Top 10 running backs entering Week 13
With the season entering the final quarter of the year, we break down the top 10 running backs RBs as ranked by PFF’s grading system. A running back’s ability to positively impact a game depends on numerous factors, some of which are out of the player’s control (e.g. offensive line play).
Thus, while a running back like Chris Johnson (41.9) may be fourth in the league in rushing, it’s his offensive line play, rather than his running ability (44.9), that has propelled him to such productivity levels.
Additionally, many of the ways in which a running back impacts a game go unnoticed by spectators (e.g. pass protection), but are very important to an offense’s success. Therefore, while Adrian Peterson (77.8) has had a very productive comeback season in terms of yardage, leading the league in rushing, he has struggled as a pass blocker (44.1) and receiver (51.2). That, coupled with his league-leading six fumbles, has him further down the list (17th) than his yardage would suggest.
(Editor’s note: Due to his season-ending injury in Week 8, we have removed Le’Veon Bell from this list. Through six weeks of play, Bell’s performance was enough to earn the top spot for the season in our RB grades thus far, with an overall grade of 94.0).
1. Doug Martin (90.9), Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What a comeback year it has been for Martin, who currently leads all RBs with a 3.5 yards per carry average after contact, an 84.7 elusive rating, and a 47.9 breakaway percentage. His 5.1 yards per carry average is the highest amongst runners with at least 125 carries.
2. Marshawn Lynch (90.1), Seattle Seahawks
Lynch has endured a season full of injuries (he’s likely to miss a few more weeks following surgery to mend a lingering groin injury) and poor offensive line play, but he’s posted the second-best elusive rating among qualifying RBs (79.0), forcing 37 missed tackles on 124 total touches. He is currently in his third-straight year as a top-three NFL RB.
3. Devonta Freeman (86.1), Atlanta Falcons
Injuries seem to be a common theme for our top RBs this time of year, though Devonta Freeman is expected to return to action in Week 13. Freeman, 2015’s fantasy football superstar, has been just as good at the real thing, turning 167 carries into 764 (4.6 yards/carry) yards, with 13 runs of 15 yards or more, and nine touchdowns (which leads the NFL at the position). He’s also posted the fifth-best receiving grade (92.4) among RBs.
4. Chris Ivory (83.6), New York Jets
Ivory, under the radar for years, is finally starting to gain the attention he deserves. He is fourth among RBs in missed tackles forced on runs (33), and third with 13 runs of 15 yards or more, helping give him the ninth-best rushing grade among RBs (80.7).
5. DeAngelo Williams (83.5), Pittsburgh Steelers
Williams’ revival couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for the injury-plagued Steelers. He has the best PFF grade among RBs in the weeks where Bell has been suspended or injured (Weeks 1-2, 9-12). Williams hasn’t allowed a pressure in 31 pass blocking snaps, which makes him one of two qualifying RBs with a perfect pass blocking efficiency.
6. Jonathan Stewart (82.2), Carolina Panthers
Not unlike his former teammate, Williams, Stewart is on a comeback trajectory that has him on pace for his second-career 1,000-yard season for the undefeated Panthers. He is second among RBs with 45 missed tackles forced on rushes, good for an elusive rating of 51.1, third-best among RBs with more than 150 carries.
7. Lamar Miller (81.7), Miami Dolphins
Miller boasts the highest pass-blocking grade (83.4) among RBs, allowing just two total pressures on 53 pass-blocking snaps. Also, he ranks seventh among RBs with 3.0 yards per carry after contact.
8. T.J. Yeldon (81.1), Jacksonville Jaguars
The rookie has been a bell cow for the young Jaguars, with 557 more snaps than his team’s next-closest RB. He has forced 27 missed tackles on rushes and nine missed tackles on receptions, good for a 43.9 elusive rating, which is second among RBs with more than 150 carries and 30 receptions.
9. Antonio Andrews (81.0), Tennessee Titans
After failing to register a carry all last season, Andrews has emerged as the lead back for the Titans. He has posted a positive grade in all but one game, breaking tackles on 12 of his 110 carries, and four of his 12 receptions (on 15 targets). Andrews has yet to fumble this season, while allowing only one pressure on 38 pass-blocking snaps, good for third among qualifying RBs.
10. Todd Gurley (80.2), St. Louis Rams
Possibly the more heralded rookie back than Yeldon, Gurley has created quite the stir in his first-year campaign. In only nine game appearances this season, he has the seventh-most yards after contact in the league (442), and the fifth-most rushing TDs (six). He also owns the second-highest breakaway percentage among backs this season, behind only Doug Martin.