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In part one we discussed the resurgence of the running back position and it’s heightened importance in recent years. We focused on the dual threat backs and the multitude of dimensions they bring to the position.
Now we down get down to the grit and grime. The backs that seek out contact and makes the defenders pay. The big body, run in between the tackles, move out the way or get ran over type rushers. These backs have a bulldozer mentality with race car wheels.
My fellow writers at The 3 Point Conversion join me again to go over the bruiser backs and their propensity for furniture moving.
Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans
The league has gone to a more pass happy style and that in effect has changed how we view the running back position. One particular player has brought the position back to prominence and is dominating the league with his traditional style. That guy is Derrick Henry. Henry is a monster standing at 6’4,” 247 lbs. and he uses every bit of it.
The stat that proves it is his yards after contact. Since 2016 he leads the league with a staggering 4994 yards after contact. To put that into perspective only two other running backs have more total yards in that time. For even more icing on the cake, since 2019 Henry leads the league in rush yards with 3566 yards…number two on that list is Henry’s yards after contact since 2019 with 2758 yards.
He is a big game player as well. He has five, yes five 200+ rushing performances since 2018 while the rest of the league combined has just six. I will say even though he is a ground and pound back, he can catch as well.
His yards per reception mark is 9.1 since 2016 which is better than his contemporaries in that span. His best season mark (12.4) is proof that he can be a producer on every down and not just first and second. The Titans literally found a perfect mixture of Earl Campbell’s strength and physicality and Eddie George’s size and athleticism.
Henry is considered the best in the league for a reason and the numbers don’t lie. – Courtlandt Griffin
Nick Chubb – Cleveland Browns
When discussing the greatest the running backs, how could Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb not be in the conversation? Since taking over for then running back Carlos Hyde, after flashing potential when given the opportunity, he’s been one of the best backs in the league.
Since he was drafted, Chubb has been in the top 10 in terms of rushing yards per season, despite not starting for almost half of his rookie year (2018) and missing four games this past season (2020). In 2018 and 2019, he also had the most 20+ yard rushes in the NFL, and finished second in 2020. Doing that despite missing time because of injury or not starting is always impressive.
However, there’s an old saying: “it’s the destination, it’s the journey.” With Chubb that’s absolutely been the case. From 2018-2020, he’s been one of the top ten running backs in terms of average yards per carry in all three years (2nd in 2020, 6th in 2019, and 5th in 2018). He’s also averaged a Pro Football Focus grade of 87.4 in those three years, which is higher than most running backs in that time period. – Eric Urbanowicz
Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott is somewhat of a forgotten son when it comes to active running backs. That’s despite being a player that has already led the league in rushing twice and has already scored 46 rushing touchdowns in 71 career games. He accumulated 5,405 rushing yards in his first four seasons, but followed that up with a subpar 2020 campaign.
Elliott is a workhorse that’s hard to bring down. In his last 46 games, he has a total of 1,795 rushing yards after first contact with 58 broken tackles. He has a career average of 89.9 rushing yards per game, which ranks him first amongst active players.
Elliott is already third on the Cowboys’ all time rushing list, trailing only Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett. He might have fallen off the radar a bit, but he should still be feared as a top running back in the NFL. One thing is for sure, would be tacklers will feel his presence on the field. – Ab Stanley