Now that the NFL Draft is over, we are in for about three months of pure speculation and debate. In a good way to add fuel to the fire, we will go through every position and rank the top ten players at each position. Before making the rankings, first it should be clarified how these players are ranked. These aren’t players with the best statistics from last year, or with the best teams around them. It isn’t the best play per contract, or the young but unestablished vs. old and experienced debate. It is more so a projection of talent and determining that if a game was in two weeks, and I had to pick a player to be on my team, who would I take over the other. It comes down to a gut opinion, but having watched nearly every snap of the NFL in the past two years via NFL Game Pass I do have confidence in my opinions. At the end of the day it is another discussion of debate so check it out and let me know what you think. For the first position will go with the most important in quarterback.
1. Le’Veon Bell
The factor of Bell and his health is really the only argument against him being the best running back in the league. He is just so complete as a whole. He has the best footwork of any back, and is more than likely the best receiver. He is an above average blocker, although he is such a receiving threat he will typically just give a chip. Last season Bell was on pace for 1482 yards, which would have been three short of the rushing title. However, he also was on pace for 64 receptions and had 24 through six games, where Adrian Peterson the rushing leader had 30 on his season. This will be a big year for Bell because he is due a contract and has yet to be healthy for a full season, but you have to bet on the talent in this one.
2. Adrian Peterson
Peterson is still right there with the elite. The Vikings ran the most predictable offense in the NFL, running on first and 10 and second and short more than any other team, but Peterson still led the league in rushing last year and put up 11 touchdowns on the ground. He is so strong that he can break tackles on the line and fast enough to burst away from cornerbacks. The Vikings had a weak offensive line last year, and will have it boosted bringing Phil Loadholt and John Sullivan back from injury, as well as signing Alex Boone from the 49ers. Peterson could easily prove this year that he is indeed the best pure running back in the NFL.
3. Todd Gurley
Todd Gurley is another back in the running for best in the league. As a rookie and coming off an ACL injury that sidelined him for three games he took over for a run first offense and ran for 1106 yards, and ten touchdowns, running at a 4.8 yards per carry rate. He runs hard like Peterson and has the breakaway speed as well. He may be a better receiver than Peterson and with a potential help of offense with their new first round pick, there is a chance an even healthier, stronger Gurley can appear and take the league by storm.
4. Jamaal Charles
A lot of people could look at Charles’ injury and knock him down. They could point to the Chiefs run to finish the regular season without him undefeated and say that he is not that valuable. Still, you have a back that in over 100 games in his career carries a 5.5 yard per carry average. When and if he is healthy you are throwing him in the lineup and he is not hurting you. The Chiefs schedule broke a certain way, and they could have made the playoffs and been a very dangerous team with Charles. He is the centerpiece of that offense and when he gets going there is no big play game breaker tougher to defend in the league.
5. Doug Martin
Martin created some doubters after his rookie year when he got hurt, and then played behind Luke McCown, Mike Glennon and the league’s worst offensive line for a year, but Martin is a legitimate go-to back. With Winston at the helm, the Bucs still relied on the run as he saw 18 carries per game and was able to churn out 4.9 yards per carry. The line has not got much better, so you could really see the breakthroughs that he made and especially his ability to run after contact. He should remain the key to opening things up for the Bucs offense, and at age 27, Martin should be in for the most carries of his career.
6. Matt Forte
The Bears began to phase out Forte in the offense, but that had to do with money and not his play. He also missed some time last year, and saw his lowest rushing total since 2011, another year he missed time, but he still averaged 4.1 yards per carry last year. Of course, however, what made Forte so valuable was that before Bell he was the undoubtedly best receiving back in the NFL. He went from 102 catches to 44, but in targets he also went from 130, to 58. As mentioned, the coaching change and major changes throughout the Chicago organization has them thinking long term, and they were running an offense that did not have Forte in mind. The Jets should be looking to use him in a variety of ways as a safety blanket for whoever the quarterback is and there is a great chance that if healthy he will see many more catches than 44 he did last year.
7. Ezekiel Elliott
It is kind of hard to put a rookie up here with the big dogs, but Elliott is that special. People tend to say that in the recent success of Todd Gurley that the Cowboys jumped for the hope of the next big thing, and that recent running back success early in the draft is hit or miss, but Gurley and Elliott just so happened to be special players coming out in ascending years. If Gurley was ranked here as a rookie it would take about two games to realize that was too low, and while Elliott has a much more comfortable situation, there could be a similar feel in that when he gets the ball he will take over. He is a hard nosed back with receiving ability, and is a plus in blocking. He should beat out Darren McFadden relatively easy, and he should be able to have a similar year to DeMarco Murray in 2014.
8. David Johnson
David Johnson is another player you just know is going to ascend in the league. In only five starts last year he accounted in total 13 touchdowns as a rookie. He put up a 4.6 yards per attempt rate and he also averaged 12.7 yards per catch while hauling in 36 balls. Coming from Northern Iowa and being a rookie behind established players like Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson he had to earn his keep, but there is no doubt who the most talented, the most dynamic, and the only one that can stay on the field for all three downs is. It is the young David Johnson and you would assume that he will get a boost from the 125 carries and will have something closer to Chris Johnsons’ 198, if not higher.
9. Lamar Miller
Miller seemed to go to the wrong team when he was drafted. The Dolphins viewed him as a change of pace and seemed to always be looking to give chances to a lesser running back. Miller just continued to rack up yards though, and in 2014 put up 1100 yards on a 5.1 yard per carry rate. Last year, the Dolphins responded by giving him about two less carries per game. He now goes to Houston where he could eventually wind up closer to an elite level. Miller has the change of pace and receiving abilities, but to use him in only that capacity was limiting how he would break most of his big plays on the inside. With a different coaching staff and offense, he should be in for a strong year.
10. Devonte Freeman
Some can look to Freeman and his five-game span and think it was a bit fluke-like but Freeman is a worthy running back. The Falcons offensive line has not been the best, and while that five game run did turn attention and he did average 50 yards per game during his last seven games he is still a strong downhill runner. It was his first year as a starter and there was a lot of good to take away from his