Best Running Backs Of 2016
Despite the quarterback driven nature of the modern-day NFL, the rise of the running back continued during the 2016 season. New stars were born, forgotten stars resurfaced, others shone in new surroundings whilst the rest continued to do what they do best. Here’s my top five running backs of the 2016 season.
#5 DeMarco Murray (Tennessee Titans)
Following a down turn in form during his 1-year spell with the Eagles. Murray returned to the fold (and to the hearts of the fantasy community) as the focal point of the Tennessee Titans ‘exotic smashmouth’. Murray’s exploits turned a woeful franchise into, not only a winner but a serious playoff contender.
Murray rushed for 1287 yards, 9 touchdowns off 293 carries, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. As a receiver, Murray set career highs in yards (377) and touchdowns (3). Murray also posted 5 games with 100 or more yards rushing.
#4 Ezekiel Elliott(Dallas Cowboys)
I loved watching Elliot live up to the predraft hype. The instant impact on the field reminded me of Adrian Peterson, during his rookie season. Elliot was outstanding, rushing for 1631 yards and 15 touchdowns as the Cowboys wrapped up the NFC Title with ease.
Elliot averaged 108.7 yards rushing per game, and had a 9 game stretch where he rushed for 86 yards or more. Devastating on first down, as Elliot rushed for 1215 yards and 11 touchdowns. The standout trait for me when it comes to Elliot’s skill set, pass protection. Especially as a rookie, you could make a strong case that Elliot is atop of the pile when it comes to pass protection.
But why fourth, I hear you cry. Its simple, sample size (think Todd Gurley) plus that great offensive line. It’s not a knock on Elliot and believe me, he could easily top this list next year.
#3 LeSean McCoy (Buffalo Bills)
The NFL’s a better place when ‘shady’ is tearing up defenses. Within the top 5 list, McCoy had the lowest number of carries (234) whilst boasting an average of 5.4 yards per carry. With 1623 yards from scrimmage, McCoy was selected to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl.
McCoy averaged 84.5 yards per game, scored 13 touchdowns and posted 7 games with 100 yards or more. Dominance prevailed on first down for McCoy. As a pass catcher McCoy reeled in 22 of 26 targets whilst accounting for 815 yards and 8 touchdowns on the ground. McCoy’s total of 356 yards receiving was his highest total since 2013.
#2 Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers)
The focal point of the offense and a key contributor during the Steelers run to the AFC Championship game. Bell is a unique talent, with a unique style. As formidable out of the backfield as he is a receiver, Bell has it all.
Bell amassed 100+ yards rushing in half of the games he suited up for (6, suspended first four games of the year). 1268 yards rushing off 261 carries, along with 7 touchdowns. As a receiver, Bell averaged 8.2 yards per reception.
As the stakes get higher, the play-makers rise to the occasion, encapsulating us all. None more so than Bell’s performances during the wildcard and divisional rounds of the playoffs. During those games, Bell amassed 357 yards, averaging 5.76 yards per carry (wildcard), and 5.67 yards per carry (divisional).
#1 David Johnson (Arizona Cardinals)
Despite the spluttering offense, a downturn in fortunes and relativity. David Johnson followed on from his impressive rookie season with a devastating display of power, vision and perseverance.
Johnson set an NFL record of 14 straight games with 100+ yards from scrimmage. In total, Johnson had 2118 yards from scrimmage, or 36.09% of the Cardinals total offense for 2016.
Surprisingly Johnson only had 4 games with 100+ yards rushing. However Johnson caught 80 passes for 879 yards and four touchdowns.
Johnson tops the list as the most complete back in my eyes. Along with vision, patience and elusiveness, Johnson has the ability to run between the tackles with power, bounce to the outside with ease. Runs routes better than most receivers.Then there’s the yards after contact.
Featured Image By Keith Allison via Flickr.com