Former 'Nole Named Top 10 RB in NFL: Fair?

Dustin Franklin

Recently, ESPN polled more than 50 NFL executives, scouts, and players and ranked the top 10 running backs in the league. Their results have Florida State fan-favorite Dalvin Cook among the 10 listed, but is it too low? Is it too high? Is it just right? Let's take a look.

How does he stack up to the other names on the list?

1. Saquon Barkley - New York Giants

For the most part, Barkley was behind the 8-ball for 2019. The sole major weapon on a putrid Giants squad, defenses week in and week out were able to direct their focus to stopping him. In the 4-12 seaon, Barkley still managed to put up respectable stats. In 13 games, he ran the ball 217 times for 1,003 yards and six touchdowns. Add to that 438 yards and two scores through the air, and you have an impressive season, given his surroundings. Barkley has also shown great ball security in his promising career thus far, having only fumbled once on 621 total touches. While his sophomore NFL season wasn't quite as impressive as his rookie year, it was hardly a slump when you factor in all that he was given to work with on a weekly basis.

2. Christian McCaffrey - Carolina Panthers

In a tumultuous season that saw the Panthers endure a coaching change, perhaps no running back in the NFL was more valuable or versatile than McCaffrey. The back was named First Team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl after putting up 1,387 rushing yards and 1,005 receiving yards to go with 19 total touchdowns. McCaffrey has played in all 48 games of his young career, and has an impressive yards per touch average of 5.9.

3. Ezekiel Elliot - Dallas Cowboys

Prior to the 2019 season, there was much speculation about whether or not Elliott would be a part of the Cowboys' offense for at least part of the campaign, as he threatened to hold out for the entire year. The two sides were able to come to an agreement, however, and Elliott played in all 16 Dallas games. And when I say he played in, I mean he was a major factor. Elliott had 1,777 total yards from scrimmage for the 'Boys, and added 14 touchdowns. He did fumble three times, and Dallas went 8-8 while missing the playoffs, but Elliott was impressive, nonetheless, providing five yards per touch on offense.

4. Alvin Kamara - New Orleans Saints

Kamara's case is an interesting one, to say the least. There's no denying his dynamic athleticism, or the threat he possesses to take it to the house any time he touches the ball. Also, the Saints are coming off another impressive season, in which they went 13-3, and Kamara was a big part of that success. However, Kamara is used much differently than the other names on this list. He doesn't start every game at running back, and most of his praise comes from his potential to break any given play into a long highlight worthy gain. Kamara started nine of the 14 games in which he appeared last season, and didn't rush or receive for over 800 yards. He did tally 1,330 total yards on offense and six touchdowns, but was down across the board from his first two seasons in the league. His Saints also lost to Cook's Vikings in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and Kamara had just 55 total yards in the game.

5. Derrick Henry - Tennessee Titans

Henry had one of the most impressive stretch of games in recent memory to close out the 2019 season. He rushed for over 100 yards in five of Tennessee's last six games, and recorded 896 yards in those six contests. For the season, Henry led the league in yards and touchdowns, compiling 1,540 and 16, respectively. His reign of terror over defenses didn't end with the regular season either, as he ran for 446 yards in three playoff games. Henry's production has increased each of the four seasons since he's turned pro, and although his 2019 stats will be hard to top, 2020 should be another stellar year for the brutalizing back. 

6. Dalvin Cook - Minnesota Vikings

Cook is coming off a season in which he rushed for 1,135 yards and 13 scores. Through the air, Cook was also effective, having gained an additional 519 yards, giving him a 5.5 yards per touch average. Cook did miss two games on the year, and has yet to see a full 16 game schedule in his three years as a pro, so that is something that has to be taken into consideration. Also, there's the fumbles-- Cook had a career high four last year. He was an integral part of a Minnesota offense that went 10-6 last season, and in two playoff games, he ran for 112 yards on 37 carries and added two scores and caught nine passes for 44 yards. All things considered, last season was the closest Cook has looked to what fans in Tallahassee grew accustomed to seeing. At times early in the season, it could have been argued that he was the best running back in the league based on the stretch of impressive games filled with dazzling runs.

7. Nick Chubb - Cleveland Browns

In a season full of disappointments for Cleveland fans, Chubb wasn't one of them. The second year back posted a career best 1,494 yards, good for second in the league. He also added eight touchdowns, and 278 more yards through the air. He did fumble for the first three times in his career, but overall, Chubb had an excellent sophomore season, and his career 5.3 yards per touch is cause for much optimism amongst the Dawg Pound.

8. Joe Mixon - Cincinnati Bengals

Mixon's production did dip in 2019 compared to his 2018 effort, but the Bengals back was still able to rush for 1,137 yards and had eight total touchdowns. The most impressive stat he recorded was his zero fumbles on 313 total touches-- his second straight season of not coughing the ball up. His 4.5 yards per touch was down, but he should see an increase in offensive output as the team looks to move forward with new quarterback Joe Burrow.

9. Josh Jacobs - Las Vegas Raiders

When it comes to sophomore running backs, none rushed for more yards last season than Jacobs. His 1,150 yards were best among rookies, and good enough for eighth overall. When you consider Jacobs only played in 13 games, it makes his NFL debut season even  more impressive. In addition to the yards gained on the ground, Jacobs added seven touchdowns, and averaged five yards per touch.

10. Le'Veon Bell - New York Jets

After missing all of 2018 due to a contract dispute, Bell returned to football and had a disappointing season by his standards. Bell rushed for just 789 yards, but did amass 1,250 total yards and four touchdowns. The Jets were wildly inconsistent last season, and their offense was second to last in points scored per game, so perhaps his struggles were not all his fault, but he'll need a bounce back performance in 2020 to maintain his status as a top 10 back. His four yards per touch last season is last among the other players listed.

Notable omissions: Leonard Fournette, Marlon Mack, Aaron Jones, Mark Ingram

So, after examining the list, the case can be made for Cook to be higher, or lower, depending on your criteria. One thing for sure for FSU fans, it's nice to see Cook performing at a high level and getting the national recognition he's deserved for so long.

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