The NFL Rank ‘Em Up: #24-17 RBs

July 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm (Sports) (, , , , , , , , , , )

This statement is just to give you an idea of how critical youth is at the running back position; only one out of the eight backs in this article have been in the league for more than three seasons.

First up, at #24, is Mark Ingram.  But, “wait”, I can already hear the more condescending of my readers say.  “I thought you said that New England had the best RBBC system in the league.  So, why is Mark Ingram, the lead back in New Orleans’ RBBC system, higher than BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the lead back in New England’s RBBC system”.  To which I respond, just because the lead back in New Orleans is better doesn’t mean the entire committee is better.  Now that I’ve cleared up that borderline hypocrisy, Ingram will probably be far-and-away the best back in a RBBC system.  He’ll still get a long of carries taken away, and he still has to prove himself in the pros, but as lot as he keeps up his college production, he’ll be just fine.  I mean, it’s not like the Saints have picked up another highly touted, Heisman Trophy & National Championship winning running back in the last decade, right?

My 23rd running back is Mikel LeShoure.  For the first time since Barry Sanders disappointed the hell out of EA Sports for retiring in the height of his career, and snuffed the Madden 2000 cover, the Detroit Lions have a damn good running game (GASP!).  But, even though LeShoure will be the #2 back on Detroit’s depth chart, LeShoure is this high on the list because the Detroit coaching staff has made it clear that Jahvid Best and LeShoure will probably evenly split carries.  Plus, Best wasn’t the best in staying healthy last season, and while he had some flashes in the first few games, he spent a lot of time hurt, so LeShoure might see even more time.  I think that LeShoure will probably be the best #2 back in the league this season.

Rounding out my rookie trifecta in this article is Daniel Thomas out of Miami.  He might have ended up in the best situation of any rookie in the league.  Miami’s not going to immediately go from a prominently run-based offense, and start throwing everywhere, especially with Chad Henne quarterbacking.  And with both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams (probably) leaving, Thomas could be get 90% of the carries in Miami.  (The other ten percent would go to Lex Hilliard and fullback Lousaka Polite.)  That’s one of the best ratios in the league.  Now, what Thomas will do with those carries has yet to be decided, but he’ll certainly have opportunities.

Well, Mr. Schwartz. I'd say these were pretty good decisions, huh?

In 21st, we have Jahvid Best.  Before we get started, I already did the obligatory pun on Best’s name a couple of paragraphs ago.  Anyway, after his Week 2 explosion versus Philadelphia (26 touches, 232 total yards, 3 touchdowns), I was a fan.  He’s not a 25-carry workhorse, but he can cut like none other, find holes, and speed through them with blinding acceleration.  And as the Philly game proved, he’s a beast in the passing game.  His turf toe should be healed up, and I don’t think it will bother him this season, so you could see more Philly games this season.

At the 20th spot is DeAngelo Williams, the best player in this year’s free agency pool.  Which, if the last two seasons are any indication, means he’ll be a Bear.  All joking aside, Williams is still someone to fear.  Whatever team picks him up will get a treat.  He can still be an every down back that can break the big one, every so often.  If I were you, I’d wait until the end of the lockout before passing judgment on Williams, since he still may stay with the Panthers.  But, you should still pay attention to Williams, he can still play.

Has LT put on weight? He looks different, wait a minute.

Next is Shonn Greene.  I’m still not sold on Greene, but the Jets coaching staff have said that Greene will be the focal point of the offense, so he at least he has Rex Ryan’s endorsement, for whatever that’s worth.  This will be his third season, aka time for him to have his breakout season.  If he doesn’t, the Jets might look to the draft.  Or they might give LT one more shot in what may be his last season.  Or maybe they’ll give Joe McKnight a shot at starting.  Whatever the case, Greene could get a ton of carries, especially at the start of the season, but he’s on an extremely short leash.

Next up is Ryan Mathews.  I read articles last year, saying that Mathews could end up as a top-10 running back after his first season.  That, obviously, didn’t happen.  But, I wouldn’t put the bust label on him just yet, remember he’s not the first player to fail to live up to rookie expectations.  And with lower expectations, there won’t be as much pressure on him.  But with all the pressure that was on him last season, he might play with something to prove.  And on top of that, Mathews has Mike Tolbert and fifth-rounder Jordan Todman chomping at the bit for playing time.  Mathews isn’t in make-or-break mode yet, but he’s getting there.

The 17th back on this list is Jonathan Stewart.  How good of a situation is Stewart in?  He’s the feature back on a team that will almost certainly be a run-first, run-second, and maybe-pass-third-if-they’re-feeling-lucky team.  If he can stay healthy this season, he could have top-ten potential.  And he’ll be running behind a line that really doesn’t get the credit it deserves.  Ironically, though, the team’s biggest strength is also his biggest weakness.  Everyone will be expecting the run against Carolina, so Stewart will constantly be playing against eight in the box, but Stewart has shown that he can pick up yards, even against rush defenses.

In the next article, we’ll discuss a few high-end busts that you need to keep an eye on.

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