RB Index, Week 6: Is Frank Gore the last 15,000-yard rusher?

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Walter Payton. Emmitt Smith. Barry Sanders. Frank Gore.

Now, that's an exclusive club. They are the only four running backs in NFL history with 15,000 career rushing yards. Gore reached the mark in Buffalo's Week 4 victory, which led my colleague in NFL Research, Ben McWilliams, to ask this question:

Is Frank Gore the NFL's last 15,000-yard rusher?

I'll never say never, but reaching that number is hard to do. Gore has had health on his side. He's determined. And he's played behind some good offensive lines and with some good teams. Health is the key to longevity in this league, and it's rare to see a running back hold up as long as the 36-year-old Gore, currently in his 15th NFL season, has.

You also have to look at current league trends and the production of active running backs. The NFL has gone through a significant transition in the last 20 years. Consider that in 2000, nine players had 300-plus carries, while seven recorded that many in 2010 and just one (Ezekiel Elliott) had at least 300 carries in 2018. That doesn't shock me, because many teams have implemented a running back-by-committee approach and use RBs out of the backfield in the pass game. In fact, through the first quarter of this season, NFL teams ran the ball on just 39.9 percent of offensive plays, the lowest rate in the Super Bowl era.

Taking those nuggets into consideration, here are two running backs who have the best chance at becoming the fifth member of the 15K club:

1) Adrian Peterson: The 13-year veteran has the best shot with 13,426 career rushing yards -- he's one of three active running backs who have surpassed 10,000 rush yards, along with Gore and LeSean McCoy (10,820). Since Peterson left the Minnesota Vikings in 2017, he has played in 30 games with the New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals and Washington Redskins, averaging 55.9 rush yards per game. He would need to play 29 more games at that rate to join the 15K club. Peterson, 34, has expressed his desire to play into his late 30s, and he's certainly in good enough shape to do so. He isn't the back he once was, but he has shown flashes over the last two seasons, proving he has plenty left in the tank. Peterson re-signed with the Redskins on a two-year deal this offseason, so he has a real opportunity if he can stay on the field.

2) Ezekiel Elliott: I know Zeke has a long way to go, but he's in a perfect situation after signing a six-year extension in September with the Dallas Cowboys, who feature one of the top offensive lines in the league. Zeke has 4,434 rushing yards since entering the league in 2016, the most by any running back over that span, averaging 98.5 rush yards per game. At that rate, he would need to play 108 more games (or six more 16-game seasons after 2019) to reach 15,000. A lot can happen between now and then, but Zeke's ability, coupled with his situation in Dallas, makes him a prime candidate to join the club.

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 6.

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

2019 stats: 5 games | 105 att | 587 rush yds | 5.6 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 31 rec | 279 rec yds | 1 rec TD

It feels like McCaffrey is taking the Panthers' season into his own hands. Last week, the third-year back totaled 237 scrimmage yards, tying his own franchise single-game record. This week, he's up against a Tampa Bay defense that limited him greatly in Week 2. The Bucs held McCaffrey to 37 rush yards and 53 scrimmage yards in that game, far less than the running back's season averages of 137.5 rush yards and 203.3 scrimmage yards per game. My guess is the Panthers back will keep his name in the MVP conversation with his performance.

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2

Dalvin Cook

1

2019 stats: 5 games | 92 att | 542 rush yds | 5.9 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 21 rec | 200 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

The league's second-leading rusher has his work cut out for him this week as the Vikings host the Eagles' top-ranked run defense. The Eagles have allowed 63 rush yards per game this season, but Cook must find a way to at least double that if the Vikings want the win.

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3

Alvin Kamara

1

2019 stats: 5 games | 75 att | 342 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 1 rush TD | 26 rec | 241 rec yds | 1 rec TD

Kamara continues to be a big threat in every way for the Saints' offense, as he's accounting for 32.2 percent of the team's scrimmage yards this season. This weekend, Kamara shares the field with fellow 2017 draftee Leonard Fournette, a big matchup for fans of the run game. The most intriguing thing about these two players is how differently they are used within their offenses.

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4

Nick Chubb

1

2019 stats: 5 games | 94 att | 485 rush yds | 5.2 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 15 rec | 111 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

With 87 rushing yards for the Browns on Monday night, Chubb was the first running back to rush for more than 75 yards against the 49ers' defense this season. The second-year back ranks in the top five in several rushing metrics this season and should be the focus of Freddie Kitchens' offense against the Seahawks this week.

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5

Marlon Mack

4

2019 stats: 5 games | 101 att | 470 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 7 rec | 42 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Mack played a huge role in Indy's upset win over the Chiefs last week with 29 carries for 132 yards and three receptions for 16 yards. His patient running style behind a top offensive line has made the Colts one of the best rushing offenses in the league heading into their bye week.

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6

Aaron Jones

7

2019 stats: 5 games | 78 att | 302 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 19 rec | 150 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

You had to see Jones' major climb coming after his four-TD performance in Dallas. Matt LaFleur did a nice job getting the Packers' dynamic running back more involved last week (19 carries, 107 rush yards, four rush TDs). I can only hope the first-year head coach continues to rely on his young back, which will be tough for LaFleur to do, knowing he has Aaron Rodgers under center.

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7

Ezekiel Elliott

3

2019 stats: 5 games | 85 att | 386 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 13 rec | 92 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Zeke has gone two straight games with fewer than 70 rushing yards, and guess what? The Cowboys lost both of those games. They have got to give Zeke the ball and let him get into a rhythm against a Jets defense that hasn't had a running back gain more than 70 yards against it this season. And remember, Zeke has that 15K club to think about. Get going!

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8

Mark Ingram

2

2019 stats: 5 games | 74 att | 372 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 9 rec | 67 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Ingram had a season-low 44 rush yards against the Steelers despite having a season-high 19 carries. That's why he's slid two spots. But he saved himself a real skid by hitting pay dirt for his sixth rushing TD this season.

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9

Todd Gurley

2

2019 stats: 5 games | 64 att | 270 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 14 rec | 68 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

I was happy to see the Rams get Gurley more involved in Week 5, as he played in 62 of the team's 67 offensive snaps against the Seahawks. It was his highest snap percentage (92.5) since Week 14 of last season, which was prior to the knee injury that sidelined him as the postseason neared. Against Seattle, Gurley looked like the player he was early last season with tough runs and two rushing touchdowns.

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10

Derrick Henry

2019 stats: 5 games | 98 att | 388 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 5 rec | 97 rec yds | 1 rec TD

Henry is averaging a career-high 77.6 rush yards per game this season and has recorded a rushing TD in four of Tennessee's five games. The Titans are 4-1 in games in which Henry has at least 20 carries, with the lone loss coming last week vs. Buffalo. I'd stick with that formula against Denver's 22nd-ranked run defense on Sunday.

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11

Leonard Fournette

2019 stats: 5 games | 95 att | 512 rush yds | 5.4 ypc | 1 rush TD | 20 rec | 143 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Fournette is having himself a career season, and he's third in the league in rushing yards right now, but it's not all about yards -- I want to see him get into the end zone. He'll get an opportunity to add to his TD total against New Orleans' middle-of-the-road defense.

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12

Josh Jacobs

NR

2019 stats: 5 games | 88 att | 430 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 6 rec | 77 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

Jacobs has been the best running back in this year's rookie class so far, earning recognition in Daniel Jeremiah's rookie rankings through the first quarter of the season. With a 123-yard rushing performance against the Bears in Week 5, Jacobs passed Hall of Famer Marcus Allen for most rush yards by a Raiders rookie through the team's first five games, per NFL Research. Jacobs is proving to be the back I thought he was when he entered the draft.

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13

Le'Veon Bell

5

2019 stats: 4 games | 71 att | 206 rush yds | 2.9 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 27 rec | 166 rec yds | 1 rec TD

Bell received all nine of the Jets' scrimmage touches in the first quarter last week. That's crazy. With Sam Darnold back this week against the Cowboys, hopefully Bell will have a little breathing room to get in space and make some plays.

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14

Matt Breida

2019 stats: 4 games | 52 att | 340 rush yds | 6.5 ypc | 1 rush TD | 6 rec | 46 rec yds | 1 rec TD

Breida didn't waste time putting his talent on display in prime time Monday night. On the 49ers' first play from scrimmage, he ran for an 83-yard touchdown and reached 22.30 miles per hour in the process (the fastest speed reached by a ball carrier in the past two seasons). He'll need another big outing against the Los Angeles Rams to help keep the Niners undefeated.

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15

Chris Carson

NR

2019 stats: 5 games | 94 att | 380 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 1 rush TD | 15 rec | 105 rec yds | 2 rec TDs

Carson came through in a big way for the Seahawks in their divisional bout with the Los Angeles Rams, rushing for 118 yards on 27 carries and hauling in his second receiving TD of the season. He provides great balance on an offensive unit that's currently led by Russell Wilson's MVP-worthy campaign.

Dropped out: Frank Gore, Bills (previously No. 12); Austin Ekeler, Chargers (No. 15).

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

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