15 Best Running Backs in the NFL for 2012-13

Gerard GilbertoContributor IIIMay 30, 2012

15 Best Running Backs in the NFL for 2012-13

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    After the top four running backs in the NFL, it becomes more apparent that the number of superstars at the position has decreased in the past few years. 

    Many of running backs who were once Pro Bowlers are coming off serious injuries from last year.  Also, many of the successful rushers from last year will cease to have such an effect on the league because of a change of offense or the acquisition of a new player.

    There are a few players who are simply young studs in their prime who have yet to be bitten by the injury bug.  There are also the veterans who must prove they have the ability to come back from injury and return to 100 percent.

    Here are the top 15 running backs in the NFL next season.

15. Steven Jackson

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    Last Season's Stats: 260 CAR, 1,145 YDS, 5 TD

    The aging Steven Jackson is poised to have another personally successful season, especially under the leadership of head coach Jeff Fischer's "ground-and-pound" style of offense.

    Fischer's system is supported by newly appointed offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, as well as their new offensive line coach, Paul Boudreau.  Jackson had his best season as a Ram in 2006 with Boudreau as coach of the offensive line. 

    Schottenheimer has been in charge of the offense with the New York Jets for the past few seasons, running the same style offense as Jeff Fischer. 

    Jackson promises to flourish in a system that was lovingly nicknamed "Fischerball," while he was head coach of the Tennessee Titans

    The problem Jackson and the Rams will face is his durability.  Jackson will be getting more carries this year, and time is no friend to a running back in the NFL.

14. Frank Gore

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    Last Season's Stats: 282 CAR, 1,1211 YDS, 8 TD

    After a disappointing loss in last year's NFC Championship game, the San Francisco 49ers have something to prove this season.  During the offseason, the Niners revamped their offense, which heavily relied on running back Frank Gore

    The acquisition of wide receivers Mario Manningham and Randy Moss should give head coach Jim Harbaugh more chances for Alex Smith to throw the ball.  This, along with the signing of running back Brandon Jacobs, should take some pressure off Gore, especially late in the season. 

    Gore's total touches will be down from last season, but this will keep him fresh toward the end of the season as San Francisco looks to make another playoff run.

13. Michael Turner

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    Last Season's Stats: 301 CAR, 1,340 YDS, 11 TD

    Turner was heavily relied on last year and will continue to be the feature back in Atlanta this season.  One of the things that will help Turner have a great year is the numerous deep threats the Falcons have in the passing game.

    Roddy White and Julio Jones are two weapons that new offensive coordinator Kirk Koetter (who loves using the deep ball in his offense) will use to set up the running game. 

    Turner will be getting the bulk of the carries and will also be the goal-line threat.  One of the issues with Turner is his age.  If the Falcons want to go deep into the season, they must rely on Turner to stay healthy. 

    One positive side to Turner this season is the schedule the Falcons will play.  Atlanta will be playing against some of the league's worst defenses. 

12. Jamaal Charles

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    Last Season's Stats: 12 CAR, 83 YDS, 0 TD

    Last season Jamaal Charles fell victim to something unavoidable for NFL players.  Charles tore his ACL in the first week of last season. 

    Luckily for Charles and the Chiefs, the fact that the injury occurred so early last season has given him ample time for recovery.  By the time the season starts, Charles will be one year removed from his injury and 100 percent recovered.

    The signing of Peyton Hillis should have no negative effect on the play of Charles this season.  Being that the Chiefs have a below-average passing offense, Jamaal Charles and the running game will be heavily relied on for Kansas City this season.  Hillis will only help Charles by giving him the breaks he needs during games.

11. Adrian Peterson

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    Last Season's Stats: 208 CAR, 970 YDS, 12 TD

    As we've seen throughout his career in the NFL, "All Day, AP" is an amazing physical specimen.  Which is why when Peterson went down with an ACl and MCL tear, the waiting period before he went under the knife was less than a week.  For a normal person, there is usually a long gap so that the swelling can go down. 

    Peterson is already participating in practices with his team and seems like he will be back at 100 percent quicker than somebody like Pittsburgh's Rashad Mendenhall, who suffered injuries similar to this horrific one at the end of last year. 

    The Vikings will rely on Peterson to be his old self in order to have any success this season.  Something that will help AP will be backup Toby Gerhart.  Gerhart proved that he can be a reliable source for offensive production after Peterson's injury last year. 

10. DeMarco Murray

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    Last Season's Stats: 164 CAR, 897 YDS, 2 TD

    DeMarco Murray is one of the most valuable players on the Cowboys' offense.  The receiving core has a lot of talent, but quarterback Tony Romo is extremely unreliable. After Murray's season-ending ankle injury last season, Dallas lost three of their last four games and missed the playoffs. 

    By showing up to OTAs this past week, Murray proved to his team that he's ready to come back to 100 percent. 

    Before his injury, Murray show a lot of promise and showed off his serious skills running the ball.  Murray was instrumental to the Cowboys' success last season: Dallas won all five games where Murray had more than 20 carries.

    Look for Murray to be relied on heavily this season.

9. Matt Forte

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    Last Season's Stats: 203 CAR, 997 YDS, 3 TD

    Matt Forte is one of the most talented runners in the game today.  Unfortunately for Forte, he has a lot going against him this season.  Chicago has one of the toughest schedules and often faces some of the most difficult opposing rush defenses.

    The Bears will be looking to feature the offense that paired quarterback Jay Cutler with wide receiver Brandon Marshall while they played together in Denver.  That team's lack of success can be attributed to the lack of rushing offense.

    Chicago must try to avoid a Matt Forte holdout in 2012.  This offense can not survive without Forte because they do not have a good enough passing game to get themselves into the playoffs.

8. Darren McFadden

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    Last Season's Stats: 113 CAR, 614 YDS, 4 TD

    Darren McFadden's career year could have been last year, but a foot injury shortened the running back's season.  McFadden is entering this season completely healthy and is poised to pick up where he left off before his injury. 

    Last season, McFadden averaged over 100 yards per game prior to his injury.  A lot of this promise is simply a wish, but McFadden's performance in the mini camps have shown he, like many others on this countdown, is on the right road to recovery.

7. Marshawn Lynch

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    Last Season's Stats: 285 CAR, 1,204 YDS, 12 TD

    Marshawn Lynch has found a way to revitalize his career in Seattle under the leadership of head coach Pete Carroll. 

    After it seems like all was said and done for Lynch, he's once again revitalized his career and become a top-ten running back for this season. 

    Lynch has explosive speed and runs with power.  If he stays healthy in Seattle, he will be a very explosive weapon for Pete Carroll and will come as a great relief for their quarterbacks, who do not have too much NFL experience.

6. Chris Johnson

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    Last Season's Stats: 262 CAR, 1,047 YDS, 4 TD

    After a disappointing season last year, the Titans hope that Pro Bowler Chris Johnson can once again begin the superstar he is destined to be. 

    After being the holdout star last season, it is apparent that Johnson must buy into Tennessee's new system, and that starts with participation in voluntary workouts and minicamps. Johnson had an abundance of carries and was important to Tennessee's offense, but CJ didn't play to the star level of which he is capable.

5. Ryan Matthews

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    Last Season's Stats: 222 CAR, 1,091 YDS, 6 TD

    The Chargers will have to rely heavily on running back Ryan Matthews this season.  After losing wide receivers to free agency and failing to sign a legitimate deep threat, the Bolts will look to the run the ball more this year.

    The timing could not be more perfect for Matthews. Being as the backfield in San Diego is finally in his control, and he is finally completely healthy,

4. LeSean McCoy

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    Last Season's Stats: 273 CAR, 1,309 YDS, 17 TD

    Over the past few seasons, McCoy has been one of the more successful running backs in the NFL, and he keeps on getting better and better.  McCoy displayed the highest touchdown total among running backs last year, putting up a monstrous 17 touchdowns.

    Playing in a decent division will keep McCoy honest, but he is still the obvious go-to weapon for a versatile offense in Philadelphia.  McCoy falls into the category of young successful running back whose best years are still ahead of him.  2012 can be one of McCoy's best years.

3. Maurice Jones-Drew

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    Last Season's Stats: 343 CAR, 1,606 YDS, 8 TD

    The were some concerns last seasons with Jones-Drew's health, but the Jaguars running back won the rushing title and proved he belongs as one of the NFL's elite running backs. 

    MJD will continue to get his looks in the upcoming season due to a lack of a passing game in Jacksonville.  Quarterback Blaine Gabbert is unproved, and he does not have many options to throw to.  Jones-Drew will be relied on heavily in the Jaguars offense this season, being that he is the most talented player in the system.

2. Ray Rice

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    Last Season's Stats: 291 CAR, 1,364 YDS, 12 TD

    Unlike most other elite running backs on this countdown, Ray Rice is not aging, and he is not coming off an injury.  However, Rice is still one of the elite running backs in the NFL.

    Rice put up some monster numbers last year and he has no reason not to continue to put up Pro Bowl numbers next year.  Until the inevitable injury plague, Rice has been the young running back who has been able to have success in this league.  That will not change until Rice's first serious injury.

1. Arian Foster

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    Last Season's Stats: 278 CAR, 1,224 YDS, 10 TD

    Arian Foster mixes his ability to run for speed, break tackles and continue to be elusive for the Texans this year and is without a doubt the best running back in the NFL.  With the Texans' passing game back to form, less attention will be payed to Foster by defenses, allowing him to run free this season. 

    Last season, after the injury to wide receiver Andre Johnson, it was obvious that Houston would look to the ground game for offense.  Foster was still able to run through defenses and show he was one of the NFL's elite.