their teams ahead. Elliott has the most potential out of all these guys, but after being paid he looked sluggish and uninterested last year. It will be interesting to see if he goes the way of the lazy overpaid backs that have shown up over the past few years like Chris Johnson and Todd Gurley. Chubb to me is the best player on an overhyped offense in Cleveland. He was continually forgotten about despite getting the 2nd most rushing yards in the league. If they lean on him more than just trying to force passes to OBJ or Jarvis Landry their offense could be a bit more consistent. Henry single handedly carried the Titans into the playoffs and almost all the way to the Super Bowl. If he was more handy in the passing game he could easily be the best back in the league. Unfortunately, it looks like the Titans are looking to just load him up with touches and let him go after this year. It will be interesting to see if he can handle a huge amount of carries and still be successful after he leaves Tennessee. Barkley has the unfortunate benefit of being drafted high and proving backs could still be a great pick in the top 5. Unfortunately, he was selected by one of those bad teams who pick in the top 5 and now he is being overworked to the point where I am not sure he will be much use after his rookie deal is up. He is a dynamic all around back, great kid, and a great locker room guy. He might just never find his way to play on a great team and if he does he might not be as great as he once was. McCaffrey is another great back on a terrible team in Carolina. I do have more hope for the newly revitalized Panthers with Bridgewater and Matt Rhule than I do with the Giants with Daniel Jones and Joe Judge. What makes McCaffrey so special is his pass catching ability to go along with sneaky great power to be an every down back and run between the tackles. He stays in great shape and health to most likely be a rare long term back for the Panthers. However, this list to me just proves how unimportant the position is nowadays. None of the top five backs outside of Henry has single handedly won a playoff game. Even back in the day top backs like Walter Payton, Eddie George, and Barry Sanders were never the only reason for their teams’ success like a quarterback or pass rusher can. Overall, how important has the running back position ever been is the thing I want to enlighten people on.