The NFL has gone through a large amount of shift over the years. Since 2000, the game has open new doors for passing schemes that have impacted how it will be played going forward.
With this, running backs are being undervalued more than ever. Teams generally like to draft running backs in the 2nd or 3rd round, get a few productive years out of them, then franchise tag them until they're past their prime. That way, they never have to give a running back big guaranteed money. Le'Veon Bell has not played this year because he feels that is the current situation in Pittsburgh. These running backs listed here, are the running backs that did not have much value. When trying to find stable numbers from the position, many teams have failed over the last 18 seasons.
These former and active players below are some of the worst starting running backs for each franchise, focusing on the players after the turn of the century. Players who only had a couple games in the starting role were excluded unless they were benched because of their poor play. Some of these running backs were actually good at certain points of their career, but we're talking about how they fared with that one team in particular, for a prolonged stretch.
It would be unfair to label a running back who filled in for only three games as the "worst running back" the team has had, so that is the thinking behind only including players that had started nearly half a season.
32 Arizona Cardinals: Tim Hightower
I wonder if anyone would have continued reading this article if I put Emmitt Smith for this entry. Anyways, the Cardinals run game struggled heavily when Hightower emerged as a starter.
The two seasons he held the job, he totaled 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Ideally, it'd be nice to get that over the course of a 16 game season, not a 32-game stretch. The biggest problem the Cardinals coaching staff, led by Ken Whisenhunt at the time, had with Hightower was his constant fumbling. During his two full years as a starter, he fumbled 10 times.
31 Atlanta Falcons: Steven Jackson
Before joining the Atlanta Falcons, Jackson was one of the most consistent running backs in the league. Then, he turned 30 years old. He was not able to sustain any type of success with the Falcons. His first year with the team was a disaster. The former pro bowler was banged up with a thigh injury that significantly impacted his ply and longevity. That season, Jackson averaged 3.5 carries, and finish with 543 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He only played two more seasons after, one being a second year with the Falcons, before being cut by the Patriots in 2015.
30 Baltimore Ravens: Terrance West
The Ravens have had a solid running back for nearly two decades. From 2000-20006, Jamal Lewis carried the load. Then, it was time for Ray Rice to come into the picture. Since Rice left the team in 2013, the Ravens of had to assemble a new backfield. This gave Terrance West the starting opportunity, and he lost it the following year.
West didn't put up terrible numbers that year, 4.0 YPC, 774 rushing yards, 1010 total yards, and five touchdowns, his stats just pale in comparison to what Baltimore has had over the years.
29 Buffalo Bills: Sammy Morris
The Bills have had some killer production in the past from the running back position but Sammy Morris was not that, however. Morris spent most of his 12-year career as a backup, which seems much more impressive than it seems.
During his rookie season, he was thrusted into the starting role much earlier than he should've been, and it showed.
He had just 391 yards across 12 games for the Bills, 8 of which he was starting in. Morris started in more than seven games in just two more seasons in the NFL. Once with the Dolphins in 2004, and the other with the Patriots in 2008.
28 Carolina Panthers: Tim Biakabutuka
At the start of the millennium, the Panthers running game was headed by Biakabutuka. The reason why his name may not sound familiar, is because he was a forgettable member of the 1999 and 2000 Carolina team. Biakabutuka started 11 games during both of those seasons. Over those seasons, he gained 1,345 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. In 1999. he was able to get 138 carries for 718 yards. His second year as a starter did not fair as well, carrying the ball 45 more times, while only gaining 627 yards. He only played four games after having the starting role, and was quickly out of the league in 2001.
27 Chicago Bears: Cedric Benson
In the early stages of his career in Chicago, Cedric Benson was not the workhouse back he ended up being in Cincinnati for several seasons. He earned his shot at the starting running back job after two seasons and was primed to breakout during the 2007 year. Benson was disappointment as a starter. He had his worst year in terms of consistent production level, with 3.4 yards per rush.
Benson was the feature back for a team that was one win away from being crowned champions the year before, and only had 674 yards. The season prior, while starting zero games, he had 647 yards. Benson did not return to team after 2007.
26 Cincinnati Bengals: Jeremy Hill
Jeremy Hill had a great rookie season with the Bengals, while splitting time with Giovanni Bernard. His second season left a ton on the table, as Hill struggled gaining yards on a regular basis.
He scored 11 touchdowns during that 2015 campaign, but only scored in six games.
Most of his touchdowns were in games that were not close, and he only averaged 3.5 yards a carry for the season. Since his rookie season, he has not had over 3.8 yards over carry. Hill is out for the 2018 season with an ACL injury.
25 Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson
Richardson found himself in a very similar situation to his former AFC North counterpart, Hill. The ex-Alabama star was able to start hot in the NFL, finding the end zone 12 times during his rookie season. Richardson wouldn't have been able to foresee what would happen next in his career, as his vision as a ball carrier completely disappeared heading into 2013. The two games Cleveland had him starting that year went badly. Richardson had 105 yards on 31 carries heading into week three. He never played for the Browns again, as he was traded to the Colts for the first round pick that was used to take Johnny Manziel.
24 Dallas Cowboys: Felix Jones
This was a very hard one to choose. The Cowboys have had a relatively decent run game over the years or successfully used a two-back committee for a few years. Felix Jones served as the teams back up for five seasons. His career years were from 2010-2012. Starting about half the games those years, Jones was not able to take the starting job. During his time in Dallas, he never was able to get a large number of goal-line touches. The Cowboys never used Jones in many scoring opportunities, only getting 11 touchdowns over the five seasons he had in Dallas.
23 Denver Broncos: Knowshon Moreno
The Denver Broncos created 1,000 yard backs out of thin air throughout the 2000's. Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell instantly come to mind as guys the team could just plug and play into the offense, and yield largely positive results.
When Knowshon Moreno was in the Broncos backfield, the whole offense was completely different then the power running game the Broncos displayed in the past.
Moreno was alongside Manning out of a shotgun formation for most of his time with Denver. There simply wasn't enough production for Moreno, as the offense revolved around Manning until his arm stopped working.
22 Detroit Lions: Jahvid Best
Best was pushed out of the NFL very early into his career. After sustaining his fourth concussion since being a senior at California, Best was uncleared to return to football. He only played two seasons with the Lions before focusing on his track and field career. This was natural for Best, who ran a 4.35 40 time before entering the league. He participated in the 2016 Olympics, with a 100m in 10.39 seconds. In 2018 he participated in a Flag Football League, where he did this, showing exactly why he could have had a more promising career had it not been for concussions.
21 Green Bay Packers: Brandon Jackson
It is hard to say Brandon Jackson was the least productive back in Green Bay. The year he was a starter, the team won the Super Bowl. By that logic, he can't be the absolute worst back, but he did have some of the worst stats compared to former backs in Green Bay. Starting all 16 games, Jackson had 703 yards on 190 carries (3.7 yards per carry), and saw the end zone three times.
That wasn't great numbers to help out Aaron Rodgers during a championship run, but it was just enough to win a ring. Jackson did not return to the Packers the following season, signing with Cleveland. He played two games the rest of his career, both with the Browns.
20 Houston Texans: Lamar Miller
The problem with Lamar Miller is that everyone is expecting more from him. Many fans thought it was the lack of carries in Miami that were holding Miller back from putting up tall rushing numbers. Since he joined the Texans in 2016, it has been clear it was not the Dolphins hindering his career.
Since Lamar Miller has been "freed" from the Dolphins play calling, he hasn't broken out.
His first year with the team went well, cracking the 1,000 yard mark for the second time of his career and scoring eight times. Last season, is why Miller may not be the long-term solution in the Texans backfield. He had just 888 rushing yards, and only finding the end zone three times via the ground.
19 Indianapolis Colts: Trent Richardson
I mean, there is a reason he was called Trent 2.0. Yes, he was that bad. He was traded to the Colts after some of the worst two games possible for a second year back. Things did not get better once he was in Indy. His production got worse. He averaged 3.6 yards per carry his rookie year, the lowest of all time for a rookie. When he got to Indy, he didn't crack over 3 yards a touch. Over 14 games with the Colts in 2013, he had 458 yards. In 2014, he had 563 yards. He tried to make the Raiders squad in 2015, but was cut due to boneheaded plays.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars: Toby Gerhart
After losing one of the closest Heisman races of all time to Mark Ingram in 2009, Gerhart had a chip on his shoulder when coming into the NFL. He never materialized that energy into much, as he struggled during stints with Minnesota and Jacksonville. In 2014, after four seasons as a backup for both franchises, Gerhart finally had a starting job. After seven games, the Jags had seen enough, benching the Heisman runner-up for college quarterback, Denard Robinson. During that lone season Gerhart had started for Jacksonville, he had 326 yards and two touchdowns.
17 Kansas City Chiefs: Spencer Ware
This is one of the entries that has nothing to do with the player listed, rather the Chiefs' franchise being loaded at running back throughout the years. When Priest Holmes left, Larry Johnson took over.
When Johnson was no longer starting, Jamaal Charles took over the reins. Now, Kareem Hunt looks to be the guy going forward.
Before Hunt took the job in 2017, Spencer Ware had the role.
As a third-year back who only had a small back up duties beforehand, Ware did a nice job. That year he had 1,366 total yards and helped Kansas City finish 12-4 on the season.
16 Los Angeles Chargers: Branden Oliver
For half the time frame we are looking at for this piece, Ladainian Tomlison was the star behind the Chargers success. After he left the team, Ryan Mathews held down the spot with relative success, becoming the franchise's fourth-leading rusher all-time. Melvin Gordon has done well since he joined the league, so Branden Oliver is really the only sound option here.
In 2014, Oliver had to start the remaining seven games of the season for an injured Ryan Mathews. The Chargers had to use the 5'8" back in a variety of ways to make him useful, often using him out of the backfield much more than there normal offense would have them do had Matthews been available.
15 Los Angeles Rams: Tre Mason
Tre Mason was drafted in the third round of the 2014 NFL draft. Todd Gurley was drafted the following season. This redundancy cost the former Auburn star big-time. In fact, Mason has not played in the NFL since Gurley's rookie year. You can't even blame him for the lack of production either.
The Rams were coached by Jeff Fisher at the time, and had the same offensive line that made Gurley look suspect during his rookie year.
Mason is currently playing in the CFL as a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He took two years away from the sport before signing with the team.
14 Miami Dolphins: Lamar Miller
Unfortunately, this is just the way it shakes out for Miller. Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown were able to give the Dolphins a reliable backfield for many years. Once they were out of the picture, and after a weird Reggie Bush cameo in 2012, Lamar Miller was next in line.
During that time, and for most of the 2000s, the Dolphins weren't very good. It may have not been Miller's talent level that kept him from shining, as the team itself struggled to move the ball during his tenure. After three seasons, the team let Miller sign with the Houston Texans.
13 Minnesota Vikings: Matt Asiata
The Vikings had a couple of seasons where they needed to replace the production that Adrian Peterson would normally have provided. Matt Asiata, along with Jerrick Mckinnon, did their best job at filling the void. Asiata didn't provide a spark offensively but had a knack for finding the end zone during the 2014 season. He scored 10 times while only receiving 10 carries a game. During his five years in the NFL, he had 1259 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns, and 3.5 yards a carry. His last stop in the NFL was in 2017, where he was cut loose by the Lions before the season.
12 New England Patriots: Mike Gillislee
After his Week 1 performance against the Chiefs last season, everyone was drooling over Gillislee possibly having the same production LeGarrette Blount did as the goal-line back in New England.
Gillislee was banished into Bill Belichick's doghouse for fumbling, making him one of the least productive backs on the team going forward.
Although he did not start many games, he was still labeled as the starter prior to the season.
As a backup in Buffalo in 2016, Gillislee found the end zone nine times. With the Patriots, he scored five times, three of them coming during that Week 1 game against Kansas City.
11 New Orleans Saints: Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush wasn't bad with the Saints, but he also wasn't worth the second overall pick in the 2006 draft. Sean Payton recently has incorporated more carries out the backfield in his offense, but that was not the case for most of his tenure. Bush, along with Pierre Thomas, were used out of the backfield as a committee, while also being dynamic pass catchers. Bush had his most productive year right out of college, as he rushed for 565 yards and had 742 yards as a receiver. It is difficult to have a huge amount of success as a rusher when your quarterback is Drew Brees throwing up historic passing yardage year in and year out.
10 New York Giants: Rashad Jennings
New York has not had a great rushing attack over the last few years. The fact that they took Saquon Barkley with such a high pick shows just how bad it has been. From 2014-2016 the "Rashad Jennings Era" left much to be desired out of a halfback. Jennings' stat line with the Giants reads as follows: 2095 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns, 3.9 yards per carry, over the course of three seasons. After Jennings left the team, a rotating cast of backs tried to take the open spot, but neither of them had sustained runs as a "starting" running back.
9 New York Jets: Matt Forte
In the twilight of his career, Forte is undoubtedly slowing down. After sustained success with the Chicago Bears, he joined the New York Jets in 2016. That season, Forte had the worst year of his career.
At the age of 31, he slowed down significantly.
He posted a respectable season, 813 yards, paired with seven touchdowns, but slowly lost carries as the season went on. His second year with the team proved to be the last. After ongoing toe and knee injuries, he was finally put on injury reserve on December 30, 2017. He announced his retirement at the end of the season.
8 Oakland Raiders: Darren McFadden
Injuries were always an issue during his time in Oakland. Coming out of Arkansas as a high-profile running back, there were high hopes for McFadden to bring stability to the Raider's offense. Health was an issue, however, as Run DMC was only able to play a full 16 games with the team just once, during his final season in Oakland. During his third season, he showed why he was such a talented back.
In that 2010 year, he started 13 games (the most of his career), and had 1157 yards and ten combined touchdowns. On top of those numbers, he was highly efficient, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
7 Philadelphia Eagles: DeMarco Murray
The Dallas Cowboys knew what was going to happen regarding Murray's impending free agency heading into the 2014 season. Murray was a good as gone, as the Cowboys knew they were not going to pay the increased price tag for a running back. That year, he had 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns. He left to Philly in the offseason and was an absolute bust. After having 392 carries the year before, Murray was broken parts as soon as he suited up for the Eagles. He had just 702 yards and was demoted to backup duties halfway through the season.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers: Jonathan Dwyer/ Isaac Redman Combo
Pittsburgh has had a stable backfield for nearly all 18 seasons looked at here. The most unsuccessful season for the Steelers ground game was in 2012. The team was missing their starter, Rashard Mendenhall, for the whole season. This left Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman in charge of replacing Mendenhall's production.
The two did get over the 1,000-yard mark, but neither of them really provided consistent yardage that the team was accustomed to in years past.
The Steelers finished 8-8 that year, and had one of their worst offensive seasons during that timeframe.
5 San Francisco 49ers: Shaun Draughn
The 49ers lost Carlos Hyde to injury in 2015, forcing the team to sign Draughn. After being cut by Cleveland earlier in the year, he found himself starting in San Fransisco for the final six games. Those six games didn't fair well for him or the 49ers. He had less than 44 yards a game on the ground in the games he started. His play during the 2015 season didn't cost him a roster spot, as he was back next season behind Carlos Hyde. Draughn has been out of the league since that 2016 season. In 2017, he failed to make the Giants 53 man roster and has not played since.
4 Seattle Seahawks: Eddie Lacy
Eddie Lacy started very few games for the Seahawks but was still pegged to be their starter during a down year for their rushing attack. Before the year had even started, he became a meme based on weight clauses embedded in his contract. When he did play, it was just as bad as many thought it would be. He had only 69 carries across nine games, three of which he was labeled the starting back. Those 69 carries, yielded 179 rushing yards. Those aren't too fat of stats. Not much weight to his production value in Seattle. Eddie Lacy has not laced up his cleats since his Seahawks stint.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Doug Martin
This is cheating, but I wanted to highlight just how bad Doug Martin's career would look like without his two monster seasons. He would pretty much look like Trent Richardson, but with much better vision.
In 2012, Martin had 1,454 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. That was his rookie season.
Muscle Hamster was a breakout star, then battled injuries four out of the last five seasons.
In those four seasons where injuries were apparent, Martin had less than 500 yards in all of them. After a roller coaster six seasons with the Buccaneers, Martin joined the Oakland Raiders over the summer.
2 Tennessee Titans: Antonio Andrews
Antonio Andrews' career statistics are almost entirely from his 2015 season with the Titans. After a disappointing start for Bishop Sankey, Andrews held down the starting role for ten games. Things went so bad for Andrews, that the Titans only had him carry the ball twice the entire 2016 season before releasing him. The Titans struggled heavily that season, finishing last in the league in yardage produced offensively. From weeks 14-16 the Titans posted only 114 rushing yards across the three games. That doesn't account for any rushing yards that may have been done by quarterback Marcus Mariota.
1 Washington Redskins: 2017 Backfield
Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley tried to keep the Redskins afloat once Chris Thompson broke his leg. Both could not average more than 3.5 yards per attempt and have had their roles lessened going into the 2018 season. Kelley had 194 yards across seven games. Perine, had more of an opportunity last season, but failed to impress the Washington coaching staff.
The rookie had plenty of carries, 175, but only mustered 603 yards with the high workload across the eight games Perine was named the starting back. This year Washington made sure that neither of these backs had the fast lane to the starting spot once Derrius Guice went out with an injury, signing Adrian Peterson to start week one.