Last season, various running backs cemented themselves as dominant. Not only were there prospects who rose to the plate, but older athletes, who weren't necessarily successful two years ago, had productive games. People are often speculative and skeptical, in general, in regards to whether running backs will be able to play for a long time. In fact, most myths have been debunked. Some running backs retire early on in their career, but others succeed late into their early 30s. While this is the case, it is true that many halfbacks have careers that lose steam in their late 20s.
Running backs tend to be very dispensable. Once a guy gets older and loses potential, organizations will elect to draft a prospect: whether in the first round or after. Running backs are an essential aspect of the NFL, and football itself, and will continue to hold relevancy as long as a pigskin is being tossed hand to hand. This article is merely prediction, but it is based off of previous statistics. I have created my predictions based around past performances or present realities. I don't expect to be correct on every prediction, but I do feel confident in the majority of these. Not only are we looking at rushing yards, but with running backs now expected to play a part in the passing game, we'll also take into account their receiving yards. We'll conclude whether these guys can rack up 1,000 yards from scrimmage or not. Here are eight running backs I feel can reach that next year, and seven I expect to struggle.
15 Will: Paul Perkins
Paul Perkins will likely be the starter in East Rutherford next fall. All signs point to the Giants using him as the number 1 back and I feel the team likes him. With new veteran presence in town and Eli Manning playing fairly consistent, Perkins has a chance to shine. He had only 112 attempts last season but still managed 456 yards. Additionally, Perkins caught 15 balls and had 162 yards, with his longest reception being 67 yards.
I think he brings a lot to the field and could be a good option for Eli in the red zone. The Giants will benefit from his quickness and stamina and do well by utilizing him on screens and flea flickers. While the Giants will be built around their passing game, Perkins will play a role in that area, which will put him over the 1K mark.
14 Won't: C.J. Anderson
I feel like Anderson's career has been spiraling downwards for a few years now. The Broncos are constantly changing their offensive approach and cycling through different halfbacks. Last season, Anderson managed four touchdowns and 437 yards. Though he will likely be the starter in Denver again, the team would be smart to play a younger and potentially more dynamic runner. Anderson is a bit meaty and not a running back who can accelerate at an quick rate.
He has his moments, but I don't feel confident that he can be a great centerpiece or beneficial aspect to the Denver Broncos offensive approach of 2017. He may have had injury issues recently, but this is just another reason why he isn't a reliable option. With the Broncos not having an ideal QB situation and a loaded backfield, Anderson may soon be the odd man out.
13 Will: Carlos Hyde
Hyde had a good season with the San Fransisco 49ers this past season. He rushed for 988 yards and 6 touchdowns and caught 27 receptions and 3 touchdowns. I think he brings good energy to a team that lacks uniqueness and individuality. The 49ers are in need of a reliable quarterback, but Hyde is an elite runner who is a game changer. He is very quick out of the pocket and a fantastic red zone option for a screen or run down the middle. In his 4th season, going into his 5th, Hyde will look to top 1,000 yards (something he has yet to accomplish).
Certainly, I think he has a good chance of doing just that next season. Though the 49ers have a rough offensive line, he is good enough to be able to navigate through defenses.
12 Won't: Rob Kelley
Kelley came out hot in 2016, but ended up playing pretty mediocre for the rest of the season. He finished with 6 touchdowns and 704 yards off of 168 carries. The Redskins are not my favorite team: far from it. I find them undisciplined and largely immature. The team needs direction, but also they have players who haven't fully committed to their cause. The Redskins did solid last season, but need to do a better job of protecting their running backs.
Kelley appeared slow and lethargic later on last year. He seemed unable to self navigate through defenses, which is something a good runner needs to be able to do (regardless if their is a good offensive line present or not).
11 Will: Melvin Gordon
Gordon had a great year, which earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl. He rushed for 10 touchdowns and 997 yards, as opposed to in 2015 when he had 641 yards, 0 touchdowns, and totally disappointed Chargers fans. With a new atmosphere in Los Angeles, the Chargers will look to rely on Gordon even more heavily. He was quick out of the pocket and a great option for when Philip Rivers felt tired or lethargic. Rivers did well at getting passes to Gordon, as he managed 419 yards receiving and 41 receptions.
Gordon will not only combine 1,000 yards from scrimmage, but I expect him to surpass 1,000 just on the ground alone. He figured it out last year and it's all uphill from here. He is a great athlete and will succeed.
10 Won't: Duke Johnson
With Johnson stuck in a poor offense and poorly run organization, he has little ceiling. Additionally, he is stuck in the middle of the depth chart. He seems to keep getting the #1 spot then losing it... then gaining it back... then losing it. At 5-9, Johnson is constantly in a depth chart battle with Crowell. Crowell, on the other hand, had a fantastic season last year. He had 7 touchdowns and 952 yards. Duke had 1 touchdown and 358 yards. While scouts thought the University of Miami halfback would succeed, it seems he has struggled to gain ground in Cleveland.
Even if he were to do well, he will be battling Crowell for snaps: who has proven himself to be somewhat reliable and bulky in the pocket.
9 Will: Jay Ajayi
Ajayi was a major reason for the Dolphins success last season. He rushed for 1,272 yards and 8 touchdowns, a number thought to have been fake by many original scouts. A year before that, he managed ONLY 187 yards! Something is off. Clearly, the Dolphins were stuck in an unfavorable circumstance. With Lamar Miller still in Miami that year, they were mixed as to whether Jay should get more carries. He has taken over the offense and proved himself to be a legit top 10 running back.
I would like to see the Dolphins get him the ball more effectively on screen passes and shovel passes, because he was really good at these sort of crafty plays in college. I think fantasy owners will be happy, once more.
8 Won't: James White
White, now a backup running back to Dion Lewis, seems primed to fail next season. He caught 5 touchdowns and had 86 targets last season, but with receivers healthy and Brandin Cooks in town, New England will not need to rely on his services as much.
Dion Lewis, now healthy, has a lot of upside. Lewis is better than White in the backfield. While we may be tempted to think White will tear it up next season after setting a Super Bowl record for receptions, running backs just don't have a long shelf life in Belichick's system. I think White could move farther down the depth chart, easily, due to Bill Belicheck's ability to constantly move around players. The Patriots should keep him as third down back, but really not look for him in the passing game unless they experience injuries.
7 Will: Latavius Murray
With a new situation for Murray, I think he has a lot of potential to have a great year. The Raiders may be a bit sad he is gone, but hey, they have another guy in town: Beast Mode. Murray rushed for 788 yards last season and 12 touchdowns. He may have had 1,066 yards in 2015, but he was a touchdown machine in Oakland. Along with Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, the organization has great potential - but Murray is now a Viking.
The Vikings are not an amazing circumstance for him, as they have an offensive line that could certainly sustain him. He is a bulky runner who can power through defensive lines easily. Though he will be splitting carries with Dalvin Cook, the Vikings will be built around their ground game, which will give Murray plenty of opportunities to hit the 1,000 yard mark from scrimmage.
6 Won't: Eddie Lacy
Lacy is a wild card, for me. In Green Bay, he struggled with weight problems. Even after he, apparently, lost the weight, the man gained all of it back. On the field, he is slow and appears lethargic. I liked Lacy his rookie season, but I feel that it's time to forget about it. He has slowed down and is on the wrong end of his career.
The Seahawks may have been trying to compensate for their loss of Lynch, but Lacy was not the right move. Anyway, they are really just still mad they lost Marshawn Lynch, right? Lacy has a major injury issue and struggles to stay durable. Honestly, I would not be shocked if he gained more weight or just got injured within the first three weeks of play. He is unreliable.
5 Will: Todd Gurley
Gurley experienced a typical sophomore slump last season. In his rookie season, Gurley ran for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. Last year, he rushed for 885 yards and 6 touchdowns. Why the drop down? Well, the Rams offensive line struggled and they ultimately had an unfavorable quarterback situation. Sure, Jared Goff is young, but the team didn't even feel confident enough to play him over Case Keenum. I think Gurley is bound to have a bounce back year. He has a strong work ethic and just looked too good in his rookie season for me to say he will once again be mediocre. Gurley was unreal in his rookie season. With Ezekiel Elliott's emergence last season, everyone forgot just how good Gurley was the year before. Expect Gurley to remind everyone how good he is.
4 Won't: Thomas Rawls
Rawls is stuck in an unfavorable situation next season. While he played average last season in Seattle, Eddie Lacy will be taking away a lot of his carries. To me, Rawls shows minimal promise. He has trouble holding on to the football, but more importantly, lacks speed out of the tackle box. Rawls, to me, seems one dimensional. He isn't very fast and is not very quick when in open space. Russell Wilson would be smart to run it himself, considering he has maintained control over the offense for some time now.
It might make sense for the Seahawks to look for Lacy in the backfield, but I don't think he is a great option either. Unfortunately, they have failed to capture a good runner in the offseason.
3 Shine: Leonard Fournette
The rookie has a lot of potential to be a great option for the Jacksonville Jaguars this season. The guy was a beast at LSU and deserving of all the respect he garnered. In 2016, he rushed for 843 yards and 8 touchdowns. Meanwhile, a year before that, Fournette had an insane 23 touchdowns and 1,953 yards. He is 6-1 and can run elegantly. The Jaguars would be very smart to utilize him in the red zone. Fournette has proven himself time and time again in college: now he just needs to commit to work hard at the professional level. Fournette shows promise and is very quick out of the pocket. If he can work had and commits himself to learn the offense, the Jaguars fans will absolutely love him.
2 Won't: Jordan Howard
Howard rushed for 1,313 yards and 6 touchdowns a year ago. Even with an unsatisfactory Bears offensive line, Howard managed to have himself a successful season. With a new coaching approach leaning towards the Bears offense and a different QB taking the helm, I think Howard will struggle to adapt. While he put up solid numbers this past season, he hasn't necessarily proven himself to be an extreme threat or a ridiculous option to go to in the red zone.
Ultimately, the Bears need more options. With a rookie QB in Chicago, Howard may have to adapt to a new approach and a new system that doesn't necessarily favor him. The Bears had a disastrous year last season and I envision a similar result next year.
1 Will: Marshawn Lynch
After a year away from football, Marshawn Lynch is hungry; he is hungry for yards, touchdowns, and to once again be recognized as a top five running back in the NFL. Two years ago, Lynch rushed for 417 yards in a minimal seven games. In 2014, Marshawn had 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns. The guy is a born winner and insane at battling through a defense.
Now with the Raiders, assume he will be a menace to defenders. Lynch is known to be extremely difficult to tackle and he will carry that legacy with him to the Raiders.
While Lynch loves football, he may have wanted to come back to the NFL because he wants to deliver a championship to Oakland before the Raiders move to Vegas.
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