|Eric Hartline/US Presswire|
|Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has established himself as one of the game's most versatile offensive weapons.|
Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah is getting into the Olympic mindset early this summer, handing out NFL Podium Awards for the top three players at each position group. Remember, this list is based on where these players are ranked heading into the 2012 season. Today, he takes on running backs.
Sorting out the running backs proved to be a difficult task. The uncertainty of Adrian Peterson's knee kept him off the list. If healthy, he would've been a lock to make the podium. Four other candidates still stood out from the rest of the group. After consulting several coaches and personnel executives, I was unable to find a consensus top three, so I decided to make a one-time exception and allow an extra player on the podium. Here you go:
McCoy vaulted to the top of this list as a result of his 20-touchdown performance last season. The dynamic Eagles running back piled up 1,309 yards and a league-leading 17 touchdowns on the ground, while also adding 48 catches and three touchdowns through the air. He also led the NFL with 14 rushes for more than 20 yards. McCoy is the most elusive open-field runner in the league and proved last season that he's capable of grinding out the tough yards inside the tackles. Ball security isn't an issue, either, as he's lost a total of three fumbles during his three-year career.
Foster's combined numbers over the last two seasons: 2,840 yards rushing, 26 touchdowns and 119 receptions. He missed three games last season, but still managed to post double-digit rushing touchdowns and catch more than 50 balls. He is a natural runner with outstanding vision, balance, power and deceptive speed. Yes, Foster is the perfect back for the system in Houston, but I believe his running style would translate to any NFL offense.
I looked up the Olympic rules and found that it is possible for medals to be awarded to four individuals in the event of a tie. Thank goodness! I couldn't leave either one of these players off the list. Jones-Drew's 1,606 rushing yards led the NFL last year, while Rice finished second with 1,364 yards and also tallied an impressive 76 catches. Both are compact, powerful runners that break a lot of tackles. They are also excellent route runners out of the backfield, and reliable pass protectors, to boot.
Others considered: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings; Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons; Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers; Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers; Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans; Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills; Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks; Matt Forte, Chicago Bears; Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs; Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers; Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams; Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders; Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints.
Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.