The NFL has transformed into a pass-happy league, and some running backs have thrived because of it.
The ability for a running back to be an option out in the flat or in short quick routes can do wonders for an offense and make a young QB look like a seasoned veteran.
Backs who can catch also prevent some wear and tear on their bodies due to the fact that most of the time they are being hit by smaller players such as corners and safeties instead of defensive ends and defensive tackles.
The dual-threat back is widely underrated to me, and I feel as if teams should be drafting backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield. In this article, I'll list the top 15 receiving threats out of the backfield in the game today.
2010 Stats: REC (16) YDS (150) AVG (9.4) TD (1)
Career Stats: REC (442) YDS (3,940) AVG (8.9) TD (30)
No dual-threat running back list is complete unless it contains Brian Westbrook in it.
Westbrook is one of the best route running backs I've ever seen, and can make anyone miss. The only thing against Westbrook is that he has been nagged by injuries his entire career and has yet to play a full season.
The 2007 campaign was his best year by far, where he had over 1,300 yards rushing to go along with almost 800 yards receiving.
Westbrook is still a quality back and is the type of player coaches love to have on their team.
2010 Stats: REC (61) YDS (477) AVG (7.8) TD (2)
Career Stats: REC (79) YDS (675) AVG (8.5) TD (3)
I wonder who got the better end of that deal...
Hillis bruised his way to over 1,100 yards on the ground but also proved that he is a worthy pass catcher as he reeled in 61 receptions. The screen game is where Hillis excelled at because of how hard he is to tackle in the open field.
This guy has the potential to be one of the best backs in the game, but I believe Hillis will have a hard time staying healthy next year and may miss a few games.
2010 Stats: REC (52) YDS (368) AVG (7.1) TD (0)
Career Stats: REC (582) YDS (4,323) AVG (7.4) TD (15)
LT is another player who can't be left off this list. The guy has over 13,000 yards on the ground during his career, and is also one of them most feared backs to ever play the game.
In 2003, he caught 100 passes which is unheard of for running backs.
Tomlinson has one or two good years left in him and will still be a viable option out of the backfield this year for the Jets. His ability to find the hole after a screen pass or swing pass really separates him from everyone else.
2010 Stats: REC (59) YDS (520) AVG (8.8) TD (2)
Career Stats: REC (146) YDS (1,400) AVG (9.6) TD (11)
Sproles is one of the smallest players in the league but still packs a powerful punch. The 5'6", 190-pound back is dangerous with the ball in his hands, especially after the catch.
Darren saw limited time in his first two seasons due to Michael Turner carrying the work load as the second back, but Sproles has proved his worth.
Darren is an excellent route runner and does most of his damage on swing passes and drag or slant routes. Sproles had more receptions then rushing attempts in 2011, and I expect the same distribution this year.
2010 Stats: REC (34) YDS (208) AVG (6.1) TD (1)
Career Stats: REC (294) YDS (2,142) AVG (7.3) TD (12)
Bush has not lived up to his USC standards that he set coming out of college, but he is still one of the most feared skill players in the game today.
Bush has been nagged by injuries for most of his career and actually had his best season during his rookie year.
Reggie is at No. 11 due to the fact of his injuries. His route running is excellent and he rarely drops a pass, I would just like to see him be on the field for an entire season.
With Bush most likely getting a fresh start this season, look for him to excel in a new offense.
2010 Stats: REC (46) YDS (452) AVG (9.8) TD (2)
Career Stats: REC (270) YDS (2,283) AVG (8.5) TD (9)
Frank Gore is one of the best overall backs in the game today, his only problem, staying healthy for an entire season.
Gore is averaging 4.7 YDS a carry on the ground during his career and has only played one full season during his seven-year career.
Nonetheless, Gore's injuries don't take away from how great of a dual-threat back that he has become.
Whether it's a screen, swing or slant this guy can do it all, and he has proven that throughout his career.
2010 Stats: REC (46) YDS (383) AVG (8.3) TD (0)
Career Stats: REC (327) YDS (2,670) AVG (8.2) TD (7)
Don't let Jackson's 2010 stats fool you, this guy is one of the best pass catchers in the game. Jackson had a career high 90 receptions in 2006 and has been a work horse his entire career.
Jackson played a full season for only the second time in his career, which is somewhat due to the fact of how well Sam Bradford played. In 2011, look for Jackson's receiving numbers to increase.
2010 Stats: REC (44) YDS (245), AVG (5.6) TD (1)
Career Stats: REC (137) YDS (1,008) AVG (7.4) TD (4)
CJ26K is possibly one of the quickest most elusive backs we have ever seen. In the open field, he is almost impossible to tackle, and I feel as if he should be used in the screen game more than he has been.
With a rookie quarterback looking to start for the Titans this season, look for Johnson to have an inflated number of receptions.
2010 Stats: REC (34) YDS (317) AVG (9.3) TD (2)
Career Stats: REC (235) YDS (2,099) AVG (8.9) TD (7)
Maurice Jones-Drew has been one of the most consistent backs over the past five seasons and has had two great consecutive years.
Jones-Drew is one of the toughest players in the game and packs a powerful punch for his 5'7", 208-pound frame.
Jones-Drew is the focal point of this Jaguars offense so bearing an injury, you know the numbers will be there. His ability to break tackles after the catch is what really makes him dangerous.
2010 Stats: REC (47) YDS (507) AVG (10.8) TD (3)
Career Stats: REC (97) YDS (1,037) AVG (10.7) TD (3)
McFadden finally burst onto the scene in 2010 setting career highs in all major offensive categories. In only 13 games, he accounted for over 1,600 yards of offense and acquired his first 1,000-yard rushing season.
If the Raiders are going to be a playoff team this season, McFadden will have to play just as good if not better to help lead this offense down the field.
McFadden is one of the most dangerous backs after catching a screen pass, which is something I see Hue Jackson doing a lot of this year.
2010 Stats: REC (45) YDS (468) AVG (10.4) TD (3)
Career Stats: REC (112) YDS (1,037) AVG (9.3) TD (5)
In only three season in the NFL, Jamaal Charles has proven to be a third-round steal, by totaling back to back 1,000-yard seasons. Charles had his best season while splitting carries with Thomas Jones and is also an elite pass-catcher.
Charles accounted for 21 first downs on passing plays which set the Chiefs up for a few late wins this season. Look for Charles to duplicate is rushing numbers while seeing his receiving totals increase.
2010 Stats: REC (78) YDS (592) AVG (7.6) TD (2)
Career Stats: REC (118) YDS (900) AVG (7.6) TD (2)
LeSean McCoy is the second coming of Brian Westbrook, and that should make Eagles fan smile. McCoy is one of the most elusive backs in the game today and always seems to be breaking multiple tackles.
McCoy is one of the youngest players in the league at the age of 22 but is already entering in his third season.
My prediction for McCoy is that he will once again rush for over 1,000 yards and rack up almost 700 yards through the air. Look for LeSean to be one of the top fantasy players this season.
2010 Stats: REC (51) YDS (547) AVG (10.7) TD (3)
Career Stats: REC (171) YDS (1,495) AVG (8.7) TD (7)
The Chicago running back actually had the least amount of recptions in his young career last season but made up for that with bigger plays and the more yardage.
Chicago did nothing in the draft to address their need for a wide receiver, however, I expect them to address the need via free agency. Nonetheless, if the Bears don't address the need, look for Forte to be involved even more.
2010 Stats: REC (66) YDS (604) AVG (9.2) TD (2)
Career Stats: REC (74) YDS (697) AVG (9.4) TD (2)
Foster exploded onto the scene in 2010 and did it by leading the league in rushing and receiving yards for running backs. The soon to be third-year pro was the engine that kept the Texans moving this year and made some huge plays for his team.
Out of Foster's 74 receptions, 34 were turned into first downs which allowed him to average almost a first down a catch.
It will be difficult for the Texans running back to duplicate the numbers he had this season, but with the other talent on the offensive side, it wouldn't surprise me one bit.
2010 Stats: REC (63) YDS (556) AVG (8.8) TD (1)
Career Stats: REC (174) YDS (1,531) AVG (8.8) (2)
Ray Rice saw his numbers decrease this season, all the while receiving a career high in total touches. Rice went from 5.3 yards to 4.0 yards per carry but was still a vital piece to the Ravens offense.
I expect big things from the Ravens offense this year, with Ray Rice being the catalyst. The guy catches everything, and is tough as nails.
He's an extremely tough runner and uses his pads perfectly to deliver blows to opposing defenders. Ray will be the best dual-threat back this upcoming season and will lead the Ravens far in the playoffs.