It seems to be a thankless position in the modern NFL, but who are the best and most important running backs in pro football?
#10 – Eddie Lacy – Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers picked the exact right time to invest in a running back. With Aaron Rodgers sidelined, it was the steady, dependable running of Eddie Lacy that got the Packers enough wins to clinch their third-straight division title. Expectations are for him to get even better moving forward.
#9 – C.J. Spiller – Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills prefer running back by committee, which is not unusual in the NFL but it has somewhat dented the stat line for C.J. Spiller. Despite splitting carries with Fred Jackson most of his career, Spiller makes the most of his chances, averaging 5.1 yards per carry for his career and averaging over 1,000 yards the past two seasons. This done with 207 or fewer carries each year.
#8 – Arian Foster – Houston Texans
Things really didn’t start to go south for the Houston Texans until they lost Arian Foster halfway through the 2013 season. He’d already been fighting injury problems and it hurt his production, but before that the former undrafted free agent was a machine, scoring an absurd 47 combined touchdowns in three seasons and touching the ball 1,115 times.
#7 – Alfred Morris – Washington Redskins
There isn’t much faking out when it comes to Alfred Morris. He is a pure running back in the old school. He runs hard and with great patience and vision, is durable and productive either in winning or losing seasons. In just two years he has over 2,800 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns.
#6 – Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers
The man with the best nickname is the NFL. Frank Gore truly has been the “Inconvient Truth” for a lot of opponents over the years. Despite playing in a crowded backfield for the San Francisco 49ers, he has continued to command primary touches and has topped 1,000 yards in seven of the last eight seasons.
#5 – Marshawn Lynch – Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson gets a ton of credit for his success with the Seattle Seahawks but none of it starts without Marshawn Lynch. Having “Beast Mode” there to pound the ball relentlessly, getting first downs, touchdowns and yards after the catch was the single biggest reason Seattle won so many tight ball games on the way to their championship triumph.
#4 – Matt Forte – Chicago Bears
There might not be a more underappreciated running back in the NFL than Matt Forte. In the midst of what was offensive turmoil for years under Lovie Smith, the Chicago Bears knew they could always count on #22 to run and catch them in situations where they could win. Nothing about him is flashy, but it most certainly is excellent.
#3 – Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs
It might be a slight exaggeration that Jamaal Charles was the Kansas City Chiefs offense in 2013 but it’s not a big stretch. His ability to tote the rock on the ground and then use his speed to burn defenses through the air was a nightmare to stop. He is a home run threat every time he touches the ball, but he also has that old school “cloud of dust” mentality.
#2 – LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles
Having two offensively-minded coaches like Andy Reid and Chip Kelly has done wonders for the career of LeSean McCoy with the Philadelphia Eagles. Still his versatility, speed and toughness have led to some wins by which he alone was responsible. It’s hard to imagine Philly without him on the field.
#1 – Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings
Aside from the fact that Adrian Peterson is the only player on this list to own an MVP award, what he’s meant to the Minnesota Vikings is beyond measure. For his career he’s averaged 5.0 yards per carry, has topped 10,000 yards and never scored fewer than 10 touchdowns in a season. That is dominance personified.