Ahead of the 2015 season, SI.com is ranking the top 10 starters at every position group. Here, then, are the NFL's 10 best running backs.
July 30, 2015
1 of 10Robert Beck for Sports Illustrated
1. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
Lynch didn't lead the NFL in rushing yards last season—he finished fourth with 1,306 regular-season yards—but it's difficult to imagine a back more important to his team. His ability to move through defenders is one of his most underrated attributes, and the way he defies contact and gains extra yardage after first contact is unparalleled.
2 of 10Fred Vuich for Sports Illustrated
2. Le'Veon Bell, Steelers
Though the Steelers will go as far as Ben Roethlisberger will take them at this point, Bell is right up there with receiver Antonio Brown as the team's second-most important player. Ever since the Steelers took him in the second round of the 2013 draft, his main attribute has been his patience when waiting for holes to open up, and when he does get back on the field after a two-game suspension to start 2015, he'll continue to power the ground game.
3 of 10Matt Slocum/AP
3. DeMarco Murray, Eagles
Murray led the league with 1,845 rushing yards in 2014, but according to some, he left a lot of big plays on the field and almost entirely benefited from Dallas's outstanding offensive line. In truth, Murray did a lot to make his line look good, as well—he finished second behind Marshawn Lynch with 77 missed tackles caused in 2014, and he's always been a more powerful runner than his 6'0", 214-pound frame might indicate.
4 of 10Robert Beck for Sports Illustrated
4. Eddie Lacy, Packers
The 5'11", 231-pound Lacy is primarily a power back, but there's some burst in what he does as well. Last season, he finished second in the league with 20 runs of 15 yards or more, behind only DeMarco Murray. Packers coach Mike McCarthy has said he wants to keep Lacy fresh by limiting his rushing attempts in 2015, but don't expect his value to decrease—more and more, Rodgers is relying on Lacy as an option in the passing game, and that could take a serious uptick this season.
5 of 10David E. Klutho for Sports Illustrated
5. Jeremy Hill, Bengals
It didn't take long for the second-round rookie to blast off in Cincinnati's offense once he jumped out of the rotational role—in the second half of the 2014 season, no back rushed for more yards than Hill's 929. The 6'1", 233-pound LSU alum has a perfect combination of first-level power and second-level burst, and he very well could be the NFL's next great running back.
6 of 10John W. McDonough for Sports Illustrated
6. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Charles is often incorrectly perceived as an upright, straight-line speed runner. In truth, Charles can bull through the line when necessary, but why do that when you can juke a linebacker out of his shoes and make a cornerback look like he's running in wet cement? Charles has been doing this since he entered the league in 2008.
7 of 10Greg Nelson for Sports Illustrated
7. Arian Foster, Texans
Foster gained 1,246 yards in 2014, despite a horrible quarterback situation, an inconsistent offensive line and injuries that kept him out of three games. Coach Bill O'Brien has said that as long as the 28-year-old Foster has what it takes, he'll get the ball as often as possible.
8 of 10Al Tielemans for Sports Illustrated
8. Justin Forsett, Ravens
Forsett ran for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns on just 235 carries in 2014, which isn't bad for a guy whose previous high was 619 yards with the 2009 Seahawks. Forsett is now Baltimore's main back, and he has a nice skill set—surprising power for his size, patience through gaps, and impressive second-level acceleration.
9 of 10Bill Frakes for Sports Illustrated
9. Lamar Miller, Dolphins
The hype on Miller came true in 2014, when he rushed for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns on just 216 carries, including a 97-yard run against the Jets in the regular-season finale. Not a bad total for a guy who never had 20 carries in a single game. Miller put on 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason, so he's certainly making his case to be the Dolphins' bell-cow back.
10 of 10L.G. Patterson/AP
10. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
The great unknown. Should Peterson be higher on this list, given his amazing career accomplishments, and the fact that he ran for nearly 1,300 yards in 2013? The year off due to off-field issues is why we have him this low. Also, Peterson turned 30 in March, and that's a bad place to be for any running back.
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