Projecting the Top 10 for the 2020 NFL Season: Running Backs

Projecting the Top 10 for the 2020 NFL Season: Running Backs

by August 22, 2020 1 comment

Every year the NFL Network does its top 100 countdown based on the previous season. However, that’s the past, and we want to look forward to the future. Four of our writers have put together a 14 part series, predicting our top 10 at each position. We’ve also included the most under and overrated at each position. Today, we continue the series with our top 10 running backs.

10) Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

Jacobs arrived on the NFL scene with high expectations, and he met them. He would miss the final three games of the season but still put up 1,150 rushing yards on 242 carries and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. While his receiving numbers weren’t huge in 2019, Jacobs still averaged 9.2 yards after the catch. Since he is the only 2019 rookie on this list, the sky’s the limit for Jacobs and look for his name to quickly climb this list in the years to come.

9) Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

Kamara didn’t get as much hype in 2019 as he got the previous season, but he still was a player who could attack you from all over the field. Kamara would put up 797 rushing yards and 533 receiving yards. Just like most of the players on this list, Kamara can attack a defense in multiple areas. While the numbers may not have been as significant, especially the scoring plays, Kamara put up 31 total touchdowns from 2017-18. The traits are there, and 2020 could see the numbers return as well.

8) Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

Jones has struggled to get the recognition he deserves his entire career. While this may be because he has had the pleasure of playing with one of the greatest quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers. However, that doesn’t mean we can ignore what Jones has done. In 2019, the first year Jones has played all 16 games, he put up 1,084 rushing yards, 16 rushing touchdowns, 474 receiving yards, and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Jones also tied with Christian McCaffrey for most total touchdowns in the league with 19. While he may not be top-five, Jones is easily one of the 10 best running backs in the league.

7) Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

The injury bug has plagued Cook for most of his young career as he has only played in 29 out of a potential 48 games. However, in 2019 Cook showcased what everyone thought they were getting when the Vikings drafted him in 2017. Cook edges out Jones on this list mostly because of the consistent style of play that Cook has brought to the Vikings offense. In 2019, Cook had 10 games of 70 or more yards from scrimmage, eight of which were over 100, and didn’t have a single game with less than 50 yards from scrimmage.

6) Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

Chubb has been one of the bright spots over the past two seasons for a Browns team that has gone 13-18-1 over the same period. A physical runner, who dominates after contact and can turn on the jets, is the type of running back you love to have, and Chubb does just that. Chubb put up 1,494 rushing yards along with 278 receiving yards and averaged three yards after contact, which put him second among running backs with at least 200 carries. While some may put him higher, Chubb still needs to develop more as a pass-catcher for me to view him as a top-five running back.

5) Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

Over the past two seasons, Mixon has put up 2,305 rushing yards and averaged 4.9 (2018) and 4.1 (2019) yards per carry. While in 2019, the average was a tad low, keep in mind that he was working with an awful offensive line, and the offense was very predictable. Still, Mixon hit his gaps hard, made defenders miss, and has big-play potential. With the Bengals drafting Joe Burrow, not only should Mixon see more opportunities in the run game, but also through the air in 2020.

4) Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

The 2019 rushing king finds himself at number four on this list. In 2019, Henry would run for 1,540 yards, 16 touchdowns, and averaged 5.1 yards per carry. The only reason that Henry isn’t at the top of this list is that, while he is a dominant downhill runner, his impact in the passing game was minimal in 2019. Of course, this didn’t matter much, as Henry running the ball up the gut was all Tennessee did. 2020 should be an exciting season to watch how Tennessee runs their offense with Ryan Tannehill under center for a full 16 games.

3) Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

The forgotten running back of the top-trio is often Elliott. Unlike the top two, he does have somewhat of a luxury to be playing in a loaded Cowboys offense. That doesn’t take away from the fact that Elliott still looks as dominant as ever, and defenses have to account for him whenever he is on the field. Elliott would put up 1,357 rushing yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry and add on 420 receiving yards last season. While some say he relies on Dallas’ offense, I would say that Dallas’ offense relies on Elliott. Look for him to continue to dominate opposing defenses in 2020.

2) Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

If not for an injury in 2019, Barkley just might be considered the best running back in the NFL. While he did miss three games in 2019, Barkley still managed to put up 1,003 rushing yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. While Barkley hasn’t posted as significant of numbers as Christian McCaffrey in the receiving department, he still put up 438 yards on 52 receptions and averaged 8.4 yards after the catch. We should see a healthy Barkley in 2020 and numbers that will resemble that of his rookie season.

1) Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

When it comes to playing the running back position in the current NFL, there isn’t anyone better than McCaffrey. His new four-year, $64 million contract speaks for itself. In 2019, McCaffrey became the third running back in NFL history to eclipse 1,000 yards in rushing (1,387) and receiving (1,005) in a season and tied for the most touchdowns from scrimmage with 19. McCaffrey not only produces, but he is incredibly elusive on the field and, for almost all, is the number one running back in the NFL.

Most Underrated – Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

I don’t understand the reason why so many seem to forget about Mixon. Perhaps it is because in his time with Cincinnati, the Bengals have gone 15-33, including a 2-14 in 2019. Maybe because he has been playing behind an offensive line who’s best player last year was their center, Trey Hopkins. Despite all this, Mixon has still produced and is one of the best running backs in the league.

Most Overrated – Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos

Coming out of Wisconsin, Gordon was thought to be one of the best running backs in the NFL. However, we are now five years in and are still waiting for a “breakout” season. Gordon has unfortunately been injured a lot and has only played one full season (2017). Outside of 2018, Gordon has failed to average more than 3.9 yards per carry, and his efforts in the passing game aren’t anything special. Still, nothing to verify to make him a top-10 running back. Phillip Lindsay should and will likely see a hight number of the snaps for the Broncos in 2020.

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