Written By: Casey Stamp
Week 2 of the NFL season has come and gone, and fans have been treated to some spectacular performances from some of the game’s most elite players.
Today’s NFL is extraordinarily pass-oriented. In most cases, the old-school power run schemes have been abandoned for more pass-friendly playbooks or up-tempo pistol and read-option schemes. That said, teams like the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens, who feature two of the league’s premiere power running backs, have found tremendous success in the old-school smash-mouth style ground game to set up their passes.
We’ll take a look at some of the NFL’s best power running backs and rank the top 10 active power runners in the game today.
10. Toby Gerhart – Minnesota Vikings
It goes without saying that the Minnesota Vikings never find themselves struggling on the ground. With an NFL MVP and near record-setter at the helm, they wear out even the best defences with their dynamic ground and pound attack. While Adrian Peterson obviously owns the majority of the carries throughout the season for Minny, Toby Gerhart is an important piece of the puzzle as well. His ability to break tackles and block for his teammates has made him an extremely valuable asset to Peterson and to the team as a whole. Despite getting very few of the carries last season, Gerhart’s reputation as a great power-runner still stands with the fans of the Vikings chiefly due to his production during the 2010-2011 NFL season. Gerhart finished 2011 with 531 yards on 109 attempts in the absence of Peterson and added another 109 yards receiving.
9. Peyton Hillis – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Peyton Hillis went from 7th round pick to Madden cover boy and back to unknown status all in a matter of 4 seasons. Character questions aside, Peyton Hillis has proven to be an asset for any team he plays on. His tenacity and sheer strength allows him to plow through defenders like Kobayashi with hot-dogs. Hillis made a name for himself in 2010 when he rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 TD’s with the Cleveland Browns. After an injury plagued contract-year in which he became quickly alienated from his teammates, he would sign with the Chiefs and then eventually move on to his current destination, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he plays a back-up role to the sophomore sensation Doug Martin.
8. Frank Gore – San Fransisco 49’rs
Frank Gore, out of the University of Miami, which has seen some of the NFL’s greatest players of all time come and go, has made his place among the great alumni that “The U” has to feature. Gore has been a model of consistency throughout his career when he has been healthy. Early in his NFL career, injuries plagued his statistics and were a contributor to 8 consecutive losing seasons for the 49’rs. Once he was able to get healthy and remain healthy, Gore began to show just how valuable he was to his team. Gore punishes NFL defences, creating opportunities for his QB’s whether that was Alex Smith formerly, or his current starter Colin Kaepernick. Gore has rushed for over 1,000 yards in 6 of his 8 NFL seasons and accumulated a total of 52 TD’s.
7. Alfred Morris – Washington Redskins
The 6th round pick took the league by storm last season with the Washington Redskins alongside his QB Robert Griffin III. Morris rushed for 1,613 yards in his rookie season and averaged over 4 yards a carry. While these are very impressive stats for a rookie, the Skins have started out this season 0-2 and primarily because of the offense, which has not started games well. Alfred has got the raw talent to be one of the top backs in the league, but will need to have consistency throughout his NFL career is he wants to continue to be an effective piece of the offense for Washington.
6. Arian Foster – Houston Texans
It seems like every single season, Arian Foster is projected to be the best player in fantasy football. Every year, he is unable to live up to those projections. That is not to say however, that he has not produced extremely well for his Houston Texans. Foster has been one of if not he main cog in the Texans offense that has catapulted them into perennial Super Bowl contender status. Statistically, Foster is one of the NFL’s top backs, hitting 1,000+ rushing yards in 3 of his 4 NFL seasons and has proven to be one of the best receiving backs as well. Not bad for a young man who began his career as an undrafted free agent.
5. Steven Jackson – Atlanta Falcons
The NFL’s active leading rusher could surely be higher on this list if it weren’t for the fact that he has been stuck on a Rams team that wallows at the bottom of the NFL standing year in and year out. That is, until this season. In the offseason, Jackson signed with the Atlanta Falcons who wanted to push themselves over the top and become a serious contender in the NFC. Jackson has accumulated over 10,000 career-rushing yards, one of only 27 halfbacks ever to accomplish that feat. It remains to be seen if Jackson can continue to produce at this stellar pace with the Falcons, but chances are he will find more team success than he has experienced in previous years and possibly boost his hall of fame chances for the future.
4. Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Martin has possibly the oddest nickname in the NFL being coined the “muscle hamster” in his rookie year. Well, he’s got the muscle down in spades. Martin crushed defenses in his rookie season, rushing for 1,454 yards and accumulating 11 rushing TD’s. Martin has been very heavily relied upon in T-bay where the quarterback controversy continues to be an issue. Despite his stellar start to this season, a lack of ability to finish games has left his team 0-2. Martin’s career looks promising going forward and he’s sure to make his teammates and fantasy owners happy with his consistent production.
3. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens
After last season, Ray Rice can check off “Super Bowl Champion” on his bucket list. The 6th year back out of Rutgers has been simply dominant for the past 4 seasons both on the ground and through the air. He can do it all, break tackles, elude defenders, catch passes and block. In that sense, Rice is one of the NFL’s most valuable players and a massive part of what made the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl champions in 2012. A 4-time 1,000+ yard rusher, Rice has proven to be the most dynamic back in the league, receiving for over 2,000 yards in his 5 complete NFL seasons.
2. Marshawn Lynch
Who can stop beat mode? Well, you can’t, you can only hope to contain him. The New Orleans Saints learned that lesson first hand in the 2010 NFL Playoffs. Lynch has been dominant in the power run game since coming into the league in 2007. He’s hit 1,000+ yards 4 times and boasts 48 career TD’s. Like some of the others on the list, Lynch is a force to be reckoned with through the air as well. Lynch can be effective on screen passes and in open space and trying to tackle Lynch is virtually an effort in futility with his 215lb frame of solid muscle.
1. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings
We’ll end the list like we started it, with the Minnesota Vikings. Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s reigning MVP is quickly becoming one of the greatest backs in the history of the game. Coming off an injury that ends some careers (ACL tear), Peterson was just 9 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s all time single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards. While 2012 was a spectacular year for Peterson, he’s been arguably the NFL’s most dominant player since he entered the league. Just to show how incredible Peterson is, he’s already under 1,000 yards away from 10,000 career yards on the ground. In six seasons. Yeah, he’s that good. When Peterson gets into open space, it takes a team to bring him down, if they can even catch him. When all is said and done, Peterson looks to be headed to a first ballot hall of fame induction as soon as he is eligible. The only thing missing for Peterson is a Super Bowl ring and with Christian Ponder behind center in Minny, it may just be a while.