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The NFL’s running back position has seen a resurgence of importance in recent years.
The very best running backs can change the trajectory of a team’s success. Maybe not on the level of a quarterback, but definitely the talent has risen to have a major impact again. The question now is what kind of back is more of a driving force behind wins? Is there a perfect back in the NFL and can one style realistically be more effective?
The dual threat player who can catch out of the backfield just as well as they can run behind their blockers are the sexy choice. With the heightened passing numbers, the pass catching back becomes a matchup nightmare for defenses. A linebacker might be too slow and an added defensive back is subject to getting run over.
The 3pointconversion.com writers have joined me to talk about the best of the bunch. These are the dual threat running back that pose the most danger:
Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints
The running back used to be the most important player on the field. With the shift in the NFL over the last decade, the quarterbacks and wide receivers now get more attention. Although the focus has gone away from running backs, they are every bit as important these days, they just have to be more all-around.
That’s why running backs that can catch, like Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints, are the runners that offenses dream of. Think on this: Alvin Kamara can run between the tackles and beat defenders to the edge, has great balance and runs great routes whether lined up in the backfield of lining up in the slot.
You can pencil him in for 1500 total yards of offense every single season, along with 14 total touchdowns The only reason he hasn’t gone for 1000 yards receiving and rushing in one season is because he splits a backfield in the offense ran by the Saints. Other than that, he would be putting up incredible numbers if given the opportunity to do so. He is truly a weapon that you have to worry about at any point on the field and that makes him one of the most dangerous running backs in the game, if not the most dangerous. -Mike Patton
Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings
With the running back position being of less value to NFL offenses than it was in the past, the key to the position has become versatility and the ability to draw attention from defenses. No one in the NFL demonstrates both these qualities like the Minnesota Vikings’ Dalvin Cook.
It might be fun watching a stocky bruiser smash their way through defenders like they did back in the day. Even in present day, football fans everywhere have watched some juggernaut ball carrier deliver punishing stiff arms in highlights – and hit replay to see it again – on their way to taking home the rushing title. But keep in mind having the most rushing yardage in the league doesn’t necessarily make one the best running back today.
Maybe the total rushing yards aren’t eye-popping. However, Minnesota’s man in the backfield is second in carries in the NFL and still posted a five yard-per-carry average. What about his 361 passing yards on 54 targets – 44 of which were reeled in as receptions?
Cook placed fourth in receiving yards on his team while having to share the field with receivers like Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. And who is to say that part of the reason the numbers for Jefferson were so prolific doesn’t involve Cook pulling safety’s forward or creating mismatches in coverage?
At the end of the day, when a defense doesn’t know what you can do down by down, you don’t need to weigh 247 pounds to run over somebody. All one needs to do is have a defender off balance enough to deliver the crushing blow or jet right past them for the catch if they’re expecting you to run. Dalvin Cook has the sizzle to accomplish both out of multiple formations. – Kyle Nash
Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
How many running backs have had a season where they have had 1,000 yards rushing and receiving? In the history of the NFL, only three of them have accomplished this feat. Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, multiple time Super Bowl champion Roger Craig and Carolina Panthers’ running back Christian McCaffrey. He accomplished this feat in his third season in the league.
He’s the only running back to catch at least 100 passes in back-to-back seasons. What makes him the best back in the league is that he is just as dangerous running between the tackles as he is catching the ball. He doesn’t fumble: he only has seven total in his four year career with over 1000 total touches. He has just as many first downs from receiving as he does rushing the football. His last full season, McCaffrey led the league in total yards from scrimmage, touchdowns and touches.
Not only is McCaffrey the best running back in the NFL currently, he might be the most valuable non-quarterback that plays offense in the league. – Danny Thompson