It may be a little difficult to try to envision the NFL three years from now. As it is, the NFL changed significantly from 2014 to 2017. For all we know, the Browns will be Super Bowl contenders, Tom Brady will have retired, and Cam Newton will be a talk show host. Okay, maybe that last hypothetical will not happen.
The league was competitive this past season. Though the Patriots took home a championship, contenders like the Falcons and Packers in the NFC posed a threat to Brady's team. The important thing that distinctly makes running backs different than any other position is that they do not last very long. Stars will be at the top of their game for a mere three or four years, and the superstars will be there for a couple years more than that. Receivers have a reputation of lasting a little bit longer, for example Brandon Marshall has been a menace to cornerbacks for quite some time. Contrarily, C.J. Spiller was at the top of his game for just two seasons with the Buffalo Bills. He now is a free agent who last played with the New Orleans Saints. Some players on this list have not matriculated into the league yet, and that is standard.
It is obvious that in three years from now, there will be new stars that we've yet to see play in the NFL. Though you may not know who a couple of these incoming prospects are, I highly encourage readers to do some research on the prospects and their level of play. Here is NFL 2020: Predicting the Top 15 Best Running Backs.
15 Lamar Miller
14 Leonard Fournette
13 Dalvin Cook
I think Cook has a little bit more potential compared to Fournette. Why?
The Florida State running back has been on an absolute tear since 2014. But in 2015 and 2016, he brought his stats to another level. In 2015, Cook rushed for 1,691 yards on 229 attempts and in 2016 he upped that ante with 1,765 yards on 288 carries. There seems to be an upward progression with this kid. A lot of NFL pundits have praised him and acknowledged that he may be a perfect fit for the Philadelphia Eagles. Cook is 6 feet and 214 pounds. As of now, he is considered to be one of the top prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft, along with Fournette.
12 Latavius Murray
Murray has been praised by the Raiders organization since he began emerging as the lead back. Actually, Derek Carr really wants him to stay in Oakland, but he may be headed elsewhere - notably Minnesota. Latavius had two great seasons in both 2015 and 2016. He has rushed for 2,278 yards in his career, had 543 attempts, and 20 touchdowns. Along with Derek Carr, the offense had a fantastic 2016 season. Though the pun is "AC/DC", for Amari Cooper Derek Carr, Murray should be in there somewhere. LMACDC Maybe?
11 Mark Ingram
Ingram has been making people's fantasy teams better since 2011. The New Orleans Saints have greatly benefited from his services. The New Jersey born halfback will forever be noted as a legendary college football running back. Unlike the trend many players follow, he has instilled himself as a very solid running back at the professional level as well. This past season, he set his career high in rushing yards at 1,043 and also became the Saints first 1,000 yard rusher since Deuce McAllister. He also obtained 10 touchdowns this season, a very respectable number for any player. Ingram is known to be good at getting in open space. Once he does, his speed usually takes over.
10 Melvin Gordon
Gordon burst on to the scene this past season as one of the best running backs. He wasn't very good in 2015, and only managed 641 yards off 0 touchdowns. Contrarily, he upped his game in 2016 making the Pro Bowl and having 997 yards and 10 touchdowns. So yeah, it is fair to say he made strides in the right direction. Gordon was phenomenal in the San Diego offense, though the Chargers were not so great. He is currently starting ahead of Brandon Oliver and Danny Woodhead, and will probably remain with the Chargers for quite a while. He currently is on a four year deal, with a fifth year option. His rookie season was a total bust, as he had 6 fumbles. Fantasy owners were unbelievably disappointed at his lack of awareness and general skill on the football field.
9 Todd Gurley
I think Gurley will rise from his poor season in 2016 and go back to how he was previously. He needs a team change. The Rams offensive line is pure trash, and he cannot get in open space because of this. The sophomore slump is common with NFL players though. Plenty of star studded first year players half a tough time adjusting to the league their second time around. Evidently, Gurley had 1,106 yards rushing two years ago and 885 yards in 2016. This gap is extremely big, but I still do not doubt his ability. For him to rush over 1,000 yards in his first NFL season showed extreme potential.
8 Royce Freeman
Freeman is a high potential prospect from University of Oregon. Out of high school, he was nationally recognized as a top recruit. In his freshman season, he had 18 touchdowns, his sophomore season he had 17, and nine in his junior season. Though there is a minor drop off in ratios, I still like his chances of succeeding at the professional level. Freeman is 5-foot-11 and very agile. He lacks strength, but he makes up for this supposed deficiency with speed and quickness. He will be entering the 2018 draft as a highly ranked halfback.
7 LeSean McCoy
Age is a huge factor in determining the top running backs in 2020, and LeSean will be nearing 32 years old at this time. Regardless, I have trust in his potential to still be a notable running back: number 7 isn't too bad right? McCoy has shown crazy juking and finesse since he entered the league in 2009. He has been equally productive for the Eagles and Bills. Arguably, he had his best season in 2016, in which he had 13 touchdowns and just above 1,200 rushing yards.
6 Jay Ajayi
Ajayi had a total breakout season in 2016. He managed 1,279 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns off of 260 attempts. He really showed the NFL that he has talent since his rookie year wasn't so hot; he managed one touchdown in 2015. The Boise State recruit was not highly ranked coming into the 2015 NFL Draft. He was selected in the fifth round. What made me place Ajayi this high was simply because of the side of him we saw this past season. He took the Dolphins on his back and brought them to a 10-win season and a playoff appearance.
5 Devonta Freeman
From what I observed in Super Bowl LI, it seems apparent that Freeman will be a threat in the NFL for years to come. He is a super aggressive runner, and I think we all witnessed this first hand against the Patriots' high end defense. He has been very productive since 2015, and continued this dominance to his 2016 season. He now has managed 557 attempts, 2,383 yards, and 23 touchdowns. I really like his game and think he will remain a threat to all defenses for years to come. Freeman is volatile in open space and will make any defensive coach pay if they overlook him.
4 DeMarco Murray
3 Le'Veon Bell
I had a very difficult time placing either Murray or Bell ahead of each other. Bell mainly gets this spot because he is younger than Murray and will be in his prime by 2020. Bell has revolutionized football with his kind of hesitation run technique. He has been an unbelievable presence on the field and along the way has broken a couple of major franchise records. He has broken the Steelers' single game rushing record and the single season receptions record by a running back for the franchise.
2 David Johnson
I may be a little biased to put Johnson over Bell since David was on my fantasy team, but I still think he will be a tad bit better than the Steelers back in 2020. Johnson showed extreme poise, maturity, and strength this season in Arizona. I was very impressed at not only his stat line, but his productiveness each game. He managed 16 touchdowns this season and ran for 1,239 yards - so yeah he doesn't really mess around. What I really enjoyed was how he literally made something happen out of nothing on so many different plays, whether in the backfield or receiving.
Though the Cardinals have a solid offensive live, he still shined as a catching halfback. He had 879 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Johnson showed unbelievable ability, and a side him I don't think anyone knew was possible. One thing is for certain. He will be on the Pro Bowl ballot for years to come.
1 Ezekiel Elliott
Boy, did this guy have one hell of a rookie season in Dallas.
Elliott managed 1,631 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. Though David Johnson had a killer stat line in regards to rushing yards, holy crap this guy can move. Along with Dak Prescott, the two shocked the world on how good rookies can really be. Aside from being insanely quick and athletic each time he played a series, he cemented himself as a top tier running back, arguably number one. Along with the Cowboys' insanely talented offensive line, Elliott wrecked defenses in 2016. In 2020, I predict him to be very dominant. Though it may be hard to beat his 15 touchdown season in 2016, here is my prediction for the 2020 NFL season. He will have 12 touchdowns and rush for 1,290 yards - yep there you have it.
I think Dak and Elliott have a great thing brewing for them in Dallas. If they remain Cowboys, I can confidently say that, at some point, they will win a Super Bowl together.
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