Who are the top ten running backs in the NFL? Deciding to rank the top backs in the league is much more difficult than other positions. There are so many factors to consider. Rushing yards, touchdowns, yards-per-carry, receiving, health, etc.
The running back position is also very much a "What have you done for me lately?" line of work. That is why a player like Shaun Alexander, who would have easily been No. 1 or 2 only three years ago, wouldn't even be ranked in the top-20 today.
With that being said, it wasn't easy but here are the top-10 running backs in the National Football League today.
One of the more underrated backs in the league. Frank Gore has managed to remain consistent despite playing for a 49ers team that remains inconsistent. He's a solid runner and a versatile threat in the receiving game. Last year he caught 43 passes for 373 yards.
If he can manage to get more carries, we might see him transform into the Frank Gore we saw in 2006 when he ran for 1,695 yards.
It was a close call between him and Buffalo's Marshawn Lynch but I gave the edge to Gore because he has strung together three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons to Lynch's two.
9. Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans)
If you want to talk about speed, you need not look any further than Tennessee's Chris Johnson. The man who ran a 4.24 40-yard dash was very effective during his rookie season.
He gathered 1,228 yards while averaging 4.9 yards per carry and scored 10 total touchdowns. I expect Johnson to only get better with age.
Many might argue that Steve Slaton belongs in Johnson's spot but I feel more confident in Johnson's long-term future. If he can take some carries away from LenDale While, we will see even more production.
Brian Westbrook is one of the most versatile running backs not only today but of our entire generation. I like what he brings to the table as he has always been a focal point of the Eagles' offense.
His 54 receptions last season was an off-year for him as he caught 90 for 771 yards the year before.
Westbrook's ability to remain consistently dangerous in both the passing and receiving games make him easily one of the top backs in the league.
7. Thomas Jones (New York Jets)
Thomas Jones led the entire AFC in rushing with 1,312 yards. He also scored a total of 15 touchdowns. That's pretty impressive seeing as his quarterback Brett Favre only threw 22 touchdown passes.
Jones was the undisputed leader of the Jets offense in 2008 and had every reason to call out Favre for damaging his team.
He has remained consistent and will look to continue that trend as the Jets will likely have to focus on the running game more than ever in 2009.
6. Stephen Jackson (St. Louis Rams)
For the fourth consecutive year, Stephen Jackson eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. Only in 2008 he did so in less than 12 games. He also managed to catch 40 passes for 379 yards.
Jackson finished off his 2008 season by running for 161 yards and two touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons. He also caught four passes for 54 yards.
I expect that return to top-form to continue so long as he can remain healthy in 2009. Jackson is one of the best runners in the game and with the combination of his effectiveness in the receiving game, he has all of the potential to get even better in time.
Clinton Portis has run for over 1,200 yards a total of six times in his seven-year career. The only time he failed to be that productive was in 2006 when he missed half of the season.
In 2008, he gathered a total of 1,487 yards and earned himself another trip to the Pro Bowl.
Portis is one of the most reliable backs in football and last season was no different. Washington still looks to be a run-first, pass-second offense so I would not be surprised to see more of the same out of Portis next season.
4. Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons)
Michael Turner had a breakout year in 2008. During his first year active, he gathered 1,699 yards and ran for 17 touchdowns! That's not too bad for the first year he got to grow out of LaDainian Tomlinson's shadow.
Turner has massive potential to continue to work his way up this list. He just needs to display that he can be this productive on a regular basis. Even so, being ranked fourth is not bad for having only played one full NFL season.
3. DeAngelo Williams (Carolina Panthers)
I really feel this guy has not received the proper amount of credit. What he did in 2008 was nothing short of phenomenal. He ran for 1,515 yards while averaging a mind-blowing 5.5 yards-per-carry!
He also proved to be a scoring machine by totaling 20 touchdowns in 2008. Considering he had to split carries with Jonathan Stewart often, the numbers he did manage to put up are simply incredible.
Williams has all of the potential to continue to remain one of the very best running backs in football. I feel that 2008 was only a sign of things to come for this guy's future.
2. LaDainian Tomlinson (San Diego Chargers)
You simply can't knock this man off of his thrown. Tomlinson has been the most productive running back of our generation. People are far too quick to jump on the "L.T.'s washed up" bandwagon.
Tomlinson was injured in 2008. He still managed to run for 1,110 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 3.8 yards-per-carry are a cause for some concern but I feel that a healthy L.T. will be able to improve that number.
He still caught 52 passes for 426 yards and another touchdown.
Was it an off season? Yes, but only because he's LaDainian Tomlinson and we're judging him by his own standards. People began to feel he had lost a step in 2007 even though he led the entire league in rushing, just because he wasn't as productive as he was in 2006.
He seems to be held to a different standard than all other backs. Although he might not ever return to 2006 form, it's going to take a bit more for me to knock Tomlinson down the list. He's been far too productive for far too long for us to take anything away from him.
For the first time in years, I might actually be able to say that there is a better running back out there than LaDainian Tomlinson. Adrian Peterson's success should come as no surprise. He's the best pure-runner I've seen since Eric Dickerson.
Peterson led the entire league in rushing with 1,760 yards! His 10 touchdowns are a bit low for a runner of his caliber but Peterson has too much potential to be overlooked. The only real issue I see is his fumbling but that is also an area I expect to see improvement in.
He's still young and has time to develop his skills. Still, 3,101 rushing yards in your first two seasons is not too shabby. Expect to be seeing much more out of Adrian Peterson for a very long time.
There you have it. The list was very difficult to rank but I'm confident in my selections. It was hard to leave out other quality backs like Brandon Jacobs, Marshawn Lynch, Ronnie Brown, Larry Johnson, Steve Slaton, Matt Forte...the list could go on and on.
Still, there were only 10 spots so many guys where bound to be left out. Those are my top-10 running backs of the NFL. I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks.