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Top 25 Running Backs in the NFL: Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson #1?

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We previously posted NFL starting quarterback power rankings, 32 to 1.  Today, we are rating the top 25 running backs in the NFL.  Before reading, note that it is not a collection of pure runners, but the best football players who are listed as running backs (you’re welcome, Reggie Bush).  Also, we did not list any rookies due to difficulties in comparing them to current RBs.

1.  Chris Johnson: Undoubtedly the league’s fastest RB, Johnson edges out A.P. due to his home-run ability.

2.  Adrian Peterson: “All Day” Peterson may be a more complete back than Johnson, but he is also more likely to break down.

3.  Steven Jackson: In terms of pure talent, S-Jax is a beast.  Think of what this guy would do on another squad.

4.  Maurice Jones-Drew: MJD is quietly becoming the most consistent running back in the league.  He literally does it all.

5.  Ray Rice: Rice isn’t flashy, but he does everything really, really well.

6.  DeAngelo Williams: Under-appreciated due to the presence of Jonathan Stewart, Williams can run inside and take it the distance.

7.  Reggie Bush: We know we will get tons of flack for this selection, but this list is the top football players who are listed as a ‘running back.’  Bush has been labeled a bust, but that is more due to a mistake in perception about his role on offense than a lack of talent.

8.  Jamaal Charles: Football is a young man’s game, and although Charles has little experience, he has shown big-time play-making ability.

9.  Jonathan Stewart: The second half of the Carolina rushing attack is nearly as lethal as the first.

10.  Ronnie Brown: Brown is constantly plagued by injuries, but when he does get on the field, he displays an incredible combination of speed and power.

11.  Felix Jones: A “homer” pick?  Perhaps, but Jones has done everything asked of him thus far in Dallas.  He is poised for a breakout season.

12.  Beanie Wells: In terms of pure running, Wells is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL.  Devastating stiff arm.

13.  Rashard Mendenhall: Mendenhall could very easily be in Dallas, but Cowboys fans are probably happy the team selected Jones.

14.  Thomas Jones: Despite his age, Jones keeps himself in such good condition that he is able to produce year in and year out.

15.  Darren Sproles: He is never given a legitimate opportunity due to his height, but the little man has produced in a big way everywhere he has been (high school, college, and pros).

16.  LeSean McCoy: Unfortunately for ‘Boys fans, Shady McCoy is the real deal.

17.  Steve Slaton: Slaton may not be able to single-handedly carry the load, but how many running backs really can?

18.  Fred Jackson: If you haven’t seen Jackson play (which is likely), tune in to a Bills game.  He’s more talented than you think.

19.  Justin Forsett: Forsett is a poor man’s Brian Westbrook.  Or is Westbrook now a poor man’s Justin Forsett?

20.  Frank Gore: A LOT of people (as in everyone) have Gore rated higher than us, but production isn’t always the result of talent.

21.  Michael Bush: Bush was named the starter at Oakland’s OTAs, and he is probably a better fit for early-down work than Darren McFadden.

22.  Jerome Harrison: Harrison could actually put up some big numbers this season if he can hold off rookie Montario Hardesty.

23.  Michael Turner: Turner is another player on which we are incredibly low.  He reminds us of a less-talented Gore (yikes!).

24.  Kevin Smith: Coming off knee surgery, Smith may not be able to regain what he once possessed.  Only time will tell.

25.  Shonn Greene: Greene may be poised for a huge season, but the New York backfield has suddenly become quite crowded.

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17 Responses to Top 25 Running Backs in the NFL: Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson #1?

  1. craig kocay says:

    pretty good jb, and I agree with almost all of it.

    I like the low rank on gore, he just does not impress me all too much. This year his numbers will soar though with two fresh new lineman however.

    Two guys that i think could have bumped off a few from the list include ricky williams and pierre thomas

  2. Thanks Craig. I was actually VERY close to putting both Williams and Thomas on the list, so good thoughts. In fact, I had Thomas there originally but he got bumped off. I would have no problem with either playing making it.

  3. George lara says:

    I must agree with craig I like Thomas high on the list and R Bush off the list they trust Thomas more then Bush to get a first downs, good list like the Carolina RB’s

  4. john coleman says:

    Peterson is a talent for sure, here it comes, but he is a fumbler. Good teams shut him down. The guys you have 3-5 are all great IMO. I would rate any of the trio equal to Peterson.

  5. john coleman says:

    BTW Johnson is definitely #1 at this point.

  6. Pierre is a better running back in terms of production, but in terms of pure athleticism or talent…I’d take Bush.

  7. John–thanks. I like the top five a lot…and I agree that some could be ahead of A.P., particularly S-Jax. The guy is an absolute stud. Put him on Tennessee or Minnesota last year and he approaches 2,000 yards rushing IMO.

  8. Omar says:

    Dude, Pierre Thomas is FAR FAR FAR more valuable than half this list…on a rate basis he’s the best running back in football. He had less than half as many carries as Chris Johnson and accumulated 120 fewer DYAR. That means, in 200 fewer carries, the difference in production that Thomas provided the Saints from the value Spiller provided the Titans (strictly rushing only) is the same between the difference that Ray Rice provided the Ravens (rushing only) and Frank Gore provided the 49ers (rushing only)…despite having 200 fewer carries. He deserves a spot. Reggie Bush? The man’s talented but rushing and receiving he has fewer DYAR than Darren Sproles has just RECEIVING DYAR. That’s crazy. I mean on a rate basis he’s incredible, he may be ready for a more prominent role in the Saints offense, but with the increased workload comes more hits and more wear and tear on the body. I agree he’s become underrated, but I don’t think he warrants top ten quite yet.

    As to the number one spot? I’m hesitant on Chris Johnson, that’s an awful lot of touches for such a small man…however, Adrian Peterson is the single most overrated player in all of professional sports. He gets stuffed all too frequently, and most of his yards come on big plays…which yes he deserves credit for, but a 20+ yard run isn’t all on the running back…it usually requires a defender to get beat, get fooled, or blow an assignment, and quite a bit of downfield blocking. Those gaudy yard totals aren’t all they’re made out to be…when it comes to consistently moving the chains, which is really what you want your running game to do…if you want big plays with the current rules in the NFL passing is the way to go, AP isn’t all that good at it. Seriously, look at the number of stuffs he has along with the fumbles. AP’s overrated. So, while I’m hesitant about it…I’ll go along with Chris Johnson as the best.

  9. Omar–who else would you have in the conversation for #1 if not CJ or AP?

  10. Indeed, Johnson is better.

  11. Jake says:

    As a Dallas fan, I would just like to say that I still wish we had picked Mendenhall, and that if we had, he would be rated higher. Sure, Felix may have more talent, but he’s not our starter, and thus affects us less. If Mendenhall was a Cowboy, he would definitely be starting, and affecting us in a much greater way. Mendenhall and Choice, with Barber as a closer!!!

  12. I’m surprised to hear you say that, as most Dallas fans would prefer Jones over Mendenhall. Mendenhall may (or may not) be the better overall back, but most tend to think Jones fits better in Big D.

  13. Robt Dearmon says:

    Hey just thought I would tell you something. This is twice now I’ve landed on your blog in the last 2 weeks searching for totally unrelated things. You’ve done a great job promoting your site. Love it!

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  16. jeff ephrem says:

    No way cris johnson over the adrien peterson not only ap is the best back in the nfl ap is the second best player in the nfl beside for peyton manning that man is the best player ever ok but here’s your top 5 running backs in the nfl #1ap#2cj#3jammel charles #4mjd #5 micheal turner and who ever says else is crazy because ap is the best and you best qbs are1 peyton manning 2 tom brady 3 big ben 4 Philip rivers and 5 drew brees I think thoe aaron roger is over rated like jim brown are brett farve

  17. jeff ephrem says:

    No way ap is the best cj is good but he could be a jammel lewis a one hit wonder ap gots it all speed power legs cuts but your most over rated players are derrel revis albert hayenswroth idk I’m going to say tom brady is over rated because he won superbowls give me bill bellcheck and I’ll be good to he can make jarmas russel look good

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