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NFL Running Back Power Rankings

Throughout the preseason, Around the League rolled out somewhat esoteric tiered power rankings for teams, coaches, offenses and defenses, and quarterbacks.

I got so used to hearing that I was an idiot on a weekly basis that I started to miss it. Each week, we'll roll out a new set of rankings, rotating between topics. This week: running backs.

These are the running backs we'd want for this season. Starters were considered with a few exceptions.

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Top Shelf: Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte

Peterson's quick return to health convinced us he's superhuman. He may not be his old self until the end of the season, but he's No. 1 until proven otherwise. Rice, Foster, McCoy, and Forte all excel on passing downs. That's now a requirement, not a bonus, if you want to be among the best in the game.

Next level: Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray, Jonathan Stewart

MJD led the league in rushing last year, but we worry that his long speed has eroded. McFadden should be in the tier above, but has to prove he can stay healthy. Charles also looks close to all the way back after his anterior cruciate ligament tear. Murray combines outstanding vision, power, and instincts. Stewart has a top-five skill set, but he splits carries.

Knocking on the door: Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch, Trent Richardson, DeAngelo Williams

Gore is one of the best NFL players at any position over the last decade. He's still got plenty left in the tank. Lynch's so-so play on passing downs knocks him down a peg. Williams is a little more up and down than we'd like. Richardson should climb.

Middle of the pack: Ryan Mathews, Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, Doug Martin, Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles, Rashard Mendenhall, and Fred Jackson

There are a lot of big names here, but they aren't consistent difference makers yet. Mathews has a top-ten skill set, but has to stay healthy. Mendenhall wasn't exactly a big playmaker before his anterior cruciate ligament injury. Doug Martin could be a young DeAngelo Williams. Jackson suddenly can't shake the injury bug. Chris Johnson puts the Titans in a lot of bad situations with negative plays. Jackson remains tough as nails. Bush may have already had his best season last year. Sproles really deserves his own category. He's a Sproles, not a running back.

Won't hurt you: Willis McGahee, Ahmad Bradshaw, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Michael Turner, and Beanie Wells

McGahee may no longer be a 20-carry back in Denver's offense. Bradshaw lacked explosion in the opener. Thomas is one of the best screen pass backs in the league. Ingram is more talent than production at this point. Turner is on the way down. Wells will split work with Ryan Williams.

End of the line: Stevan Ridley, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Alfred Morris, Shonn Greene, Cedric Benson, Donald Brown, and Kevin Smith

Ridley has the most potential here to be a difference maker. We love how violently he runs. Green-Ellis is rock solid; Morris leads the Redskins committee for now. Smith is a great story, but shouldn't be a starter. Brown remains unreliable. Greene runs like an older back. Benson is an older back.

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