Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said Thursday that his backfield trio of T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake to be as talented as any threesome of backs on an NFL roster. It was a bold statement, although as NFL offenses move more and more toward splitting carries among multiple running backs, Kiffin could eventually be proven right if a couple of his rushers eventually become the primary back for an NFL team.
We decided to put Kiffin's declaration to the test. Here is a look at five NFL backfield trios that make a strong case on the Sunday side of the argument.
Lynch cemented his status as one of the NFL's elite backs last season, and Turbin was good for 77 carries in a supporting role. Michael was an afterthought, averaging about a carry per game, but the former Texas A&M star is fully capable of a larger role in the Seahawks' offense. All three would have been at least a little more productive had quarterback Russell Wilson not rushed for 539 yards (second-most on the team).
Jackson and Spiller made for a nice tandem in Buffalo last season, and the club made a draft-day trade to add Brown, who had been LeSean McCoy's backup in Philadelphia. The trio combined for more than 2,000 yards rushing last season, albeit on two different teams. Spiller is also a fine pass-catcher, and is young enough to return to his 2012 form, when he set career highs in every meaningful offensive category.
Gore logged yet another season with more than 1,000 yards rushing last season (1,128) and scored nine touchdowns, but Hunter's 4.6 yards-per-carry average (78 for 358) was a half-yard better than Gore's. Of course, Hyde will have to earn his way into the No. 3 spot, over LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore and others, but the 49ers wouldn't have invested a second-round pick in the former Ohio State star if they didn't think he was capable of an immediate contribution.
The Pack Attack checked in as the No. 7 rushing team in the NFL last season, led by one of the league's up-and-coming talents in Lacy. Behind him, backup James Starks proved to be exceptionally capable with a fat yards-per-carry average of 5.5 yards (89 for 493). Franklin was even better than that at 5.6 yards per carry, though it came on just 18 rushes.
OK, so maybe you run out of ink before getting to Polk's name on a list of the NFL's top No. 3 running backs. But McCoy, the league's top rusher last season, helps the Eagles make a case for this list if his backups were named Larry, Moe and Curly. McCoy's 2,146 total yards (1,607 rushing, 539 receiving) suggest he didn't need a No. 2, much less a No. 3. Still, Philly acquired the ever-exciting Sproles in a March trade with the New Orleans Saints.