Ranking the NFL's Top Backfield Duos for 2020

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterMay 21, 2020

CLEVELAND, OHIO - NOVEMBER 10: Running back Kareem Hunt #27 blocks for running back Nick Chubb #24 of the Cleveland Browns during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 10, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Who has the best backfield in the NFL? It's a topic up for a hot debate, and the best way to stoke that fire is to rank every running back in the league and add up the scores to see which backfield is truly the best.

How do we do this? A composite grade—a combination of my own evaluating, Pro Football Focus grades, the analytics of Football Outsiders, and opinions from pro and college scouts around the NFL—is used to rank each player.

For rookies, their grade is based on predraft scouting evaluations plus their fit with their new team. That gives some players, such as Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a boost over where he might have been ranked heading into the 2020 class.

Determining which backs to rank was difficult with some teams. The guideline was that a rookie running back drafted above the fourth round would be included, unless his team was set at the position with two higher-ranked players. For example, the New York Jets have Le'Veon Bell and Frank Gore ahead of Lamical Perine.

So who comes out on top? Let's find out.

       

1. Cleveland Browns

RB1: Nick Chubb (94 overall)

RB2: Kareem Hunt (89)

Total: 183

Nick Chubb emerged as one of the NFL's best backs in 2019, but before the season, all the hype was on Kareem Hunt's impending return from suspension. With both back for a full season and an offensive line improved by the additions of Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr., the Browns will be running the ball over and over again as they look to loosen up AFC North defenses.

This is one of the rare backfields where both backs could be RB1 for a majority of NFL teams.          

       

2. Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 29: Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers during the second half during their game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob
Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

RB1: Christian McCaffrey (99)

RB2: Mike Davis (71)

Total: 170

The Panthers have the NFL's best running back and arguably the best offensive weapon in Christian McCaffrey. His perfect mark of 99 definitely boosts the backfield grade, as Mike Davis is a solid journeyman but nothing special in terms of traits or production.

As long as McCaffrey stays healthy, a 2,000-yard total-offense season is the new normal.

           

3. New York Jets

RB1: Le'Veon Bell (89)

RB2: Frank Gore (80)

Total: 169

This might surprise people, but Bell played very well when healthy last year and should be even better in 2020, with the rust from his lost 2018 season gone. Add in the immortal Gore for short-yardage situations, and this backfield is not only one of the best—it's also one of the toughest.

Rookie Lamical Perine might ease his way into the backup role by season's end, but early on, the Jets offense will be powered by two potential Hall of Fame running backs.

            

4. New Orleans Saints

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - JANUARY 26: Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints points to the photographers as he is introduced before the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium on January 26, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Mark Brown/Getty Images

RB1: Alvin Kamara (90)

RB2: Latavius Murray (79)

Total: 169

A healthy Alvin Kamara is one of the most exciting offensive players in the NFL. If he gets back to his regular form in 2020, the Saints offense will once again be among the league's best. During Kamara's absence last year with knee and ankle injuries, we saw how valuable Latavius Murray can be. With Kamara back, Murray will be used in short-yardage and goal-line roles and could have a huge impact.

              

5. Dallas Cowboys

RB1: Ezekiel Elliott (95)

RB2: Tony Pollard (73)

Total: 168

Zeke is still one of the NFL's elite, and we're waiting to see more of a breakout from last year's rookie do-it-all back, Tony Pollard. The combination of speed, power, pass-catching ability and versatility in each back makes the Cowboys duo one of the most fun to watch in the league. The pair also has the most potential to break out this season, with Mike McCarthy's offense and a better, more dynamic passing game coming to town.

          

6. Denver Broncos

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 29: Melvin Gordon #25 of the Los Angeles Chargers runs with the football during the second quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty I
David Eulitt/Getty Images

RB1: Melvin Gordon III (85)

RB2: Phillip Lindsay (82)

Total: 167

The addition of Melvin Gordon III is a huge boost to the Denver Broncos offense and will make the backfield a bit of a thunder (Gordon) and lightning (Lindsay) situation. The bouncy, outside running skills of Lindsay with the interior power and vision of Gordon are both perfect for helping second-year quarterback Drew Lock and all his shiny toys at wide receiver and tight end.

The Broncos offense could low-key be one of the NFL's most explosive in 2020.

        

7. Tennessee Titans

RB1: Derrick Henry (92)

RB2: Darrynton Evans (74)

Overall: 166

No running back has been more dominant than Derrick Henry in the last season-plus, but many around the league do wonder if he can continue at the pace he's been on over the last 18 games. If he can, the Titans belong much higher on this list after the addition of rookie speedster Darrynton Evans. The duo of Henry and Dion Lewis never produced the balance the Titans wanted, but this one should, as Evans is an excellent receiver and has the outside running ability the team lacked.

           

8. New York Giants

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

RB1: Saquon Barkley (91)

RB2: Dion Lewis (75)

Total: 166

This is largely thanks to Saquon Barkley, who should only be better in 2020 if the Giants can stay healthy up front and if second-year quarterback Daniel Jones becomes enough of a threat to keep defenses from loading the box. On pure talent, there is no better back than Barkley in the NFL, but he has to put it together in terms of production. A 2,000-total-yard season should be the expectation for him.

           

9. Baltimore Ravens

RB1: Mark Ingram II (86)

RB2: J.K. Dobbins (78)

Total: 164

Most NFL teams try to build a backfield with two contrasting styles of backs—like Tennessee with Henry and Evans. The Ravens found a type they liked and stuck with it by drafting J.K. Dobbins to pair with his clone, Mark Ingram II. Both are stocky, powerful runners with good hands and enough pull-away speed to rip off chunk plays. With Lamar Jackson freezing safeties and linebackers with his dual-threat ability, both backs are primed for big years.

          

10. Kansas City Chiefs

RB1: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (81)

RB2: Damien Williams (83)

Total: 164

If you're looking for an NFL Rookie of the Year candidate, the Kansas City Chiefs backfield has the top prospect in Edwards-Helaire. He'll join Super Bowl hero Damien Williams to form a backfield duo that has power, vision, agility and an excellent ability to catch passes. The Chiefs offense still missed Hunt in 2019. It won't in 2020.

         

11. Cincinnati Bengals

RB1: Joe Mixon (88)

RB2: Giovani Bernard (75)

Total: 163

       

12. San Francisco 49ers

RB1: Raheem Mostert (83)

RB2: Tevin Coleman (80)

Total: 163

        

13. Seattle Seahawks

RB1: Chris Carson (85)

RB2: Rashaad Penny (78)

Total: 163

            

14. New England Patriots

RB1: Sony Michel (81)

RB2: James White (81)

Total: 162

                

15. Indianapolis Colts

RB1: Marlon Mack (84)

RB2: Jonathan Taylor (78)

Total: 162

              

16. Las Vegas Raiders

RB1: Josh Jacobs (87)

RB2: Lynn Bowden Jr. (75)

Total: 162

       

17. Minnesota Vikings

RB1: Dalvin Cook (90)

RB2: Alexander Mattison (72)

Total: 162

                     

18. Green Bay Packers

RB1: Aaron Jones (88)

RB2: A.J. Dillon (73)

Total: 161

                     

19. Houston Texans

RB1: David Johnson (79)

RB2: Duke Johnson (81)

Total: 160

         

20. Detroit Lions

RB1: Kerryon Johnson (80)

RB2: D'Andre Swift (79)

Total: 159

                  

21. Miami Dolphins

RB1: Jordan Howard (78)

RB2: Matt Breida (80)

Total: 158

                   

22. Jacksonville Jaguars

RB1: Leonard Fournette (82)

RB2: Chris Thompson (75)

Total: 157

                 

23. Washington Redskins

RB1: Adrian Peterson (78)

RB2: Derrius Guice (79)

Total: 157

           

24. Los Angeles Chargers

RB1: Austin Ekeler (85) 

RB2: Joshua Kelley (69) 

Total: 154

                       

25. Buffalo Bills

RB1: Devin Singletary (79)

RB2: Zack Moss (74)

Total: 153

                        

26. Arizona Cardinals

RB1: Kenyan Drake (83)

RB2: Chase Edmonds (70)

Total: 153

                    

27. Chicago Bears

RB1: David Montgomery (77)

RB2: Tarik Cohen (74)

Total: 151

                    

28. Atlanta Falcons

RB1: Todd Gurley (86)

RB2: Brian Hill (65)

Total: 151

       

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

RB1: Ronald Jones II (77)

RB2: Ke'Shawn Vaughn (73)

Total: 150

          

30. Philadelphia Eagles

RB1: Miles Sanders (79)

RB2: Corey Clement (70)

Total: 149

                

31. Los Angeles Rams

RB1: Cam Akers (77)

RB2: Darrell Henderson Jr. (72)

Total: 149

           

32. Pittsburgh Steelers

RB1: James Conner (80)

RB2: Anthony McFarland Jr. (68)

Total: 148

                   

All depth charts courtesy of Ourlads. 

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