Five Running Backs Ready To Shine in 2010
Winning a starting job as a running back in this league is as hard as ever. With the increased reliance the league has on running back committees, players realize that when you have the opportunity to perform—leave nothing on the field.
The window of opportunity in this league comes and goes as fast as Chris Johnson on a straightaway to the end-zone.
Last year, it was Chris Johnson, Cedric Benson, Rashard Mendenhall, and Ray Rice who got the chance to be "The Man."
This year, we look at a new group of young guns who will, or have been given a chance to perform at a high level.
Only time will tell.
5. Jonathan Stewart
Stewart has been piling up rushing numbers for years, but has yet to maintain a starting role with DeAngelo Williams leading the helm. In fact, his numbers were better than half the starting running backs in the league last year.
Stewart, going into his third year in the league, has already compiled 1,969 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground, while primarily suiting up as the second option behind Williams.
Even with Williams as the primary back, look for the panthers to run the ball quite often, as there is no proven signal caller for the upcoming season.
All career highs.
*Numbers will skyrocket if Williams goes on the shelf, as he did late last season.
4. Felix Jones
Jones was drafted out of Arkansas three years ago, where he did not make a single start—that's how good this guy is.
Although he has spent a good deal of time cheering for his teammates on the sidelines, this kid has can flat-out run—and he showed us during their playoff victory against the Eagles this past season.
When healthy, Jones put up out-of-this-world numbers—8.9 and 5.9 yards per carry in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
With oft-injured Marion Barber III seemingly on his way out of Dallas, Jones will most likely be the heir apparent and will rack up the numbers if and when he does.
Think of a SLIGHTLY poorer man's Chris Johnson.
3. Pierre Thomas
Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, Thomas hopes to continue where he left off from a year ago—this time, without sharing the load with Mike Bell.
Although Thomas has missed a few games each season since he was drafted into the league three years ago, he still maintained good fantasy value for those who saw promise.
Thomas racked up 793 yards last season on only 147 attempts, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Those are terrific numbers considering he split time with third-down back, Mike Bell.
Look for him to receive at least 15-20 touches a game from the backfield.
Thomas is an agile back who can also catch passes out of the backfield. Last season, he managed 39 catches for 303 yards—impressive considering the wideouts the Saints had.
2. Donald Brown
The Colts drafted Brown out of Connecticut for a reason—to one day give him a starting job.
The former first round pick had a decent season, rushing for 281 yards on 78 attempts behind Joseph Addai—who seemed to have a resurgence last year, piling up over 800 yards on the ground.
His hard-nosed playing style has impressed coaches—and while he might not be the starting tailback coming into the season, look for him to make a move up the depth charts when Addai slumps or is carried away by injury.
1. Darren McFadden
At this point in his career, some may view McFadden as a bust. Drafted fourth overall by the Raiders in 2008, McFadden has yet to surpass 500 yards rushing in a season.
Could it be the injuries that held him back? Or the lack of quarterback play, that led many defensive coordinators to stack the box against Jamarcus Russell and his inaccurate passing?
My assumptions are that of the latter response, but there is no excuse for McFadden if he falters once again.
He will be splitting time with Michael Bush, but it seems he will get a larger portion of the carries. It's his job to lose.
He has a competent quarterback in Jason Campbell, and management will soon decide if they are going to rebuild with McFadden or start anew.
I believe in McFadden, and coming out of college, he had all the talent in the world. Surely, it must still be there—he's only 23 years old.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego
LaSean McCoy, Philadelphia
Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants