Top 6 rushing duos this season
The running back position has become more and more of a committee position in the NFL, with the number of 300-carry running backs from 2005 to 2015 being 10, 10, 6, 5, 6, 7, 2, 5, 2, 2, and 0 (so far), respectively. With teams splitting opportunities more and more evenly between backs, we take a look at the top six backfield duos through the first 15 weeks of the season.
To be eligible for this list, a duo must consist of two players (not necessarily both running backs) with 300+ snaps each, and at least six games where both played over 30 percent of their team’s snaps. Not in the group of 13 eligible duos are notable pairs Le’Veon Bell (94.0) and DeAngelo Williams (83.3) of the Steelers, and Marshawn Lynch (90.1) and Thomas Rawls (81.1) of the Seahawks, since there was just one game total between both pairs where both backs played over 30 percent of the team’s snaps (Pittsburgh in Week 8), and it was due to Bell’s season-ending injury midway through the game.
1. Doug Martin (89.9 overall grade) and Charles Sims (81.8), Buccaneers
Martin has been arguably the best RB in the league this season, leading the NFL in elusive rating (73.0), while being second in the league in yards per carry after contact (3.3) and breakaway percentage (42.9). Sims has been wonderful out of the backfield complementing Martin, possessing the second-lowest drop rate (2.44) and the fourth-best yards per route run (1.96) out of RBs.
It may seem strange to have a quarterback on this list, but Newton isn’t an ordinary quarterback. His 119 rushing attempts, 580 yards and seven touchdowns are the most among QBs, and many of these yards have come from QB power concepts, where Newton has acted very much like a RB. Stewart has been excellent this year, posting the fifth-best elusive rating (54.1) among halfbacks, fifth-best yards after contact (603), and the ninth-best pass blocking efficiency (94.1)
Freeman owes a lot of his success this season to DiMarco, the highest-graded FB in the league by a wide margin. Despite a slow month recently, Freeman continues to lead the league with 10 rushing touchdowns, while posting the seventh-best yards per route run among RBs (1.70). DiMarco has caught 12 of the 15 passes thrown his way, with two touchdowns and zero drops.
Ivory has been one of the best backs in the league by himself, with an elusive rating (56.0) and breakaway percentage (37.8) that rank fourth in the league. Powell has missed some time with injuries, but has come on late—posting the sixth-best yards per route run (1.73) among RBs.
This pair has been a rare bright spot for Cleveland this season, with Johnson posting the sixth-best receiving grade (88.3) and Crowell the fifth-best breakaway percentage (37.0) among RBs.
While the Bengals probably anticipated this order being switched at the beginning of the season, the platoon between Bernard and Hill has been productive thus far, with Hill tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns (10), and Bernard posting the fifth-best yards per route run (1.86) among RBs.