Saturday, June 12, 2021

Pre-Thanksgiving Running Back Power Rankings

Thanksgiving Football is upon us and we’re a couple of weeks over the halfway point of the 2019 NFL season. It’s been a really big year for those playing at the running back position this term, from Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook receiving MVP shouts to Zeke and Melvin Gordon’s holdouts and a Saquon Barkley season plagued with injuries. We’ve seen breakout stars in Josh Jacobs and Aaron Jones, a Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson resurgence and quiet seasons from both Ezekiel Elliot and Alvin Kamara. So without further ado, let’s get into my Week 13 Running Back Rankings, powered with Pro Football Focus, with grading up to the end of Week 11.

1. Christian McCaffrey

There’s a clear number 1 here without a doubt. The most entertaining running back, the 2019 leader in yards from scrimmage, and the face of the Carolina Panthers franchise, Christian McCaffrey (pictured above) is our clear number 1. CMC is on pace for a record-breaking season, and just this week became the first back in NFL history to rack up 1000 rushing, and 500 receiving yards in the first 10 games of an NFL season. McCaffrey is versatile, he’s heavily involved in both Carolina’s running and passing games, hardly ever coming off the field, lining up in the slot, outside and in the backfield, the dude is practically unstoppable. What’s more, he’s not the traditional running back, he’s white, which wow’s pundits such as Osi Umenyiora. He repeatedly states on his Jason & Osi Podcast, that it’s brilliant how the best running back is white, and the two best quarterbacks in the league, Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson are black. Run CMC has changed the running back position for the better.

As for numbers, McCaffrey has gained over 20 more yards from scrimmage a game than any other player, which backs up our reasoning behind the number 1 ranking. He boasts a PFF total offense grade of 89.3 and a receiving grade of 92.1. He’s also been good as a pass blocker for Kyle Allen, with a 76.3 pass block grade, which is in the Top 5 of all starting running backs. As of Week 11, McCaffrey had taken 568 snaps, which was almost 100 more than any other running back. Finally, I do believe that McCaffrey could actually have an outside chance of winning league MVP, with his 1709 yards from scrimmage and 16 total touchdowns.

2. Dalvin Cook

Look no further than second on the scrimmage leaders list to find Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings, the second-best running back this season. Cook, unlike McCaffrey is more of a classic back, with a similar style to LeSean McCoy. We’ve finally got a healthy Dalvin Cook, after waiting a few years to see him on the field for a whole season. For the Vikings that wait must have been one hell of a pain, as it looks like we’re going to get a full year of Cook, at the third attempt.

Moving onto his 2019 statistics, Cook has the second-highest run grade on ProFootballFocus, with 85.8 and a total offense grade of 85.3, 5th among starting running backs. Cook is second to McCaffrey in scrimmage yards, with 1472 yards, 1017 of them rushing, 11 touchdowns and 455 yards through the air. Through 11 games Cook has averaged 133.8 total yards and 1 touchdown per game, which is consistency at its finest, and why Cook will join McCaffrey as an All-Pro running back this year.

3. Josh Jacobs

Too high? I don’t think so, the offensive rookie of the year candidate has had a monster season so far for the Raider Nation, and has put up numbers that show he deserves to be this high up on the list. Jacobs wasn’t even a starting running back at Alabama, which 1, shows how good Nick Saban’s program is, and 2, shows that he’s got a special something in him, and a fighter mentality, which is evident in his running style. Many doubted he was that good, as he wasn’t a starter for most of his college career, and only came out of college as this year there was a poor running back class. But Jacobs had silenced all his doubters with his entertaining performances, being part of a thrilling Gruden offense that ranks 11th in total offense, a lot better than many expected.

Taking a look at his numbers, Jacobs is actually first in both rushing and total offense with PFF, putting up grades of 90.5 and 90.4 respectively. You may be asking why he’s not number 1 on this list from those statistics, the reason being he’s not really a receiving back, meaning he’s on the field less than Cook and CMC and doesn’t put up the yards they do. Jacobs has put up 957 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns through 11 games.

4. Aaron Jones

Few would have predicted Aaron Jones to be at number 4 of this list before the season started, including me. I had the chance to acquire Jones in a fantasy football trade earlier this year for Davante Adams, however, I chose Marlon Mack instead as he had shown me more last year. While it was smart to trade away Adams around week 2, and even though Mack has also had a good year, I still look a fool due to the fact the two have had incredibly similar stats this year.

Talking about stats, Jones has the 3rd best-receiving PFF grade among starting running backs of 90.6 and is also 3rd in total offense, behind Jacobs and McCaffrey, so deserves to be up here. He’s formed quite a partnership with Aaron Rodgers in the passing game from the sounds of it, but that’s not the best part of Jones’ game. He’s dominant in the Red Zone. Green Bay is primarily a passing team, and so they should be with ARod at the helm, but his 11 touchdowns have provided a great alternative with limited rushing attempts. Jones has racked up 981 yards from scrimmage this season, and 14 total TD’s.

5. Nick Chubb

In what’s been a disappointing Browns offense this year, there’s one person that has delivered to his pre-season hype in Nick Chubb. The former Georgia Bulldog had shouts to be drafted in the first round only 18 months ago but fell to the second and a favorable destination in Cleveland, which seems to be a steal for those Browns in November 2019. Since his arrival in Ohio, he’s seen both Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson booted out of the backs meeting room, to give him a more featured role in the Browns O.Chubb has more of a traditional style, like fellow 2018 draftee Saquon Barkley, but is rarely used in the passing game.

Numbers-wise, he’s been awesome for the Browns this year, as previously stated and has already rushed for more than 1000 yards, which he almost did in his rookie year, missing out by 4 yards. Chubb ranks third in the league in Rushing PFF Grade putting up a number of 85.5, only behind Jacobs and Dalvin Cook. Overall Chubb has racked up 1341 total yards and 7 total touchdowns.

6. Derrick Henry

We’re heading into Week 13, meaning it’s Henry season baby! After yet another average start from the Titans running back, he’s done what he’s always done since coming into the league in 2016. I am of course talking about having a mind-blowing second half to the season. We see it time after time again, the 6ft 3in 247lb monster and former Heismann Trophy winner proves too difficult to stop within the final half of the season. Admittedly a 200 yard or multiple touchdown game vs Jacksonville, like this weekend just gone, is thrown in there, but nonetheless he’s racking up numbers in the running game. Henry has put up 1174 yards from scrimmage and 106.7 yards per game so far this season.

7. Ezekiel Elliot

After not reporting to Dallas until the early hours of NFL Week 1, missing all of training camp and the preseason this summer, there were concerns that Zeke wouldn’t look fresh, which he hasn’t really but he is however still a top 10 back in the NFL regardless. On his day, Elliot is the best back in the league, which is why he earned his big-money contract from Jerry Jones, as well as alongside Odell Beckham Jr, being one of the league’s biggest superstars. The former Ohio State Buckeye has 4.3 yards-per-carry which is good for a starting running back. The downside to Zeke’s season is how much he’s touching the ball. Zeke has clearly taken a backstep in the Cowboys offense, as they lean more towards the passing game with QB Dak Prescott. Despite not really being himself, which is understandable with a lack of work before the season, Elliot has still put up 1179 total yards and 8 total touchdowns, ranking 4th among running backs.

8. Mark Ingram

There’s not been a more electrifying offense to watch this season than the Baltimore Ravens, which the former Heisman Trophy winner, along with 2 other former recipients of the most important college award, in QB’s Robert Griffin and Lamar Jackson, has been part of. The offense isn’t necessarily star-studded, with a lesser-known receiving core, but has three things that are crucial in the NFL today, in height, speed and strength. And Ingram certainly has two of these. He runs with power, speed, and vision, winning Kyle Brandt of GMFB’s Angry Runs earlier this season, whilst also being effective in the red-zone and has an eye for the end zone. Ingram has racked up 947 yards from scrimmage this year and 8 total touchdowns. He’s the perfect hypeman for possible MVP, Lamar Jackson, literally!

9. Chris Carson

What do the Seahawks and Ravens have in common? Actually quite a lot, a Top 10 NFL running back, 9 wins and the Top 2 MVP candidates, and mobile QB’s in Lamar, and Russell Wilson. According to, prior to Sunday, Carson is averaging the fourth-most rushing yards per game, in 98.5. He’s also totaled 879 rushing yards, and 1099 yards gained from scrimmage. The reason why he’s all the way down at 9 is his lack of production in the red zone, only scoring 3 rushing touchdowns all year.

10. Alvin Kamara

Earlier I mentioned a quiet season from Kamara, he’s not been that quiet, it’s just that he’s missed games through injury and has never been an every-down back, meaning he’s not on the field as much as let’s say, McCaffrey, who he is comparable to. After all, that’s said and done, AK41 has still produced 947 total yards, but has only seen the endzone twice. He is, however, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 7 yards per reception. Kamara should rise up this list if he can continue to produce into the postseason, without getting hurt.

That’s all for me on this topic, I’ll be back soon with another ranking before the end of the season, but if you’ve made it this far, thank you! If possible, please let us know in the comments below where you stand on our list, and who should be higher or lower.

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