American football isn't an Olympic sport -- yet. But with the world's best athletes set to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, we thought we'd get in on the fun by holding a medal competition at nine key positions. NFL Media analysts ranked the top three players at each spot, with points assigned accordingly -- three points for each first-place ranking, two for each second-place ranking and one for each third-place ranking. The points were totaled, resulting in final gold-, silver- and bronze-medal finishers. Below, you'll find the results -- and each analyst's individual ballot -- at running back.
The Running Back Podium
If the NFL gave medals for every big play and game, Peterson would have a drawer-full -- possibly more than even Michael Phelps. Gurley will not be far behind by the time his career is over. Bell is, without question, the most complete back in the NFL (when healthy).
AP is simply the best. We've seen him put the Vikings on his back for years. Bell is a dual threat with the way he runs the ball and his ability to catch out of the backfield. He has great patience and vision. Gurley is a big back with track speed, allowing him to break a ton of tackles.
Gurley will lead the league in rushing, but look for Peterson's production to carry more weight in quality and team success. Meanwhile, in terms of overall productivity, no one can stop Bell, who could put up 2,300 yards from scrimmage.
Peterson has been the best running back for a while now, and until someone takes the rushing title from him, he stays at No. 1. If Bell stays healthy, he's capable of becoming the league's best. Gurley showed us just how dangerous he can be. The second-year man's just getting started.
Nobody runs harder, longer and angrier than Peterson -- and I don't think he gets enough credit for his vision. McCoy is one of the toughest running backs to bring down and makes professional athletes look silly. Bell is the most patient running back and might have some of the best acceleration.
We know AP is destined for greatness, as he has carried his team and is the one running back defenses don't want to tackle. Nipping at his heels is Gurley, who is a young Peterson capable of gaining 1,000-plus yards each season. Bell is probably the best all-around back in the league.
AP has proven time and time again that he's the best back in the league, but I have Bell taking the gold because of his versatility. Forte and Bell are comparable in their production on the ground and in the pass game, providing great value to their respective offensive units.
There's a reason people call Peterson "All Day." Charles boasts a career average of over 5 yards per carry. If he stops playing today, I think he's a Hall of Famer. Bell is on his way to being extremely special -- if he can stay healthy.
So yeah, I'm putting Gurley first because this is based on 2016. If this was based on past performances, I would probably have Adrian Peterson first. But it's not like Michael Phelps is going to win a gold medal in Rio because of his past numbers -- it's going to be about what he's doing this year. So Gurley is a pretty easy call.
Here's the one thing that always stood out to me about Gurley. In a league where few running backs are drafted in the first round, the Rams drafted him 10th overall in 2015. But it wasn't just that he was drafted in the first-round -- dude was drafted while he was rehabbing from a devastating knee injury. Think of how far Myles Jack fell in the draft because of his knee injury. The Rams drafted this guy high, in a position where nobody puts a lot of value behind these days. That should tell you a lot.