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RB Index, Week 5: Alvin Kamara headlines RB rankings at quarter mark

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 2020 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.

Rank
1
Alvin Kamara
Alvin Kamara
New Orleans Saints · Year 4

2020 stats: 4 games | 50 att | 236 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 30 rec | 321 rec yds | 3 rec TDs


People say running backs don't have much value anymore. Ask the New Orleans Saints how they feel about that. Without Kamara, they might be O-fer this season. With Michael Thomas sidelined and Drew Brees showing his age, the star running back has done everything -- and then some -- for Sean Payton's offense, with seven scrimmage TDs this season (the most through the first four weeks of a season in franchise history). Making every move look effortless, Kamara is the man right now. 

Rank
2
Aaron Jones
Aaron Jones
Green Bay Packers · Year 4

2020 stats: 4 games | 65 att | 374 rush yds | 5.8 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 15 rec | 135 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


I gotta bring up my prospect scouting report on Jones once per season, and now is the time in this 2020 campaign. Before the 2017 NFL Draft, I spotlighted the versatile UTEP product as my sleeper in the class, lauding his tackle-breaking ability, route-running savvy and open-field skills. I called him a well-rounded back who's "good at everything, but not great at one thing." Not bad for a pre-draft assessment, no? The fourth-year back has indeed been a jack of all trades for the 2020 Packers. Jones has been so critical to the team's passing attack of late, with injuries to what feels like every receiver on the depth chart. The fact that Jones can efficiently run through the tackles or catch a deep ball on a go route vs. Cover 2 tells you everything you need to know.

Rank
3
Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · Year 5

2020 stats: 3 games | 82 att | 319 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 5 rec | 26 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Henry continues to be a workhorse for Arthur Smith's unit with 82 carries in just three games. The 2019 rushing champion is coming off his best game of the season (119 rush yards, two rush TDs vs. Minnesota in Week 3) and -- per usual -- he'll get better and better as the campaign progresses. The Titans sit atop the AFC South at 3-0 thanks in large part to Henry's presence in the backfield. Defenses commit to stopping him each week -- it rarely works for an entire game -- and if he they succeed, the passing game is still wide open for Ryan Tannehill. This unit will only get more dangerous as it gets colder.

Rank
4
1
Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook
Minnesota Vikings · Year 4

2020 stats: 4 games | 75 att | 424 rush yds | 5.7 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 7 rec | 40 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


I was thinking maybe Cook should swap salaries with Kirk Cousins. (Hey, it was just a thought.) Everyone on the offense -- especially the quarterback -- plays better when Cook is in a groove, and that was apparent last week. Cook was a mad man out there Sunday (29 touches, 146 scrimmage yards, two rush TDs), leading Minnesota to its first victory of the season. With Cook and the offensive line really beginning to jell -- a great sign for a team that struggled in every aspect early in the season -- the Vikings hope to continue adding to the win column. It'll be a tall task doing so this week, though, with Minnesota traveling to Seattle. Cook will have to go off if the Vikes want a chance to come home with a win.

Rank
5
1
Ezekiel Elliott
Ezekiel Elliott
Dallas Cowboys · Year 5

2020 stats: 4 games | 70 att | 273 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 23 rec | 159 rec yds | 1 rec TD


It's great that Dak Precott is playing well and all, but it's hard to simply outscore opponents in this league with a horrible defense. Drew Brees and the Saints tried that for years and it resulted in a slew of 7-9 records. Dallas needs to get back to handing the ball off to Zeke in the run game to control the clock. Sure, he's still making plays, but they're in the pass game. That's not where he shines brightest. Hand off the ball and let the back do what he does best.

Rank
6
1
Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 1

2020 stats: 4 games | 71 att | 304 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 1 rush TD | 14 rec | 129 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


The Chiefs' offense has improved with Edwards-Helaire in the backfield, as the rookie has displayed his impact in the run and pass games. He's forcing defenses to respect the rushing attack -- like they did when Kareem Hunt was with the Chiefs -- and showcasing his versatility by being a great target in a unit that's full of them for Patrick Mahomes. Four games into his NFL career, CEH is on pace to exceed 1,200 rushing and 500 receiving yards in his rookie campaign. 

Rank
7
8
Joe Mixon
Joe Mixon
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 4

2020 stats: 4 games | 77 att | 315 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 13 rec | 88 rec yds | 1 rec TD


Now this is the Joe Mixon we all know and love. Zac Taylor did a great job getting Mixon involved early and often against the Jacksonville Jaguars and it paid off, as the Bengals earned their first win of the season. The star running back had yet to score a touchdown entering Week 4, then he hit pay dirt three times (two rushing, one receiving). Mixon is the key to the Bengals' offensive success; leaning on him will only help rookie quarterback Joe Burrow continue to develop. 

Rank
8
NR
Chris Carson
Chris Carson
Seattle Seahawks · Year 4

2020 stats: 4 games | 53 att | 237 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 15 rec | 113 rec yds | 3 rec TDs


Carson slid out of my rankings last week because I was nervous about that knee injury the previous week. Well, he showed me with an 80-yard, two-TD rushing performance against the Dolphins. Carson is a big weapon for Seattle and will end up being a top back in this league by the end of the year due to sheer opportunity and playing with the MVP front-runner.

Rank
9
James Robinson
James Robinson
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 1

2020 stats: 4 games | 60 att | 285 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 3 rush TD | 14 rec | 161 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Robinson has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2020 campaign, as there's been zero drop-off in Jacksonville's run game after the departure of Leonard Fournette. The undrafted rookie ranks eighth in the league in rushing yards a quarter of the way through the season and has taken a ton of pressure off Gardner Minshew in a crucial year for the QB. Robinson has been a shining star for a unit that's searching for consistency.

Rank
10
2
Kareem Hunt
Kareem Hunt
Cleveland Browns · Year 4

2020 stats: 4 games | 50 att | 275 rush yds | 5.5 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 8 rec | 42 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


With Nick Chubb sidelined by a knee injury suffered in Sunday's win over the Cowboys, Hunt has a chance to be the featured back again. He's been Chubb's backup since coming to Cleveland as a third-down specialist, but we're about to remember why Hunt was a Pro Bowler as a rookie. He's a playmaker with the ball in his hands, possessing great contact balance and vision, and a dynamic pass catcher. Perfect for Kevin Stefanski's offense.

Rank
11
1
Josh Jacobs
Josh Jacobs
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 2

2020 stats: 4 games | 83 att | 300 rush yds | 3.6 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 13 rec | 100 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


After averaging 4.8 yards per carry in his rookie season, the second-year back has posted a figure under 4.0 in three of his four games in 2020. Injuries to the offensive line are part of the reason why Jacobs' production has dropped, but Jon Gruden must figure out how to get the O-line jelling and Jacobs going again because that's when the Raiders are at their best. This team is talented enough to play in the postseason, but it won't get a shot if the run game remains stagnant.

Rank
12
1
Kenyan Drake
Kenyan Drake
Arizona Cardinals · Year 5

2020 stats: 4 games | 67 att | 254 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 1 rush TD | 5 rec | 20 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Kyler Murray has taken over the rushing attack, much like Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, so Drake has struggled to find the same rhythm he had late last season. Drake had just 13 carries for 35 yards (2.7 ypc) in Sunday's loss to Carolina. The Cardinals' offense has struggled when relying heavily on Murray's talents the last two weeks, so Kliff Kingsbury might want to revert to what worked in Weeks 1 and 2 and let the explosive running back go to work. 

Rank
13
James Conner
James Conner
Pittsburgh Steelers · Year 4

2020 stats: 3 games | 40 att | 224 rush yds | 5.6 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 8 rec | 63 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Conner is averaging 97.5 scrimmage yards per game in 2020, up from 71.5 last season. He's shown in spurts that he's still the RB1 we saw in 2018 when Le'Veon Bell held out, but Conner is already a little banged up. Health was his No. 1 nemesis last season, as he struggled to stay on the field. A week off should help him heading into Sunday's clash with the Eagles, and the Steelers need him to keep their balanced attack strong moving forward.

Rank
14
NR
Melvin Gordon
Melvin Gordon
Denver Broncos · Year 6

2020 stats: 4 games | 65 att | 281 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 11 rec | 45 rec yds | 1 rec TD


With Phillip Lindsay out, Gordon has done everything for this injury-riddled Broncos offense, including this hard-fought, 43-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter to help secure last week's victory over the Jets. Gordon looks strong as a contributor in the run and pass attacks, and he's going to need to elevate his game to help Denver continue climbing the ranks while fighting the injury bug.

Rank
15
1
Darrell Henderson
Darrell Henderson
Los Angeles Rams · Year 2

2020 stats: 4 games | 43 att | 223 rush yds | 5.2 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 4 rec | 62 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Injuries to some of the league's top running backs have made room on this list for young guys like Henderson. He's great when the Rams are rolling and has the goods to be an every-down back. But against the Giants, Henderson struggled to get anything going, prompting Sean McVay to turn to a bigger, more experienced back in Malcolm Brown. It's essential that Henderson plays well right out of the gate because he'll continue to slide down the rankings if he's not the Rams' hot hand.

DROPPED OUT: Nick Chubb, Browns (previously No. 4); Austin Ekeler, Chargers (No. 8). Obviously, both of these backs provided fine production over the first quarter of the season, but seeing how they're now on injured reserve and expected to miss a month-plus, Chubb and Ekeler fall out of this running ranking. Don't be surprised if they hop right back into the mix upon return.

Follow Maurice Jones-Drew on Twitter @MJD.

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