Will Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson rush for 2,000 or more yards for a second straight season?
It’s always dangerous to make predictions when it comes to forecasting anything regarding an NFL season…especially in early July.
Despite that, predicting the final statistics for every meaningful running back on each team in 2013 is on tap. After a lot of careful consideration and speculation, here is the finished product. And let’s be honest: The odds that any of these are incorrect are remote indeed.
All kidding aside, I’ve taken a shot at forecasting the primary running backs for each team and how they’ll fare this upcoming season—both in terms of rushing and receiving statistics.
The following projections are based on a number of factors, including past performance, age, experience, wear and tear, injuries and changes in offensive philosophy. And if these predictions are correct, 22 players will run for at least 1,000 yards in 2013. That would be one short of the NFL record first set in 2000 and tied in 2006.
With the emphasis on the passing game these days, the fact is 16 players did reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark last season. Four of those running backs topped 1,500 yards on the ground.
So, take a look and save this piece for prosperity…or perhaps a little hilarity.
Rushing: 239 attempts, 892 yards, 7 touchdowns
Receiving: 33 receptions, 301 yards, 2 touchdowns
Analysis: The Arizona Cardinals were last in the NFL in rushing last season and as a team totaled just 1,204 yards on the ground. That figure was surpassed by 10 players in the league in 2012. Mendenhall is a former two-time 1,000-yard rusher and should benefit from the team’s revamped offensive line. The former Pittsburgh Steelers running back should also be back to 100 percent after suffering a knee injury in Week 17 of the 2011 season.
Rushing: 236 attempts, 955 yards, 5 touchdowns
Receiving: 35 receptions, 361 yards, 3 touchdowns
Analysis: Last season, running back Michael Turner led the Atlanta Falcons with exactly 800 yards rushing. It was his lowest total in five seasons with the team. Wide receivers Roddy White (1,351) and Julio Jones (1,198), and tight end Tony Gonzalez (930) all had more receiving yards in 2012.
In his last eight seasons with the St. Louis Rams, Jackson ran for at least 1,000 or more yards. But that streak could end given his new team’s current offensive philosophy.
Rushing: 245 attempts, 1,097 yards, 12 touchdowns
Receiving: 55 receptions, 507 yards, 2 touchdowns
Rushing: 144 attempts, 610 yards, 4 touchdowns
Receiving: 12 receptions, 81 yards, 0 touchdowns
Analysis: Rice is one of the league’s most productive running backs. Over the last four seasons, he’s totaled 7,506 yards from scrimmage—the most in the NFL. Pierce rolled up 532 yards rushing as a rookie in 2012.
During their four-game playoff run last season, the Baltimore Ravens averaged 134.8 yards per game rushing on their way to a Super Bowl title, almost 20 yards better than their performance in the regular season (118.8 yards per game).
Rushing: 265 attempts, 1,461 yards, 9 touchdowns
Receiving: 51 receptions, 568 yards, 4 touchdowns
Analysis: After looking like a bit of a disappointment as a runner early in his career, Spiller is suddenly turning heads. And those heads are of the defenders the three-year pro is running past. Last season, the former first-round pick ran for 1,244 yards on 207 carries, an imposing 6.0 yards per attempt.
With new head coach Doug Marrone and Kevin Kolb or rookie EJ Manuel at quarterback, look for Spiller’s overall workload to increase.
Rushing: 194 attempts, 874 yards, 7 touchdowns
Receiving: 28 receptions, 302 yards, 2 touchdowns
Rushing: 145 attempts, 717 yards, 8 touchdowns
Receiving: 12 receptions, 110 yards, 0 touchdown
Analysis: In 2009, Stewart and Williams each ran for over 1,100 yards, an unprecedented feat. A year ago, the tandem combined for 1,073 yards rushing while quarterback Cam Newton led the Carolina Panthers with 741 yards on the ground. Stewart, who missed seven games in 2012, may not be ready for training camp, and Mike Tolbert remains in the backfield mix.
Look for a strong second half of the season from Stewart once he’s fully recovered.
Rushing: 273 attempts, 1,209 yards, 8 touchdowns
Receiving: 45 receptions, 412 yards, 3 touchdowns
Rushing: 93 attempts, 303 yards, 4 touchdowns
Receiving: 15 receptions, 121 yards, 0 touchdowns
Analysis: Forte has been one of the league’s most productive players since entering the NFL in 2008, rushing for 1,000 or more yards three times and catching at least 40 passes in each of his five seasons. But he hasn’t been a big scoring threat as of late, totaling just 23 touchdowns the last four years.
Look for that to change in 2013. Under head coach Marc Trestman, the Chicago Bears offense may be one of the most balanced in the league this season.
Rushing: 165 attempts, 708 yards, 8 touchdowns
Receiving: 15 receptions, 104 yards, 0 touchdowns
Rushing: 204 attempts, 1,006 yards, 6 touchdowns
Receiving: 38 receptions, 415 yards, 4 touchdowns
Analysis: Playing a little bit of a hunch here but when it is all said and done, the Cincinnati Bengals will be the beneficiaries of this tandem. Green-Ellis finished 2012 with 1,094 yards rushing, with more than half of that (557 yards) coming in his final six games of the season.
Bernard, a second-round pick in April, has big-play ability, and it may be hard for head coach Marvin Lewis to keep him out of the starting lineup for long. Bernard may also pose a big threat on kickoff returns.
Rushing: 343 attempts, 1,573 yards, 11 touchdowns
Receiving: 31 receptions, 412 yards, 3 touchdowns
Analysis: Some assume the addition of offensive coordinator Norv Turner by the Cleveland Browns will be a big plus for second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden. That may be, but the coach may have an even bigger impact on Richardson.
Turner has worked with some of the game’s best running backs such as Emmitt Smith, Ricky Williams and LaDainian Tomlinson. Don’t be surprised if Richardson challenges for the NFL rushing title in 2013.
Rushing: 261 attempts, 1,052 yards, 6 touchdowns
Receiving: 40 receptions, 294 yards, 1 touchdown
Analysis: There’s no questioning the talent of Murray, who led the Dallas Cowboys with 663 yards rushing (four touchdowns) a year ago. But keeping the running back on the field has been the biggest issue. A year ago, only the Arizona Cardinals ran for fewer yards than Jason Garrett’s team, meaning quarterback Tony Romo was putting the ball in the air far too often.
It says here that the third year will be the charm for the talented Murray.
Rushing: 194 attempts, 836 yards, 3 touchdowns
Receiving: 34 receptions, 351 yards, 3 touchdowns
Rushing: 136 attempts, 545 yards, 7 touchdowns
Receiving: 15 receptions, 136 yards, 0 touchdowns
Rushing: 48 attempts, 202 yards, 1 touchdown
Receiving: 23 receptions, 211 yards, 2 touchdowns
Analysis: Last season, the Denver Broncos finished fourth in the NFL in total yards per game and only the New England Patriots scored more points. While quarterback Peyton Manning threw a franchise-record 37 touchdown passes, the running game ranked only 16th in the league.
The team parted ways with veteran running back Willis McGahee, and it will be interesting to see if Hillman, Ball or Moreno emerges as a No. 1 runner.
Rushing: 198 attempts, 864 yards, 6 touchdowns
Receiving: 55 receptions, 612 yards, 4 touchdowns
Rushing: 151 attempts, 606 yards, 6 touchdowns
Receiving: 29 receptions, 283 yards, 0 touchdowns
Analysis: In his two seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Bush proved he could be a runner who could succeed between the tackles. Now he brings his talents to the Detroit Lions, at team which ranked 23rd in the league in rushing last season despite some flashes from Leshoure and Joique Bell.
You can also look for the versatile Bush to become a big factor in the passing attack, giving quarterback Matthew Stafford another much-needed receiving option.
Rushing: 201 attempts, 1,105 yards, 10 touchdowns
Receiving: 19 receptions, 96 yards, 0 touchdowns
Rushing: 112 attempts, 451 yards, 5 touchdowns
Receiving: 44 receptions, 512 yards, 2 touchdowns
Analysis: After finishing 27h in the league in rushing in 2011, the Green Bay Packers “jumped” to 20th in the same category last season. But with the addition of rookies Lacy and Franklin, look for the Pack to make leaps and bounds in this department in 2013.
It’s essential that they do, because quarterback Aaron Rodgers, despite his gaudy numbers, was sacked a league-high 51 times last year due partly to a lack of support from the running game.
Rushing: 342 attempts, 1,617 yards, 14 touchdowns
Receiving: 30 receptions, 388 yards, 3 touchdowns
Analysis: While most would acknowledge that Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings) is currently the game’s best running back, can Foster actually be that far behind? Over the past three seasons, since becoming the Houston Texans' primary starter in the backfield, he’s totaled 5,702 yards from scrimmage and scored 47 touchdowns in 45 games.
Foster led the NFL with 351 rushing attempts in 2012 and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the addition of free-agent fullback Greg Jones (Jacksonville Jaguars) can only mean good things for Foster and the club.
Rushing: 157 attempts, 715 yards, 5 touchdowns
Receiving: 31 receptions, 324 yards, 3 touchdowns
Rushing: 154 attempts, 710 yards, 4 touchdowns
Receiving: 26 receptions, 247 yards, 2 touchdowns
Analysis: Last season, Ballard led the team with 814 yards rushing during his rookie campaign. The Indianapolis Colts averaged just 104.4 yards per game on the ground, good for 22nd in the NFL in 2012. Bradshaw, the former New York Giants standout, should feel comfortable in Indianapolis, where he scored the winning touchdown for his team in Super Bowl XLVI.
And what of running back Donald Brown, the team’s first-round selection in 2009?
Rushing: 288 attempts, 1,414 yards, 10 touchdowns
Receiving: 61 receptions, 581 yards, 3 touchdowns
Analysis: The good news last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars was that Jones-Drew once again led the team in rushing. The worse news was that Jones-Drew ran for only 414 yards and missed the final 10 games.
Along with the free-agency departure of fullback Greg Jones, running backs Rashad Jennings, Montell Owens and Jalen Parmele are all currently with other teams as well.
A wild card in the backfield mix could be rookie Denard Robinson, the former University of Michigan quarterback turned professional offensive weapon.
Rushing: 253 attempts, 1,397 yards, 9 touchdowns
Receiving: 47 receptions, 423 yards, 2 touchdowns
Analysis: It proved to be a dismal 2012 season for the Kansas City Chiefs, but it was an amazing year for Charles, who played in just two games the previous season after injuring his knee that September. With new head coach Andy Reid at the controls, you can also expect Charles to become a bigger factor in the passing game in 2013.
Running back Peyton Hillis was a disappointment last season and won’t be back, so look for rookie Knile Davis, a third-round selection in April, to spell Charles on occasion.
Rushing: 192 attempts, 946 yards, 7 touchdowns
Receiving: 23 receptions, 195 yards, 2 touchdowns
Rushing: 111 attempts, 423 yards, 6 touchdowns
Receiving: 30 receptions, 238 yards, 1 touchdown
Analysis: With running back Reggie Bush now a member of the Detroit Lions, Miller now looks like the main man in the Miami Dolphins backfield. He figures to easily top his 250 yards rushing of a season ago.
Thomas ran for 325 yards and four touchdowns last season—second behind Bush on the team in 2012. And don’t rule out rookie Mike Gillislee, a fifth-round pick in April, when it comes to making an impression this season as well.
Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill will need this support despite all the team’s additions in terms of wide receiver and tight end.
Rushing: 300 attempts, 1,761 yards, 14 touchdowns
Receiving: 31 receptions, 283 yards, 0 touchdowns
Analysis: What more can be said about Peterson, the league's Most Valuable Player in 2012? His 2,097 yards rushing last season, roughly a year removed from knee surgery, was eight yards short of the NFL’s single-season record. And could he put up similar numbers in 2013?
It is worth noting that no player in league history has ever run for 2,000 or more yards on more than one occasion, much less in consecutive seasons. But betting against Peterson would be foolish, considering what he accomplished a season ago.
Rushing: 317 attempts, 1,373 yards, 13 touchdowns
Receiving: 12 receptions, 97 yards, 0 touchdowns
Rushing: 86 attempts, 341 yards, 1 touchdown
Receiving: 28 receptions, 285 yards, 4 touchdowns
Analysis: The New England Patriots scored the most points and gained the most yards in the league in 2012. And while neither figure is surprising, it may stun some to know that the team ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing. Ridley comes off running for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he and Vereen could be the team’s offensive catalysts this season.
The big question is: Where does veteran running back LeGarrette Blount, obtained via trade from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in April, fit in the team’s plans this season?
Rushing: 163 attempts, 763 yards, 2 touchdowns
Receiving: 41 receptions, 402 yards, 4 touchdowns
Rushing: 41 attempts, 204 yards, 0 touchdowns
Receiving: 68 receptions, 702 yards, 5 touchdowns
Rushing: 99 attempts, 373 yards, 5 touchdowns
Receiving: 10 receptions, 54 yards, 0 touchdowns
Analysis: Despite having at least three talented backs on the roster, the New Orleans Saints ranked only 25th in the league in rushing a year ago. Ingram led the club a year ago in attempts, yards and rushing touchdowns. Sproles finished third on the team with 75 receptions and caught seven touchdown passes, and Thomas may be the best overall running back of the group.
Look for more emphasis on the run from head coach Sean Payton in 2013.
Rushing: 252 attempts, 1,148 yards, 9 touchdowns
Receiving: 25 receptions, 238 yards, 1 touchdown
Rushing: 104 attempts, 493 yards, 4 touchdowns
Receiving: 15 receptions, 121 yards, 1 touchdown
Analysis: Last year, Wilson was the final pick of the first round of the NFL draft. While he rolled up an NFL-high 1,533 yards on kickoff returns, Wilson also managed to run for 358 yards and four touchdowns on just 71 carries.
With the release of running back Ahmad Bradshaw this offseason, the New York Giants will be leaning on Wilson much more in 2013. Brown added 385 yards and eight touchdowns on 73 attempts a year ago.
Rushing: 164 attempts, 621 yards, 6 touchdowns
Receiving: 23 receptions, 242 yards, 2 touchdowns
Rushing: 137 attempts, 532 yards, 6 touchdowns
Receiving: 11 receptions, 92 yards, 0 touchdowns
Analysis: During the first two seasons of the Rex Ryan era with the New York Jets, the team finished first and fourth in the league in rushing yards in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The team hasn’t approached those numbers since, and running back Shonn Greene left the team via free agency this offseason.
The Jets picked up Ivory from the New Orleans Saints during draft weekend, and he could be the perfect solution to the problem. Powell ran for 437 yards and four scores last season and will try to fend off free-agent pickup Mike Goodson for the backup job. And will Goodson miss any time in 2013?
Rushing: 281 attempts, 1,532 yards, 10 touchdowns
Receiving: 45 receptions, 398 yards, 3 touchdowns
Analysis: The biggest news here that for the first time in six NFL seasons, McFadden will play in all 16 games and not surprisingly, put up career numbers for second-year head coach Dennis Allen. The Oakland Raiders selected McFadden with the fourth overall pick in 2008 and the electrifying performer has missed 23 games in five seasons.
The team added running back Rashad Jennings via free agency from the Jacksonville Jaguars and it will be intriguing to see how much the Raiders will need him in 2013.
Rushing: 268 attempts, 1,325 yards, 11 touchdowns
Receiving: 50 receptions, 484 yards, 3 touchdowns
Rushing: 83 attempts, 349 yards, 3 touchdowns
Receiving: 22 receptions, 221 yards, 0 touchdowns
Analysis: Everyone is still waiting to see what the Philadelphia Eagles offense will truly look like under new head coach Chip Kelly. In any case, McCoy figures to play a major part in the team’s new-look attack. The talented runner, who missed four games a year ago, totaled just 800 yards rushing last season and actually scored more receiving touchdowns (three) and rushing touchdowns (two).
Brown showed a lot of explosive qualities last season but must do a better job of holding on to the football.
Rushing: 212 attempts, 1,001 yards, 7 touchdowns
Receiving: 35 receptions, 348 yards, 3 touchdowns
Rushing: 140 attempts, 502 yards, 4 touchdowns
Receiving: 16 receptions, 129 yards, 1 touchdowns
Analysis: It was a strange year for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012. They failed to produce a winning season for the first time under head coach Mike Tomlin. One of the culprits was a running game that ranked just 26th in the league in yards gained. Steelers running backs also combined for a dozen fumbles (seven lost) last season.
Bell gives the team a versatile presence it desperately needs. Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman remain in the mix as well.
Rushing: 196 attempts, 950 yards, 5 touchdowns
Receiving: 31 receptions, 332 yards, 2 touchdowns
Rushing: 112 attempts, 524 yards, 4 touchdowns
Receiving: 37 receptions, 312 yards, 1 touchdown
Analysis: It will be strange to see the St. Louis Rams minus running back Steven Jackson. The former Pro Bowler ran for 1,000 or more yards in each of his last eight seasons but is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons. Richardson, a seventh-round pick in 2012, ran for 475 yards as a rookie.
Pead also figures to have a much bigger role and that’s no surprise, considering he totaled just 10 carries last season. But he won’t be around for Week 1.
Rushing: 261 attempts, 1,038 yards, 8 touchdowns
Receiving: 35 receptions, 297 yards, 2 touchdowns
Rushing: 62 attempts, 243 yards, 3 touchdowns
Receiving: 55 receptions, 496 yards, 3 touchdowns
Analysis: In three seasons in the NFL, Mathews has yet to play all 16 games. A year ago, he ran for only 707 yards and one touchdown and averaged only 3.8 yards per carry. Look for the former first-round pick to bounce back under new head coach Mike McCoy as well as new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Last season, the San Diego Chargers ranked next-to-last in total yards gained.
Woodhead is a very interesting addition to the team.
Rushing: 265 attempts, 1,152 yards, 6 touchdowns
Receiving: 21 receptions, 206 yards, 2 touchdowns
Analysis: Gore has been remarkably consistent, especially over the last two seasons. He totaled 282 carries for 1,211 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011 and followed that with 258 attempts for 1,214 yards and eight scores a year ago.
It will be interesting to see how many carries reserves such as Kendall Hunter, second-year pro LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon actually get by season’s end. The San Francisco 49ers finished fourth in the NFL in rushing in 2012.
Rushing: 288 attempts, 1,426 yards, 12 touchdowns
Receiving: 18 receptions, 217 yards, 0 touchdowns
Analysis: Forget Skittles. Lynch is a Power Bar. The former Buffalo Bills first-round selection rolled up 1,590 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns on 315 carries a year ago. If you include the playoff split with the Washington Redskins (win) and the Atlanta Falcons (loss), Lynch ran for 100 or more yards in 11 of 18 contests in 2012.
Robert Turbin added 354 yards rushing last season and rookie Christine Michael is also now in the mix to spell Lynch on occasion.
Rushing: 337 attempts, 1,546 yards, 12 touchdowns
Receiving: 57 receptions, 658 yards, 4 touchdowns
Analysis: Martin enjoyed a superb rookie season in 2012. The 31st overall pick in last year’s draft totaled 1,926 yards from scrimmage (third-most in the league) and a dozen touchdowns last season. Along with his 1,454 yards rushing and 11 scores, Martin finished third on team with 49 receptions—good for 472 yards and a score.
It would not be surprising to see the talented Martin lead the NFL in total yards from scrimmage in 2013.
Rushing: 294 attempts, 1,412 yards, 9 touchdowns
Receiving: 29 receptions, 311 yards, 1 touchdowns
Rushing: 91 attempts, 415 yards, 6 touchdowns
Receiving: 12 receptions, 74 yards, 0 touchdowns
Analysis: After a slow start a year ago, Johnson reached the 1,000-yard mark on the ground for the fifth time in as many seasons. The former Pro Bowler ran for 1,033 yards (six touchdowns) in his last 11 games after rushing for 210 yards in the team’s first five outings.
The Tennessee Titans brought in a little insurance with the signing of Greene, a free-agent pickup from the New York Jets. But look for both players to have solid seasons as Mike Munchak’s club gets back to basics.
Rushing: 302 attempts, 1,522 yards, 11 touchdowns
Receiving: 15 receptions, 112 yards, 0 touchdowns
Analysis: Morris was one of the surprise performers of the 2012 season. The rookie finished second in the league with 1,613 rushing yards, behind only Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (2,097). The sixth-round pick from Florida Atlantic was third in the NFL with 335 carries.
Don’t look for a sophomore slump from Morris. But he could get off to a slow start if defenses attempt to determine if quarterback Robert Griffin III is truly healthy.