Top 5 Rookie Running Backs Heading Into NFL Regular Season

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Top 5 Rookie Running Backs

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The current rookie running back class could be seen as one of the least talented in recent years. The 2013 NFL Draft had zero running backs taken in the first round, a feat which hasn’t happened in over 20 years. However, just because there were no running backs taken early in the draft it doesn’t mean there won’t be any who play a significant role on their team this year.

Some teams, like the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers, made it clear early on there was a good chance a rookie would be starting in the backfield for them. The Pittsburgh Steelers later joined that conversation as well with second round pick Le’Veon Bell who was impressing early on and was the leader to win the number one back spot.

Bell, however, then endured a foot injury, and although perceived as serious at first is now expected to keep him out the first six weeks of the season. Because this injury has kept Bell from completing the preseason and will keep him out for almost half the year he has been left off this ranking of the top rookie running backs heading into Week 1 of the NFL season.

The following players, however, are listed off both talent and importance in their team’s offense. Running back Johnathan Franklin is one of the most talented running backs in the rookie class, but because he is projected to be starting behind a rookie he will have a lower team importance and also won’t be on the list.

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5. Kenjon Barner

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Kenjon Barner is the most gut feeling pick on this list. He was a sixth-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, and after a so-so preseason is the number two running back behind starter DeAngelo Williams. Jonathan Stewart is currently on the PUP list, which is what is giving Barner his chance to get early touches.

Barner failed to make a noticeable impact during the preseason, but if he can make the electrifying runs he was known for at Oregon he will make a difference in the Panthers’ run game.

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4. Montee Ball

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Montee Ball may be lower down on this list than expected considering he is the Denver Broncos’ starting running back. The only problem for Ball is that he failed to impress anyone in his 25 preseason carries.

Ball had a 3.2 yards per carry average and a long run of 11 yards in those 25 carries which doesn’t come as much of a surprise from a north and south runner like him. Ball will start low on this list, but if he proves he can perform as a solid starting back he will find his way rising up the board.

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3. Christine Michael

Christine Michael
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Christine Michael is likely the least known player on this list. He is the man on the feature picture for this ranking and is a member of the Seattle Seahawks. Yes the same Seahawks that have the punishing Marshawn Lynch who ran for almost 1,600 yards last season.

The problem, however, is that Lynch has 600 carries over the past two seasons and would benefit from sharing a few of those. Michael stepped up huge in the preseason and the largely unknown back rushed for over 200 yards with a five yards per carry average. He has made a bid to get carries during the regular season and could possibly be the hardest running back to take down in this rookie class.

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2. Eddie Lacy

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Eddie Lacy was practically handed the Green Bay Packers' starting running back job the night he was drafted. Lacy was the first of two big name running backs selected by the Packers, and with former starter Cedric Benson getting let go the Packers needed a new number one back to carry the load.

Lacy will likely split carries with James Starks early on after a less than stellar preseason in which Lacy averaged just two yards per carry. Starks is now listed as the number one back on the Packers’ official site, but considering how physical Lacy plays he will be the back given the ball in red zone situations early on.

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1. Giovani Bernard

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Giovani Bernard begins the regular season as the number one ranked rookie running back because he will impact theCincinnati Bengals’ offense in more ways than one. During the preseason Bernard caught a minimum of one ball per game and even had a three-catch performance in his preseason debut.

Bernard was a productive runner in each of the four preseason games, and considering the current number one back BenJarvis Green-Ellis hasn’t proven himself as a stud runner, Bernard will get touches early with the possibility of earning the majority of the snaps in the regular season.