RB Index: Final position rankings; backs who earned new deals

Print

Damien Williams went from third-string running back to a feature role on Kansas City's offense in a matter of weeks.

Williams didn't waste his opportunity -- following Kareem Hunt's release and Spencer Ware's hamstring injury -- logging more than 100 scrimmage yards in his first two starts and six total touchdowns since Week 14. His productive play led to the Chiefs giving him a two-year contract extension with a max value of $8.1 million.

Williams, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, wasn't the only running back who outplayed his contract this season. Here's my list -- in no particular order -- of RBs who have earned a raise. As you can see, all of these backs are due to become free agents this offseason or are heading toward the final year of their current deal (well, except for one bonus star at the end).

C.J. Anderson, 2019 unrestricted free agent: Anderson's production in two games with the Los Angeles Rams (43 carries, 299 rush yards, 7.0 yards per carry, two rush TDs) will earn him a chance to compete for a starting job in 2019.

Tevin Coleman, 2019 unrestricted free agent: Coleman is a versatile threat who can run the ball and line up in the slot or out wide. He was solid as the Falcons' starter in 2018, with Devonta Freeman battling injury, and could become a starter elsewhere or add depth. Expect a lot of free-agent running backs get solid new deals this offseason due to the lack of top-end talent in this year's draft class.

Adrian Peterson, 2019 unrestricted free agent: The 12-year veteran finished the season with the fifth-most scrimmage yards (1,250) by a running back age 33 or older in the Super Bowl era. Peterson, who signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Redskins in 2018, proved he still has what it takes to be a starter and should ink another one- or two-year deal.

Gus Edwards, 2019 exclusive rights free agent: The undrafted rookie far outplayed his one-year, $338,824 deal. In 11 games (six starts), he carried the ball 137 times for 718 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. He'll get a chance to compete for a starting job next season, whether in Baltimore or somewhere else.

Melvin Gordon, 2020 unrestricted free agent: Gordon has lived up to the hype of being a first-round draft pick, especially in the last two seasons. His impact on the Chargers' offense is obvious, and the team will be competitive as long as he's playing well. A hefty deal should be on the horizon.

Derrick Henry, 2020 unrestricted free agent: Over the last three seasons, Henry has shown that he'll be productive if he gets the opportunity to be a season-long bell-cow back. He's been like a fine wine, getting better with each passing year. The Titans would be wise to give him an extension this offseason.

Jordan Howard, 2020 unrestricted free agent: Howard is a true workhorse and has amassed more than 1,000 scrimmage yards in each of his three seasons in the league. He provides the Bears with a downhill, physical runner who can run through the tackles and punish defenses, especially in the colder months.

Ezekiel Elliott, 2020 club option: There's no question in my mind that Dallas will attempt to lock up Zeke this offseason -- the first offseason he's eligible for a contract extension. Still on his rookie deal, the third-year running back has two league rushing titles and has led all players in rush yards per game for three straight seasons. Yes, he's still under contract through next year, and then the Cowboys could exercise the fifth-year option in 2020, but I think Dallas will follow the Rams' approach with Todd Gurley.

Former NFL rushing leader and current NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his top 15 each week of the 2018 season. His rankings are based on this season's efforts alone. Here is MJD's list after the conclusion of the regular season.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week's rankings.

1
Todd Gurley
RB
Rams
6

Previous rank: No. 7

Gurley was the only running back who was a legitimate MVP candidate for most of the season. Even with his injury late in the year, his 21 scrimmage touchdowns blows the rest of the competition away.

2018 stats: 14 games | 256 att | 1,251 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 17 rush TDs | 59 rec | 580 rec yds | 4 rec TDs

2
Ezekiel Elliott
RB
Cowboys
1

Previous rank: No. 1

We've been saying it all season, but the Cowboys go as Zeke goes. And with their star back earning his second league rushing title, Dallas is in great position with a home playoff game this weekend.

2018 stats: 15 games | 304 att | 1,434 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 77 rec | 567 rec yds | 3 rec TDs

3
Christian McCaffrey
RB
Panthers
1

Previous rank: No. 2

What a sophomore campaign for McCaffrey, who joined the likes of Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson and Matt Forte as the only players with 1,000 rush yards and 100 receptions in a season. The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder clearly proved he can handle the load at the NFL level and has positioned himself to be the future of the Panthers' offense -- even with Cam Newton under center.

2018 stats: 16 games | 219 att | 1,098 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 107 rec | 867 rec yds | 6 rec TDs

4
Saquon Barkley
RB
Giants

Previous rank: No. 4

Barkley was the Giants' offense from start to finish in 2018, and he never seemed to get fatigued. The No. 2 overall draft pick in April solidified himself as one of the best running backs in the league early on and set records throughout the season. I think he's done more than enough to be the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

2018 stats: 16 games | 261 att | 1,307 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 11 rush TDs | 91 rec | 721 rec yds | 4 rec TDs

5
Alvin Kamara
RB
Saints
2

Previous rank: No. 3

Of the guys in the top five, Kamara was the only one with less than 300 touches, but his 18 scrimmage touchdowns are second to only Gurley's 21. A great complement to Mark Ingram in his 2017 rookie campaign, Kamara proved he can be The Guy in the Saints' backfield in Year 2.

2018 stats: 15 games | 194 att | 883 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 14 rush TDs | 81 rec | 709 rec yds | 4 rec TDs

6
Joe Mixon
RB
Bengals
1

Previous rank: No. 5

Mixon had a big sophomore season, finishing fourth in the NFL -- and first in the AFC -- with 1,168 rushing yards. He ends 2018 with four games of 100-plus rushing yards, up from just one as a rookie.

2018 stats: 14 games | 237 att | 1,168 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 43 rec | 296 rec yds | 1 rec TD

7
Melvin Gordon
RB
Chargers
NR

Previous rank: Not ranked

Gordon was in the upper echelon of running backs until his knee injury in Week 12, with 13 scrimmage TDs in that span. The Chargers used him sparingly in the final two games of the season, so he basically amassed around 1,200 scrimmage yards in 10 games.

2018 stats: 12 games | 175 att | 885 rush yds | 5.1 ypc | 10 rush TDs | 50 rec | 490 rec yds | 4 rec TDs

8
Chris Carson
RB
Seahawks

Previous rank: No. 8

Carson hit the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his young career, capping off the regular season with a 19-carry, 122-yard day. He stepped up in a big way for the Seahawks all year long and leads the team in carries, rush yards and rush touchdowns.

2018 stats: 14 games | 247 att | 1,151 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 20 rec | 163 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

9
Derrick Henry
RB
Titans

Previous rank: No. 9

Henry has steadily improved since he was drafted, establishing himself as a legitimate starter in the back half of 2018. He became the fourth player in Titans history with at least 1,000 rush yards and 12 rush TDs in a season, joining Hall of Famer Earl Campbell, Eddie George and Chris Johnson.

2018 stats: 16 games | 215 att | 1,059 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 12 rush TDs | 15 rec | 99 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

10
Nick Chubb
RB
Browns
4

Previous rank: No. 6

Chubb really got into a rhythm after taking over as the starter in Week 7 and established himself as the future in the Browns' backfield. Chubb finished with the second-most rushing yards by a rookie in Browns history behind Kevin Mack (1,104 in 1985). This kid has a bright future.

2018 stats: 16 games | 192 att | 996 rush yds | 5.2 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 20 rec | 149 rec yds | 2 rec TDs

11
Adrian Peterson
RB
Redskins

Previous rank: No. 11

Peterson surprised everyone with how well he played in his 12th NFL season. With countless Redskins going down, the vet was one of the only constants in a challenging season for Jay Gruden and Co.

2018 stats: 16 games | 251 att | 1,042 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 20 rec | 208 rec yds | 1 rec TD

12
James Conner
RB
Steelers
NR

Previous rank: Not ranked

Conner played extremely well in the first half of the season, but sputtered down the stretch, ending the year with five straight games with less than 100 scrimmage yards. Nonetheless, he finished with 1,470 scrimmage yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018.

2018 stats: 13 games | 215 att | 973 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 12 rush TDs | 55 rec | 497 rec yds | 1 rec TDs

13
Phillip Lindsay
RB
Broncos
1

Previous rank: No. 14

Lindsay was a breath of fresh air for the Broncos' offense, giving it a consistent player in the backfield. The undrafted rookie finished ninth in the league in rushing yards, even after coming out of Week 16's contest with a wrist injury and missing the season finale.

2018 stats: 15 games | 192 att | 1,037 rush yds | 5.4 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 35 rec | 241 rec yds | 1 rec TD

14
Jordan Howard
RB
Bears
NR

Previous rank: Not ranked

Howard has provided the Bears with a consistent run game since coming into the league. He had a slow start this season, but has picked up steam heading into the playoffs with four rushing touchdowns in the last three games.

2018 stats: 16 games | 250 att | 935 rush yds | 3.7 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 20 rec | 145 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

15
Marlon Mack
RB
Colts
NR

Previous rank: Not ranked

The Colts saw a huge increase in production from their young back in Year 2. Mack, who rushed for 398 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie, put up 908 yards and nine TDs on the ground in 2018.

2018 stats: 12 games | 195 att | 908 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 17 rec | 103 rec yds | 1 rec TD

DROPPED OUT: Dalvin Cook, Vikings (previously No. 10); Sony Michel, Patriots (No. 12); Mark Ingram, Saints (No. 13); Damien Williams, Chiefs (No. 15).

The Ground Index delivered by FedEx ranks NFL running back performances all season long. Check out the FedEx Ground NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop