The average career of an NFL running back is just over two and a half seasons. These guys take a beating every down, and even the toughest backs often become injured and miss extended periods of time. That means that the chances of a starting running back winning a Super Bowl aren’t very good. Even if their career lasts twice as long as it should, only one team can bring home the Lombardi Trophy every year and a running back can only carry a team so far on his back. You might be surprised by a few of these picks for seven starting running back who will, and eight who won’t win the Super Bowl.
19 WON'T: LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills
There isn’t any doubt that LeSean McCoy is a great running back, but the reality is that he will likely never win a Super Bowl or even a conference championship. McCoy had a great start to his career with the Philadelphia Eagles where he reached the playoffs a couple times. The led the league in rushing touchdowns in 2011 and in yards in 2013 when he was also named NFC Offensive Player of the Year. McCoy went to the AFC’s Buffalo Bills in 2015 but the team isn’t all that great and likely won’t be making the Super Bowl anytime soon. This five time Pro Bowl selection’s best chance at winning a ring is to join another team that is a legitimate contender and possibly become their backup.
16 WILL: Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans
Derrick Henry was a beast at Alabama, winning two national championships and a Heisman Trophy. Even though he may have been #2 on the depth chart behind DeMarco Murray in 2016, he will soon be a starter on the young and talented Titans team. Murray has been inconsistent although he had a big comeback season paired up with Henry in the Tennessee backfield. He still managed to score 5 touchdowns and rush for nearly 500 yards. The Titans were on the verge of winning their division and the Texans, Colts, and Jaguars aren’t consistent enough to count Tennessee out. In a few years Henry could be one of the best backs in the NFL and lead the Titans to the Super Bowl victory that once eluded them after the Music City Miracle.
14 WON'T: Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers
At one point after the 2016 NFL season, the San Francisco 49ers didn’t have any quarterbacks on their official roster. That means that no matter who comes in, starting running back Carlos Hyde is going to have to shoulder quite a big load. Hyde posted big numbers at Ohio State and was drafted by the 49ers in 2014. He served as a backup to Frank Gore and became the starter in 2015 before becoming injured. Hyde had a good season in 2016 when stayed healthy and rushed for just under 1,000 yards along with 6 rushing and 3 receiving touchdowns. San Francisco has a lot of work to do before they become a Super Bowl contender, so Hyde may be the best player on a bad team for a while.
13 WILL: Spencer Ware – Kansas City Chiefs
Even in a crowded backfield, Spencer Ware emerged as the starting running back for the Kansas City Chiefs after Jamaal Charles couldn’t stay healthy. Ware beat out Charcandrick West and Knile Davis although he shares time with them. The Chiefs also have a versatile weapon in Tyreek Hill, but Ware is the starter and best pure back they have, especially after the team officially let Charles go in 2017. The Chiefs are a solid team who seems to win lots of games every season. They typically make the playoffs but have to contend with tough teams like the Patriots and Steelers to get to the Super Bowl. Luckily Ware is still young and hasn’t racked up too many carries so he should be good to go for at least a few more seasons.
12 WON'T: Jay Ajayi – Miami
Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi really came into his own during the 2016 season when he started 12 games for Miami. He racked up more than 1,200 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. Ajayi helped lead the team to the playoffs and even made the Pro Bowl. The problem is that even though the Dolphins are a decent team, they can never seem to get over the hump. The usually tend to finish with a record of somewhere around 9 -7 and sometimes sneak into the wild card round of the playoffs, only to be eliminated the first week of the postseason. Ajayi had some great games, putting put up more than 200 yards in three separate games. He could become a great back but likely won’t even win a Super Bowl where he’s at.
11 WILL: David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals
The good news for Arizona Cardinals starting running back David Johnson is that he is only going into his third NFL season and is already one of the best running backs in the league. The bad news is that the window in Arizona seems to be closing since quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald aren’t getting any younger. Many experts picked the Cardinals to win the Super Bowl in 2016 but they weren’t even able to make the playoffs. If they don’t win it in 2017, Johnson may have to wait a few years before another talented, younger quarterback is in place. Johnson could start for almost any team in the league and may opt to leave if the team starts declining anytime soon.
10 WON'T: Matt Forte – New York Jets
Matt Forte is another solid veteran running back that likely won’t retire with any Super Bowl rings. He had a good run in Chicago where he reached the NFC Championship game in 2011. Forte made the Pro Bowl twice with the Bears before signing a three year deal with the New York Jets in 2016. He had a pretty good season that year, starting 13 games and scoring 7 rushing touchdowns. Forte is still the team’s starter but has competition from Bilal Powell and Khiry Robinson. The Jets likely won’t be making the Super Bowl any time soon, after having an alright season in 2015 and dropping off again in 2016. Forte could ride out his contract in New York and then sign with a contender, but he might not have much left in the tank.
9 WILL: Thomas Rawls – Seattle Seahawks
After Marshawn Lynch retired from football, there was some uncertainty about who would take over as the new starting running back in Seattle. Rawls started the season but suffered an injury. The Seahawks tried bringing in other options including CJ Prosise, but Rawls seemed to cement his position in the playoffs after he set a new Seahawks record for most yards in a postseason game with 161 in January 2017. The Seahawks are still a perennial championship contender and seem like they have the ability to reach the Super Bowl any given year. Rawls should be able to capitalize on that and win a Super Bowl in the next five seasons. It remains to be seen if he will be the long term answer, and he has had some off the field issues in addition to his injury concerns.
8 WON'T: Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson should be a first ballot Hall of Famer, unless the scandal about physically abusing his children holds him back. Peterson was drafted #7 overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 2007. He was named the league’s MVP in 2012 and has made the Pro Bowl seven times. Peterson led the league in rushing yards three times and in rushing touchdowns twice. He also holds the NFL record for 296 yards in a game. Peterson became injured at the beginning of the 2016 season and was placed on injured reserve. At the end of the season the team opted not to exercise his option, making him a free agent. He is certainly talented enough to win a Super Bowl, but his age and health can hinder his chances.
6 WILL: Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers placed the franchise tag on workhorse running back Le’Veon Bell in 2017, making him the Bell cow of their organization. Bell will be going into his fifth NFL season in 2015 and is one of the best running backs in the league. Paired with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, the Steelers have one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, and are a playoff team almost every season. Bell already holds Pittsburgh Steelers records for single season receptions by a RB, single-season scrimmage yards, and single-game rushing yards. Bell may have to last a few more years to try and outlast Tom Brady who keeps getting in the way of Pittsburgh’s chances. If he can remain healthy and avoid being suspended he can lead the league in rushing and lead the Steelers to another Super Bowl win.
5 WON'T: Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams
Todd Gurley had a lot of hype back when the Rams were still in St. Louis. He was drafted #10 overall in 2015 and was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in addition to being selected to the Pro Bowl and being named a Second-team All-Pro. His numbers went down when the team moved to Los Angeles in 2016, even though he played the full season. Gurley is a good starting running back, but the team doesn’t have enough pieces around him to contender in a touch division including the Seahawks and Cardinals. He should have plenty of years left which means he may have a chance to change teams or allow the Rams to rebuild. Those scenarios make it possible to for Gurley to win a Super Bowl, but odds are he is more likely to become an above average back on a below average team.
4 WILL: Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons
For the first team in his career, running back Devonta Freeman started all 16 games for the Atlanta Falcons. The team came just about as close as you can to winning the Super Bowl without actually doing so. Freeman has had more than 1,000 yards the past two seasons and had 11 touchdowns in both 2015 and 2016. The Falcons should stay at the top of the NFC for a while longer, especially if quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones can stay healthy. Freeman’s backup Tevin Coleman could probably be a starter which just shows how good Freeman is, because he doesn’t seem to be in any danger of losing his job. Freeman and the Falcons probably thought they were on their way to winning a Super Bowl until they collapsed in the second half and the Patriots made a miraculous comeback.
3 WON'T: Ty Montgomery – Green Bay Packers
The story of Packer Ty Montgomery is quite interesting when you consider that he was converted to a running back from a wide receiver midway through his NFL career. When Eddie Lacy went down the Packers didn’t’ know what to do and didn’t have many options. Montgomery had flashes as a good back, but was not utilized very much in true running back fashion. According to the team’s official depth chart, Lacy isn’t even listed after the 2016 season and Montgomery is the #1 guy. He ran for almost 500 yards in 2016, and probably will continue to split time as a pass catcher. The Packers have the talent to win another Super Bowl, but they probably won’t with Montgomery as their starting back.
2 WILL: Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys had a spectacular regular season in 2016 behind rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. Many people are calling this tandem the best rookie duo of all-time, and that could certainly be true. Elliott likes to eat up yards and scored 15 rushing touchdowns in his rookie season. As long as those two guys keep it up, Elliott has a great shot at winning a Super Bowl and it could be sooner rather than later. Nobody would expect a rookie to lead the NFL in rushing yards and make the Pro Bowl in his first season, but that’s exactly what Zeke did. With a solid defensive and a strong offensive line, the Cowboys should be finished with going 8-8 every season and should be more like 12-4 every year.
1 WON'T: Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers
With the Chargers joining the Rams in Los Angeles, the team’s playoff future doesn’t look any brighter. The Philip Rivers era has had mixed results, and the team drafted running back Melvin Gordon out of Wisconsin in the 1st round of the 2015 Draft. He has had to split time, but had a breakout season in 2016 when he scored 10 touchdowns and was just 3 yards short of 1,000. Now that Danny Woodhead is out of San Diego, Gordon should be the main option in a potent offense. The problem is that the Chargers can’t win a division against the Raiders, Chiefs, and Broncos, and getting in as a wild card is almost as difficult. Gordon has a bright future, but he probably won’t win a Super Bowl as the starter in Los Angeles anytime soon.
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