In a quarterback-driven league, we often place running backs in the back seat.
However, as the New Orleans Saints clearly demonstrated in their Super Bowl run, a balance between an aerial and ground game is an integral key to success.
Therefore, having a talented running back can be very beneficial in various aspects.
In order to be considered a great running back, in my mind, one must possess a rare combination of athleticism, vision, and the ability to break away from defenders.
The criteria for my top 10 running backs is overall skill and production as well as versatility. My rankings are primarily based on who I would personally want in my backfield for an entire season.
Even though there is a consensus No. 1 and 2, be prepared to witness some surprising selections for the remaining.
Therefore, without further ado, here are my Top 10 Running Backs in the NFL.
Note: I have listed statistics by total yards from scrimmage. I feel that a running back's overall services both in the passing and rushing game are important.
The Carolina Panthers' dynamic duo of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams is, by far, the best in the NFL, as both went for over 1,200 yards from scrimmage.
Honestly, I'd be pleased with either one of them. The primary reasons I give Stewart the nod are his consistency, durability, and ability to carry the majority of the load.
When Williams was injured during the final three games of the season, Stewart elevated his performance by rushing for 440 yards and three TDs.
The fact that I have Thomas Jones rated this low should signify how many talented running backs there are in the league.
Jones is riding a five-year streak of 1,000 rushing yards or more. Last season, he registered 1,460 yards from scrimmage for the New York Jets.
Now that he's off in Kansas City, I do expect that level of production to drop a bit. Moreover, I think his age will eventually affect him, as most running backs hit a wall after 30.
After appearing to have failed to live up to his high expectations as a former No. 4 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Cedric Benson excelled with the Bengals last season, corralling 1,362 yards from scrimmage and six TDs.
The reason I have him rated this low is because I question the possibility of him being a one-year wonder, as well as his overall character.
Michael Turner has been the catalyst for the Atlanta Falcons' success on offense. After a breakout season in '08, his production dipped a bit last year as he only racked up 906 yards—most of that accredited to an injury that sidelined him for five games.
The question heading into next season will be if he can bounce back and whether he can regain his dominant form.
Even though he has obvious talent, the reason I have him ranked lower than some may expect is because he's too one-dimensional, as he makes no impact in the receiving game.
Frank Gore is a scrappy back who consistently fights hard and plays to the whistle. He has tremendous ability and the impressive stats to back it up.
Last season, he amassed 1,526 yards from scrimmage and 13 TDs.
49ers head coach Mike Singletary wants to run the football, and Gore is the perfect man for the job. I expect him to thrive in their smash-mouth offense.
Ray Rice, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated running backs in the NFL. After a mediocre rookie campaign, he simply burst onto the scene last year, accumulating 2,041 yards from scrimmage and eight TDs.
Even though I usually don't award such high praise after one great season, Rice is something truly special. I wouldn't be surprised if he's soon in the conversation with Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson.
Maurice Jones-Drew has had doubters all his life, as several have remarked that he could never be a full-time starter due to his small stature.
Persevering through adversity, Jones-Drew proved us all wrong with his big-time play by totaling 1,765 yards from scrimmage and 16 TDs.
He is the focal point of the Jaguars offense,and he continues to come through for them on a week in, week out basis.
Steven Jackson is an absolute stud and definitely deserves his due respect.
The trait I most admire about him is how despite playing for a team that's only managed to win six games over the past three years, he continues to work hard, never complain, and play his heart out on game days.
He is the one of the few bright spots on that team, and I often wonder what Jackson's potential would be if he were to play on a better team.
Adrian Peterson truly brings it "All Day" as his nickname states. Ever since he entered the league, he's simply proven to the world that he is among the best running backs in the league.
Last year, he recorded a total of 1,819 yards from scrimmage to go along with his 18 TDs.
The only reason I rate him a little behind Chris Johnson is due to his severe fumbling issues. If he can take care of that, then I will be compelled to give him back his throne.
When the Tennessee Titans drafted him with the 24th overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, many criticized their decision. Fast-forward two spectacular years, and nobody is questioning them any more.
Chris Johnson, an absolute speed demon, demonstrated that he has a complete game and can even run between the tackles.
Even though durability appeared to be an issue, Johnson was responsible for a whopping 45 percent of the Titans' offense.
Last season, he amassed a total of 2,509 yards from scrimmage and 16 TDs. While history says he won't replicate those stats, I wouldn't be so quick to pass on that yet.
Do you think I left somebody off this list? Put someone too high? Too low? Do you think Adrian Peterson is better than Chris Johnson?
Let the debate begin! Be sure to voice your opinion in the comment section below.
By the way, check out my article on the Top Ten Wide Receivers