Running backs continue to become more and more versatile, often doubling as receivers. Teams also lean more towards rushing via committee, as best utilized by the Saints, Patriots and the Eagles last season. The most valuable backs are versatile and durable, explosive and skilled. This list doesn’t rank the best running backs. It lists the backs that will have the best years individually, which relies on their team situation and durability, among other factors.

Check out other Top 10s here:

Ranking the Top 10 QBs of 2018

1. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

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Ezekiel Elliott is big, strong, versatile, and most importantly, running behind a stacked O-line. His controversial six-game suspension in 2017 saw him limited to just ten games, but he still led the league in rushing yards-per-game (98.3). With a point to prove, and as the undisputed three-down back for Dallas, Zeke will have a season for the ages.

Projected rushing yards: 1550

Projected rushing TD’s: 12

Projected receiving yards: 500

Projected receiving TD’s: 3

2. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

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Todd Gurley emerged as a late threat for MVP in 2017; a stunning return to form after a disappointing sophomore year. He smashed defenses to total an astonishing 2093 yards from scrimmage, along with 19 touchdowns. Gurley will get plenty of opportunities in the opportunity, but the strengthened receiving corps, led by Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, will take receptions away from Gurley. Expect fireworks, but not on the same level as last year.

Projected rushing yards: 1250

Projected rushing TD’s: 12

Projected receiving yards: 700

Projected receiving TD’s: 5

3. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Le’Veon Bell is the definition of an elite running back. He’s consistent, proven, versatile and would fit in any system. Bell’s only drawback is his insistence on his own ability, as he continues to hold out for a long-term contract. A threat in the run game and the pass game, Bell also typifies the skill set required in today’s NFL. The Steelers haven’t changed anything drastic, and Bell’s production should remain steadily elite.

Projected rushing yards: 1250

Projected rushing TD’s: 10

Projected receiving yards: 600

Projected receiving TD’s: 2

4. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

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David Johnson is a threat for 2000 yards from scrimmage each year. He’s a fantasy god, and his absence due to injury in 2017 was sorely missed. The Cardinals are in a period of transition, with Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen now competing for QB1. I expect Johnson, coming off a torn ACL, to take some time to get into the season. Come the end of the year, however, opposing defenses will need to beware the single-man wrecking ball that is David Johnson.

Projected rushing yards: 1100

Projected rushing TD’s: 8

Projected receiving yards: 850

Projected receiving TD’s: 4

5. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

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Alvin Kamara had an amazing rookie season, proving versatile and the perfect foil for Mark Ingram. With backfield partner Ingram suspended for the first four games for a doping violation, AK47 should get more touches. Those touches will turn into yards and touchdowns, even if Kamara fails to replicate his astonishing 6.1 yards per carry. 2018 will see Kamara establish himself as one of the premier backs in the NFL. 1000 yards of rushing and receiving isn’t out of the question either.

Projected rushing yards: 950

Projected rushing TD’s: 10

Projected receiving yards: 900

Projected receiving TD’s: 6

6. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs

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Kareem Hunt was the rushing leader in 2017 as a rookie. Now with Patrick Mahomes at QB, there’s even reason to believe that the Chiefs will rely on Hunt to carry more of the workload. 1350 yards on the ground seems reasonable, and Hunt will be better for a year of experience. Hunt needs to develop his pass-catching, but is a pure rusher who hits the gaps hard. He is durable and a three-down back. He will be worth keeping an eye on as his game matures.

Projected rushing yards: 1350

Projected rushing TD’s: 9

Projected receiving yards: 400

Projected receiving TD’s: 3

7. Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears

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Jordan Howard continues to be criminally underrated. With a passing game that was inconsistent at best, incompetent at worst, Howard still put up numbers on a consistent basis. Although not a feature of the passing game, Howard’s ability to pick up hard yards lands him on this list. He often faced a stacked box in 2017, but the addition of wide receiver Allen Robinson, and the added experience of Mitchell Trubinsky should see Howard excel.

Projected rushing yards: 1450

Projected rushing TD’s: 9

Projected receiving yards: 200

Projected receiving TD’s: 1

8. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

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One of the most hyped prospects coming out of college, ranked higher than Ezekiel Elliot, Marshawn Lynch and Todd Gurley on ESPN’s Todd McShay’s Prospect Rankings. Barkley seems like the real deal, a freak of an athlete, the prototype of a modern running back. He’s in a system that will give him plenty of opportunities, and immediately transforms the Giants’ offense into a multi-faceted front of top-level talent. If he can live up to expectations, Barkley will be devastating in his rookie year.

Projected rushing yards: 1200

Projected rushing TD’s: 10

Projected receiving yards: 600

Projected receiving TD’s: 4

9. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars

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Leonard Fournette showed in 2017 why he was first running back taken in the Draft. Appearing in 13 games, Fournette amassed 1040 rushing yards, to go with a useful 302 receiving yards. One thing that Fournette needs to work on is his yard-per-carry, which sits at a below-par 3.9. With a full season under his belt, Fournette will be at his explosive best in 2018, as he translates his rapid pace and acceleration to burn defenses with regularity.

Projected rushing yards: 1250

Projected rushing TD’s: 11

Projected receiving yards: 400

Projected receiving TD’s: 1

10. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers

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Melvin Gordon continues to be underrated. As the Chargers strung together wins to close out 2017, Gordon’s ability to take hard carries emerged as a key attribute to their offense. Gordon recorded just one fumble in 2017, a steady improvement from the five in 2015 and the two in 2016. All of his yardage stats have seen steady improvement year-to-year, an example of the development of Gordon’s game both inside and outside. That will continue in 2018, as Gordon continues to grow towards an elite status.

Projected rushing yards: 1150

Projected rushing TD’s: 10

Projected receiving yards: 500

Projected receiving TD’s: 3

 

 

 

On The Fringe:

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons

Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens

 

All photo credits: Sportingnews.com

 

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