Ranking any position is really just an exercise in reviewing past performance and projecting a player's supporting cast for the future.
Kirwan's QB rankings
On any given Sunday, any one of the 45 running backs on this list could give a performance typical of the five players in Group A. In fact, almost every one of these backs has done it, with the exception of the two rookies who made the list.
As in the past, I prefer to group players in sections of five, in alphabetical order, so please don't view the last back in Group B as the 10th-best back. There will also be an arrow up (^), down (v) or flat (>) indicating where I think a player might end up at the end of the 2011 season if he stays healthy and plays 16 games.
Here are the running back groupings in alphabetical order:
GROUP A (1-5)
Something might be wrong
GROUP B (6-10)
Hillis' highlight reel
GROUP C (11-15)
GROUP D (16-20)
- LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers (^): Hard to believe this undrafted player was released by the Titans and wound up with 1,007 yards in 13 games. He also had 32 runs of 10 yards or more (1:6 ratio per attempt). If he gets 300 carries this year instead of the 201 he had as a rookie, Blount could be a 1,500-yard back.
- Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (>): Fans might not forgive him for the fumble in the Super Bowl, but check his production over the whole season. Mendenhall was tied for second in rushing touchdowns (13), seventh in rushing yards (1,273) and fourth in attempts (324) for a team that went to the Super Bowl.
GROUP E (21-25)
- Joseph Addai, Colts (v): Addai has missed 15 starts over the last four years and played just eight games last season. When he's healthy, he is still solid.
Odd man out?
- LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets (v): L.T. can still play at a high level and, if used wisely, can win games. He still pops a 10-plus-yard run once every 10 carries and is a factor in the passing game.
GROUP F (26-30)
- Thomas Jones, Chiefs (v): Say what you want but Jones brings attitude and production to every offense he's been with.
Stewart could have big year
GROUP G (31-35)
- Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers (v): I would want him on my team for his work ethic and how he fought back from injuries. Williams would be perfect in St. Louis backing up Jackson.
GROUP H (36-40)
- Ryan Grant, Packers (>): He told me he could have played in the Super Bowl, but being on injured reserve prevented that from happening. Grant is a solid zone-scheme runner who might have to move on to get the work he wants.