Building The Perfect NFL Player: Running Back

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Building The Perfect NFL Player: Running Back
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

By Ryan of The Sportmeisters

During one of our recent Happy Hour podcasts, a guest mentioned in the chat about having a coach that was a combination of task master and players coach. Well, that got me to thinking, what about putting together the perfect NFL player? Over the next two weeks, I’m going to break down every NFL position (QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DL, LB, CB, S) and, taking current NFL Rosters only, will build the perfect NFL player. Today’s look will be at building the perfect Running Back.

Head: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Peterson’s stats could fill in for almost any part of this list, but it’s the vision he possesses that is his greatest quality. In college at the University of Oklahoma, Peterson used that vision to amass three straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons, and was notable for some long runs, including a career-long 84-yard scamper his freshman season, and a 53-yard touchdown run while a junior. Despite injuries, he has a knack for finding the holes set by his line and getting through it quickly, all while looking at the next level. That has contributed to a 5.6 yard per carry average as a rookie, and a 4.8 yard-per-carry average the following season. As a rookie, he had six games where he rushed for at least 20 yards on a carry, including three rushes of over fifty yards. He built on that during his sophomore campaign, with 12 games with a carry of over 20 yards. His speed does contribute to getting him the distance, but it’s his ability to see the second level with the Linebackers and Secondary, and have them looking silly by the time he gets past them.

Hands: LaDanian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers

Another back whose body parts could fill in anywhere on this list, the NFL single season rushing touchdown leader has perfect hands that you always want touching the rock. As a threat in the backfield and as a receiving option, Tomlinson gives opponents fits thanks to his durability. Teams now regularly look for Running Backs who can contribute in both aspects, and that is a testament to the style of back Tomlinson is. While as a runner, he’s hit 1,000 yards every season, he’s also caught the ball at least fifty times a season, culminating in a career high 100 catches in the 2003 season, another NFL record. He also became the second player in NFL history to record 1,800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in a season (2006), which he shares with retired NFL Superstar Tiki Barber. It’s not just the ability to catch that makes him such a threat, but when Tomlinson has the ball, he doesn’t let go. Five of his seasons have seen him with three or fewer fumbles, including zero fumbles in 2007. Tomlinson is a mold unlike any other, but his hands help give him that dual threat capability.

Body: Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants

An NFL team is best when it has two different backs. A shifty, small, speed guy, and a big bruising back. What happens when the big bruising back is also a speedy guy? You get Brandon Jacobs. The “Earth” in the New York Giants “Earth, Wind, and Fire” rushing attack, the 6’4’’, 264 pound bruiser also runs the 40 in a respectable 4.5, giving him an extra addition. He started as the second banana, the bruiser to Tiki Barber’s speed in New York, before taking over the bulk of the duties in 2006. Since then, he’s only powered himself forward to two straight 1,000 yard seasons. That’s partly thanks to a five yard per carry rushing average each year, mainly because it takes two or three guys to knock him down, which usually allows Jacobs to hit the second level before teams pile on top of him. His size and his power helped earn him the nickname “The Juggernaut” and the perfect NFL body to punish defenses with.

Legs: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

They say speed kills, and Chris Johnson kills teams with his speed, which is why his legs are perfect in building an NFL player. Fourth in the nation with a 10.66 100m in college, Johnson epitomizes the speed NFL teams love to have complement the bruiser back (see above). At the NFL combine, Johnson ran a blazing 4.24 in the 40 yard dash, which stands today as the fastest ever for a running back. He parlayed that speed into a first round pick with the Tennessee Titans, and is still running hard. In his rookie campaign, Johnson rushed for 1,228 yards, including four games in which he had a carry over twenty yards. His 81.9 yards per game was tops among all rookies in 2008. With the speed Johnson carries, he’ll be keeping defenses in his dust for years to come.

Intangibles: Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys

Any of the running backs mentioned above would meet this need, but Barber stands out among them all. Despite being platooned in a running back by committee in Dallas, where he has yet to reach 1,000 yards in a season, Barber epitomizes a running back mantra in getting the “extra yard”. He holds the NFL record with seven broken tackles in one play, and led the NFL with 28 broken tackles during the 2008 season. When it comes to needing one yard, any of the players we’ve spoken about can get that yard, but few get the one yard, and then some, like Marion the Barbarian.

There are a number of running backs, all who fit different needs. Whether it’s a speed guy, a power back, someone with great hands, or a “Wildcat” option, finding the perfect running back requires a combination of a lot of different techniques. From Brandon Jacobs’s body to Chris Johnson’s speed, Adrian Peterson’s vision to LaDanian Tomlinson’s hands, put together by the determination of Marion Barber, this is a running back that will win games for any team.

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