The reign of the running back is alive and well.
The old-school style crash and bash running back was out of vogue in the NFL just a few years ago. Now, school is back in session with a number of tailbacks well and truly capturing the attention of football fans.
Look no further than this past round where there were 3 brilliant performances from running backs – Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas Cowboys), Melvin Gordon (San Diego Chargers) and Latavius Murray (Oakland Raiders).
Overshadowed by LA Rams’ Todd Gurley last season, Gordon looks like a player reborn and his huge 196 yards against the Tennessee Titans proved as much. He also ran in for his 11th touchdown of the season, the most of anyone in the NFL.
Murray had an outstanding day himself with 114 yards and 3 touchdowns, while 96 yards and a TD from Elliott maintained his standings at the rushing yard table in, unbelievably, just his rookie season.
With these performances in mind, I’ve named my favourite running backs to watch in the NFL. Not ordered by stats, just by the pure enjoyment and thrills they provide for the fans in the stands.
1. Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys
Season stats: Rushing: 891 yards, 5 yards per carry, 111.4 yards per game, 7 touchdowns.
It speaks volumes of the impact that this kid has made on the NFL. Simply known as ‘Zeke’, Elliott is the league leading rushing and leaving defenders in his wake. Not only does he have the numbers he has the style and breathtaking ability to make you gasp “Wow”. Look at his highlight tapes to see his ability to hurdle defenders. It is unbelievable.
2. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
Season stats: Rushing: 376 yards, 4.5 yards per carry, 75.2 yards per game.
When you have a running back that is the size of a linebacker running through, there are bound to be bodies flying all over the place. Bell is a big, bruising runner who loves nothing more than to bounce off would-be defenders, but don’t be fooled, the man can also cut and run. Injury has quelled his 2016 season so far but when in full flight he is a beast to watch.
3. LeGarrette Blount – New England Patriots
Season stats: Rushing: 609 yards, 3.8 yards per carry, 76.1 yards per game, nine touchdowns.
I know, I know. There is probably bias afoot as Blount does play for my team. In saying that, the 29-year-old is an outstanding ‘duel-threat’ back. For those not up on NFL lingo, it means he is effective as both a rusher and a receiver. Pats fans know Tom Brady loves running screen plays and Blount is his ultimate weapon in those situations.
4. Todd Gurley – LA Rams
Season stats: Rushing: 451 yards, 3.1 yards per carry, 56.4 yards per game, three touchdowns.
The rookie season last year was an outstanding one for the running back out of Georgia, carrying the ball for over 1000 yards on his way to becoming the offensive rookie of the year. Gurley dropped in draft standings due to a torn ACL and many teams wondered if he could ever live up to the promise he showed. In one-and-a-half seasons he has delivered in spades. He will also be a big marketing weapon for the Rams in their new home of LA.
5. Melvin Gordon – San Diego Chargers
Season stats: 768 yards, 4 yards per carry, 85.3 yards per game, nine touchdowns.
Gordon was mentioned in the same breath as Gurley last year but not for the same reasons. There were huge wraps on the Wisconsin graduate and he was seen to not live up to his potential. This season, however he has turned the corner.
He now sits behind only Elliott and DeMarco Murray in rushing yards and Gordon makes big plays when they are needed. Watch his highlights package against Tennessee and see how often he stayed on his feet to gain yards that never should have been his.
Eddy Lacy (Green Bay Packers), David Johnson (Arizona Cardinals), LeSean McCoy (Buffalo Bills), Frank Gore (Indianapolis Colts), DeMarco Murray (Tennesee Titans).
Who do you rank as your favourite running backs? Hit us up on Twitter via @MRodd92 and @nflnewsau!