The Great Debate: Who Is the Best Overall Running Back in the NFL?

Tanner ThomsSenior Analyst IJune 22, 2010

I recently wrote an article that received a lot of mixed responses about whether Chris Johnson is the best running back in the NFL.

Some say Adrian Peterson. Some say Chris Johnson is clearly the best. Some may give the nod to Steven Jackson or Maurice Jones-Drew.

I will be giving all four of these star running backs a deep look to see who really is the best overall running back in the game today.

Steven Jackson:

Steven Jackson was the 24th overall pick in the 2004 draft. He was an excellent player in his three seasons with the Oregon State Beavers.

In his rookie season, Jackson played in 14 games, starting in only three. Nonetheless, he rushed for nearly 700 yards on 134 carries.

In six seasons, Steven Jackson has 6,707 yards and 41 touchdowns on 1,548 attempts.

Jackson is also a great receiving running back. In 2006, Jackson's best year, he caught 90 balls for 806 yards and three touchdowns.

Many know Jackson for being one of the most physical running backs in the league.

With that said, he is incredibly injury-prone. Jackson has missed 11 games due to injury. Although this may not seem like much, he often plays through injuries.

Currently, Steven is the entire Rams offense. Sam Bradford will make an impact, but he's only a rookie. Like always, St. Louis will have to rely heavily on Jackson through the running game.

Chris Johnson:

Likely the favorite to win this competion—and for good reason. Chris Johnson became the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.

Johnson was selected with the 24th pick in the first round, like Steven Jackson.

In his rookie year, Chris ran for 1,228 yards on 251 attempts. Johnson reached the endzone nine times through the ground-game.

I won't say much about Chris' second year that I haven't mentioned already. He was simply outstanding in every aspect for the Titans.

Johnson will make around $550,000 this year, which displeases him. Chris is prepared to sit out for quite a while if Tennessee declines to grant him with a big-money contract that he desires.

The Titans, quite frankly, can't afford to not have Johnson on the field for parts of the 2010 season. Without Chris Johnson, Tennessee will quickly become one of the worst teams in the AFC.

Maurice Jones-Drew:

Like in real life, Maurice Jones-Drew is likely going to be the underdog in this debate.

At 5'7", Jones-Drew is obviously one of the shortest players in the game today. Nonetheless, he's a great running back.

Unlike the other running backs in this debate, Maurice Jones-Drew was selected in the second round. With the 60th pick, Jacksonville decided to find a backup to Fred Taylor.

In his first two years, Maurice only started in one game out of 31 played.

Jones-Drew hit the endzone 13 times through the ground game in his rookie season. He instantly put himself as one of the best goal-line running backs in the league at that time.

As a full-time starter in 2009, Maurice ran the ball 312 times for 1,391 yards, and 15 touchdowns.

At only 25 years old, Maurice Jones-Drew should be tearing up the AFC South for a long time.

Adrian Peterson:

With the 7th pick in the 2007 draft, the Minnesota Vikings took Adrian Peterson out of Oklahoma University.

In his three seasons, Adrian has not disappointed Vikings fans one bit.

In Adrian's rookie year, he rushed for 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns on only 238 carries. Peterson missed two games due to injury that year.

His great year earned Adrian the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Adrian also won the Pro Bowl MVP award.

In 2009, Peterson was a major contributor in helping the Vikings reaching the NFC championship game against the eventual Super Bowl winner, New Orleans Saints.

Many criticize Adrian for fumbling the ball too often. Although true, Peterson has worked on this issue during the off-season.

He's one of the most physical running backs in the league. Want proof?

Paul Allen couldn't have put it any better than what he did.

There you have it, football fans. The top four candidates for the best running back in the league.

Now get out there and vote! 


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