RB Index, Week 5: Christian McCaffrey tops list at quarter mark

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Former NFL rushing leader and 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 heading into Week 5.

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

Check out the FedEx Air NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote.

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1

Christian McCaffrey

1

2019 stats: 4 games | 86 att | 411 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 25 rec | 218 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

McCaffrey is the best player at his position. His production has been off the charts and his impact even greater. With Kyle Allen in at quarterback, McCaffrey must continue to carry the Panthers if they want to make a run at the postseason. And to be honest, McCaffrey might get them there.

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2

Alvin Kamara

2

2019 stats: 4 games | 59 att | 280 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 1 rush TD | 20 rec | 199 rec yds | 1 rec TD

No one is surprised by what Kamara is doing without Drew Brees. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Kamara is the most valuable running back in the league, and each time he takes the field, he seems to get better and better against an opponent that is better than the last. The Saints feel like Kamara's team right now.

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3

Dalvin Cook

2019 stats: 4 games | 71 att | 410 rush yds | 5.8 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 15 rec | 114 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Cook's one of three running backs currently averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game -- and there's still reason to believe he could be this season's rushing champ, despite Sunday's rough outing in Chicago. Heading toward midseason, offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski will do everything in his power to get Cook the ball in the run and pass games. But as good as the young back is with the ball in his hands, I'd like to see him improve in other areas like pass blocking.

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4

Ezekiel Elliott

3

2019 stats: 4 games | 73 att | 324 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 11 rec | 63 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Zeke's coming off a so-so performance against the Saints. The Cowboys' RB1 got into the end zone, but lost a fumble in the loss -- and the 35 rushing yards marked the third-fewest game total in his career. Elliott is the Cowboys' best offensive player, and they need to find ways to get him the ball creatively, whether in the run or pass game.

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5

Nick Chubb

2

2019 stats: 4 games | 78 att | 398 rush yds | 5.1 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 14 rec | 99 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

The Browns had the most success in 2018 when Chubb was heavily involved in the offensive game plan. They finally started getting back to that approach over the last two weeks. It's easy to see that, as good as Cleveland's receiving corps is, Chubb is the piece that really makes this offense great. The second-year running back is coming off a monster outing at Baltimore, putting up three touchdowns and 165 rush yards (with 108 of those yards coming before contact, per Pro Football Focus, which is a testament to his offensive line). Chubb and the run game are Cleveland's ticket to a successful season.

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6

Mark Ingram

2

2019 stats: 4 games | 55 att | 328 rush yds | 6.0 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 7 rec | 62 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Ingram is proving week to week why he was one of the best acquisitions of the offseason. The ninth-year vet fits perfectly into Greg Roman's offense as a complement to Lamar Jackson, and his knack for the end zone hasn't gone unnoticed, as he's tied for first in rushing TDs so far. Ingram is a major reason the Ravens are ranked No. 1 in rushing heading into Week 5 and he could keep them at the top going forward with his ability alone.

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7

Todd Gurley

1

2019 stats: 4 games | 49 att | 219 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 11 rec | 62 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

The Rams' struggles stem from the fact that Gurley can't get going. And while he scored two rushing touchdowns against the Bucs on Sunday, Gurley logged just 16 yards on five carries. With Tampa jumping out to a big lead, Sean McVay started using his star running back in the pass game. He had seven catches for 54 receiving yards in that game, after averaging 1.3 receptions and 2.7 receiving yards per game in Weeks 1-3. The Rams need to get Gurley going out of the backfield early on in games going forward because this offense goes as Gurley does. When he's involved and playing well, the offense is nearly unstoppable. When Gurley is limited and out of a rhythm, the offense struggles.

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8

Le'Veon Bell

3

2019 stats: 3 games | 56 att | 163 rush yds | 2.9 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 20 rec | 121 rec yds | 1 rec TD

It feels like Bell gets the ball on almost every snap for the injury-plagued Jets offense. Turns out that's not far from the truth: According to Next Gen Stats, Bell has 76 touches in three games (25.3 per game) -- 55 more(!) than the next-closest Jets skill-position player, Jamison Crowder (21 total touches) -- having recorded a touch on 46 percent of his offensive snaps this season. He's carrying this team -- I don't care about wins right now -- so that's why Bell is No. 8 on my list. Hopefully, he gets some help soon.

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9

Marlon Mack

1

2019 stats: 4 games | 72 att | 338 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 4 rec | 26 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Mack has been the center of the Colts' offense since Andrew Luck's retirement prior to the season, and it has paid off for Frank Reich's group. Currently fifth in the league in rushing yards, Mack has shown he can produce inside or outside the tackles and as a backfield weapon who has the breakaway speed out in space.

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10

Derrick Henry

1

2019 stats: 4 games | 78 att | 310 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 5 rec | 97 rec yds | 1 rec TD

The Titans understand that the most important thing for their offense is that Henry gets going north and south early and often. His physical, downhill style runs defenses down and sets up play-action for Marcus Mariota. Of course, Tennessee wants to produce on the scoreboard early in the game, but the second half is when Henry can feast on opponents. No one wants to tackle a 250-pound back for 60 minutes straight, especially when it gets cold.

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11

Leonard Fournette

NR

2019 stats: 4 games | 72 att | 404 rush yds | 5.6 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 16 rec | 114 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

All of the work Fournette did this offseason has shown up in the last two games. The offensive line is opening holes and Fournette is taking advantage. In each of his first two seasons, Fournette averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry. He's on pace to shatter his former high (3.9 ypc in 2017) and sits third in rushing yards a quarter of the way through the season. I'm also impressed by the way Fournette's playing out of the backfield. He's becoming a versatile weapon in all facets, which is what rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew needs.

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12

Frank Gore

NR

2019 stats: 4 games | 61 att | 273 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 4 rec | 28 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Gore came into the league one year before me and is still playing five years after I retired. The 15-year veteran, whom I used to train with during the offseason, is showing that it doesn't matter how old you are -- if you have football in your heart and you're healthy, you can still play. On Sunday, Gore was the reason (along with a great defensive performance) the Bills hung around against the Patriots. His 109 rush yards on the day propelled him over 15,000 for his career -- joining elites Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders as the only players in NFL history to reach the mark. Well-deserved congrats are in order!

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13

Aaron Jones

4

2019 stats: 4 games | 59 att | 195 rush yds | 3.3 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 12 rec | 75 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

The Packers have increased Jones' workload this season, but he has been less productive. He is a talented running back who is like a poor man's Christian McCaffrey, due to his impact running through the tackles and executing routes in the pass game. Matt LaFleur must find creative ways to get Jones the ball, especially with Davante Adams' day-to-day status.

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14

Matt Breida

2

2019 stats: 3 games | 41 att | 226 rush yds | 5.5 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 3 rec | 31 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Breida has played one less game than most players on the list, but the fact that he's rushing for 5.5 yards per carry tells me several things. He continues to be a great fit in Kyle Shanahan's offense and he's making the most of his opportunities, which he must do to earn carries when Tevin Coleman returns. I'm really impressed with Breida and, like I've said before, he's deserving of being a true RB1.

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15

Austin Ekeler

2

2019 stats: 4 games | 56 att | 220 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 24 rec | 270 rec yds | 3 rec TDs

Ekeler has made the most out of his opportunity as the Chargers' RB1. Just look at his production in September -- it speaks for itself. Despite one costly fumble in Week 2, Ekeler has gotten the job done for Los Angeles as a weapon in the run and pass games. Just because Melvin Gordon is back doesn't mean Ekeler will just go away. His touches will no doubt decrease, but he should still play a vital role in the offense.

Dropped out: Josh Jacobs, Raiders (previously No. 14); Chris Carson, Seahawks (No. 15).

The Ground Index delivered by FedEx ranks NFL running back performances all season long. What is the possibility Alvin Kamara takes No. 1 in next week's ranking? Check out the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote.

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