Here are my top 10 running backs going into the 2008 season:
1) LaDainian Tomlinson
2) Willis McGahee
3) Adrian Peterson
4) Brian Westbrook
5) Willie Parker
6) Jamal Lewis
7) Clinton Portis
8) Stephen Jackson
9) Marshawn Lynch
10) Laurence Maroney
Here's my reasoning.
LaDainian Tomlinson is still one of the greatest backs in league history. He did see a decline from his MVP season in 2006 to 1,474 yards. He held the San Diego Chargers together in 2007 and will again in 2008. He has tremendous play-making ability and that will never change.
Adrian Peterson and Willis McGahee are interchangeable at Nos. 2 and 3. I give McGahee No. 2 because of his durability and ability to run against great teams. He tore apart the Patriots and almost ended the perfection. He ran well last year and will do even better once the passing game gets set up with Joe Flacco at the helm of the offense.
Adrian Peterson is a tremendous player. His brutal running style makes him so hard to tackle and makes defenders have nightmares. He was on course to crack 2,000 yards rushing before the knee injury late in the season. As the Vikings become a better team, Peterson will only get better. If Adrian can stay injury-free and with help from Taylor, he will excel.
In my opinion Brian Westbrook is the most versatile player in the league since the retirement of Marshall Faulk. He has had 500-plus yards in both receiving and rushing for the past four years. His receiving threat out of the backfield makes him most dangerous. If he were a better runner between the tackles, he might even take McGahee's spot. He is small and quick and very dangerous.
With the season-ending knee injury of Willie Parker, his stock has dropped. I believe if he had stayed healthy the whole season, he would be in second place on almost every board. He has incredible speed and has been coined "Fast Willie." He also does his fair share of crushing blows to make the defender fear him. Look for him to excel this year with the continuing rise of the Steelers.
Jamal Lewis and Clinton Portis are getting old and inconsistent. Ever since Lewis broke 2,000 he has not been very solid. With the upstart Browns, this could be Lewis' chance to excel.
Stephen Jackson would be higher if not for the terrible state of the St. Louis Rams. He is a great playmaker on a terrible team. Lynch and Maroney are two young backs starting to develop into great players.
If there were a No. 11 spot on my board, Marion Barber would get it. He is a great bruising back with a lot of potential. With the departure of Julius Jones, the Barber will have sole ownership of the backfield.
As always, this is my own opinion, and I would love to hear what you all think.