Top 20 NFL Running Backs: Training Camp 2013 Edition

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The 20 Best NFL Running Backs in the Game Today

USA-TODAY-Sports
USA-TODAY-Sports

Even though running backs don't play as big of a role as they used to in the NFL, the position still remains crucial to teams' success. In this day and age, big bruising backs are no longer the norm and many RBs double as wide receivers. Speed is the name of the game, and youth rules when it comes to most backfields across the league.

But even with the evolution of the RB position, you still can't put a price on an elite back. RBs that can legitimately play every down and can draw eight and nine players into the box, are simply game-changers.

It used to be that teams ran to set up the pass, but it's often the other way around today. Many RBs merely get the ball as a formality, because it's just not effective to pass on every down. Because of the new offensive trends, shelf life for RBs is at an all-time low. We've all heard the statistics, but you don't have to look at charts to see that backs come and go constantly.

Only the elite RBs survive to have long careers in the NFL. Many of the players on this list have been around for awhile, but the majority of them are young guns. Several of these players emerged on the scene just last season, but sometimes you just need one season to know that a player is already top-tier.

So with all of that in mind, let's take a look at the top 20 running backs as we head into training camp:

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Darren McFadden

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USA Today Sports

McFadden's stock is dropping rapidly, but there's no question he has the talent to turn things around. With a new offensive coordinator in place in Oakland, there's expected to be a renewed focus on the downhill running game. McFadden is only 26, and will be going into the final year of his contract in 2013.

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Shonn Greene

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USA Today Sports

Greene will be switching teams in 2013, joining forces with Chris Johnson in the Titans' backfield. Most people don't view Greene as a No. 1 back after he somewhat disappointed in New York. But he still hit the 1,000-yard mark in each of the last two seasons, while finding the end zone 14 times. He and Johnson are going to form quite the duo in Tennessee this season.

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Trent Richardson

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USA Today Sports

Although many have already deemed Richardson as injury-prone, the second-year back insists that's not the case. When he was on top of his game last season, fans saw why the Browns took him with the third overall pick. He got 267 carries during his rookie season, but his 3.6-yard average was a bit disappointing. Still, the sky seems to be the limit for Richardson if he can stay on the field.

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Ahmad Bradshaw

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USA Today Sports

Bradshaw is another back who's switching teams in 2013, after spending the last six seasons with the Giants. Although injuries slowed him last season, he still managed to hit the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in three years. It's not a question of skill with Bradshaw, it's a question of health. The RB has missed tons of action in his career, so the Colts are hoping his latest foot surgery will be his last.

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BenJarvus Green-Ellis

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USA Today Sports

Green-Ellis finished 12th in NFL in rushing a season ago (1,094). He's proven that he's one of the most sure-handed backs in the league, only losing two fumbles in his five-year career. His size makes him a perfect goal line back, and as a result he's scored a whopping 30 touchdowns over the past three years.

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LeSean McCoy

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USA Today Sports

McCoy had a tough go of it last season, but so did everyone else on the Eagles. A concussion ended his season early, and as a result he only played in 12 games. But he's still only 25-years old, and the Eagles can't really do much worse than a season ago. If he can stay on the field, McCoy will reestablish himself as one of the game's top RBs.

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Stevan Ridley

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USA-TODAY-Sports

Very quietly, Ridley had himself a fantastic 2012 season. He finished 7th in the league with 1,263 rushing yards, and also found the end zone on 12 occasions. This will be his third year in the league, and he figures to get as much work as a season ago. The Patriots' passing game is down several key players, so the running game is as important as ever in New England.

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Reggie Bush

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USA Today Sports

Bush is more of a hybrid running back, put he's still racked up 2,000 rushing yards over the past two years. In Miami he finally showed that he was capable of running between the tackles, and it no doubt gave his career new life. Now in Detroit surrounded by many other weapons, Bush is in position to have a career-season in 2013.

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Steven Jackson

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USA Today Sports

Eight straight 1,000-yard seasons, that's all you need to know about Jackson. He'll be joining the loaded Falcon's offense this year, and his streak should continue. Jackson will turn 30 this year, but all accounts out of camp are that he looks great.

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Matt Forte

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USA Today Sports

Forte has proven himself to be one of the league's best backs, but injuries slowed him in 2012. He still had a good season on his way to 1,094 yards rushing, though. Many are projecting career-highs for Forte in 2013 under new offensive-minded head coach Marc Trestman.

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Frank Gore

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USA Today Sports

Gore is Mr. Consistency for the 49ers. He's amassed over 2,400 yards rushing the past two seasons, while finding the end zone 16 times. Since 2006, he's only missed the 1,000-yard mark one time. Gore just turned 30, so people will start to look for his production to drop. I don't see that happening for a couple more more years, though.

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C.J. Spiller

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USA Today Sports

Spiller burst on the scene in 2012, compiling over 1,700 yards from scrimmage. His signature became the big play, as he recorded highs of 62 and 66 yard plays on the ground and through the air. Fans should expect more of the same from Spiller in 2013, because now there's no question who the No. 1 playmaker in Buffalo is.

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Chris Johnson

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USA Today Sports

CJ2K's stock went back up last season, after some began to question whether he'd lost a step. He was able to accumulate 1,243 yards on the ground and find the end zone six times. At first he wasn't thrilled about the addition of Greene to the Titans' backfield, but I think both players will ultimately benefit. Look for another big season from Johnson in 2013 with the run-heavy Titans.

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Doug Martin

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USA Today Sports

Anybody see Martin's 2012 season coming? Wow. That's about all you can say. Martin amazed audiences week in and week out during his rookie campaign, and quickly established himself as one of the game's most dynamic players. He's going to have a hard time topping his 1,926 yards from scrimmage this season, but I believe he'll get close and prove that he belongs in the top RBs conversation.

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Alfred Morris

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USA Today Sports

The other part of the Redskins' rookie combo that rejuvenated the franchise, Morris had a tremendous rookie season. He finished second in rushing with 1,613 yards and found the end zone an amazing 13 times. Washington fans should be very excited about the future with Morris and RG3.

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Jamaal Charles

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USA Today Sports

After missing nearly all of 2011 with a torn ACL, Charles quickly reminded fans that he's one of the NFL's best backs in 2012. All he did was rush for a career-high 1,509 yards, on a terrible KC team. Things figure to be a lot different in the Andy Reid era, and I don't think we've seen the ceiling of what Charles is capable of.

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Ray Rice

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USA Today Sports

Even though many are predicting a down year for Rice, he's still no doubt an elite NFL back. All you need to know is this: in the last four years Rice has accumulated 5,066 yards rushing and 33 touchdowns, while only missing three starts. Bernard Pierce is going to get his share of the carries this year in Baltimore, but Ray Rice is still the man.

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Marshawn Lynch

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USA Today Sports

Lynch had a monstrous 2012 season on his way to 1,590 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was a big reason why the Seahawks were able to make the run the did, and they'll need a similar performance in 2013 to keep their status as a Super Bowl contender.

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Arian Foster

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USA Today Sports

Even though Foster had a bit of a down year in the receiving game last season, he's still the best dual-threat back in the game. He can put his head down and rush with the best of em', and he could be a 1,000-yard receiver if the Texans really needed him to be one. He's still only 26, and 2,000 yards from scrimmage is not out of the question for 2013.

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Adrian Peterson

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USA Today Sports

If you don't think Adrian Peterson is the best running back on the planet, well then I don't know what game you've been watching. Call him whatever you want - a beast, machine, superhuman - it doesn't matter, this guy is simply on another level. He seems to be motivated to break the single-season rushing record that he fell just short of a year ago, and that's not good news for opposing defenses.

 

 


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