We know there's a significant amount of fans who are dreading the last game of the season, because it'll mark the end of another great year of NFL football. In the spirit of keeping things live, ETSF is bringing you our version of the top ten running backs in the NFL. Kenny, Ed, and Phil Barnett have each put together their list, which will be tabulated, and one monstrous list will be the result. You'll see some familiar names, as well as some surprises, but that's the beauty of the NFL. Things change every year, while some stay the same, and with that...let's get it crackin'.
10. Ricky Williams, Miami Dolphins: Williams actually was tied with Michael "The Burner" Turner here, but two contributors voted Williams in, while one had Turner, so Williams gets the nod. He quietly had a great year, finishing tenth in the league in rushing. It's obvious the man still has plenty left in the tank.
9. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers: Isn't it about time Jonathan Stewart gets more love? I understand how dual running back systems work in the league, but he's arguably the best number-two back in the league, and when you see names like Felix Jones, Chester Taylor, Ronnie Brown and others, that's a pretty big accomplishment. All Stewart did was improve from his rookie season, and there's all the reason to believe he'll keep the party goin' into next season.
8. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers: It's an injustice to speak of one of the Panthers running backs without speaking about the other. I honestly believe they're an upgrade from the Giants monster attack of Brandon Jacobs/Derrick Ward from a couple of years ago. While it's obvious he and Stewart help each other, he's still a threat to break the big one, and as Ed says "go from 0-60 in a record time."
7. Thomas Jones, New York Jets: Ed and Phil must be brothers from another mother, because they echo similar statements about Mr. Jones. Ed simply calls him "the most underappreciated back in football," with Phil says he may be "the most underrated running back in the NFL." Phil makes mention of how consistent he's been, but tends to get overloooked, since he doesn't do anything flashy. Game recognizes game around here, and Thomas Jones certainly has it.
6. Frank Gore, San Fransisco 49ers: All three of us have Frank Gore listed, and all for different reasons. For me, to see him battle from various injuries, and still continue to produce at a high level is something I refuse to ignore, and it seems like he's continuing to improve, year-after-year. According to Ed, if the 49ers had any type of passing game, he could lead the league in rushing. Now that it looks like they've settled on Alex Smith, Vernon Davis becoming a premier tight end, along with Michael Crabtree getting a full off-season of work, that time will be sooner than people think. You read it here first.
5. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens: Ed calls him "a bowling ball of a back, who thrives in the mold of Brian Westbrook (2X)." I had mixed feelings about Rice last season, but this year, he made a believer out of me. It's no secret he's an up-and-coming back, and has all the ability to remain a top-five back in the league.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars: All three of us have MJD in our top-five, with Ed having him as high as number four, but as Phil wanted to remind Ed, "didn't Ed predict 1,000 receiving yards, MJD? Lets not forget he went to UCLA."
3. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams: Ed calls him "the Andre Johnson of running backs, and on a good team, he might be the league's best back." I hate that Steven Jackson plays for the bum-ass Rams, for a couple of reasons. One, the Rams aren't on TV, so if you don't have Sunday Ticket, or live in the area, you won't get to see him play. Two, he's on a bum team, so either the Rams will get it together, or maybe he'll find a change of scenery. Either way, he's too good not to be used in a better situation.
2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: If the slogan, "what a difference a year makes" rings true, it definitely applies here. All three of us have him at number two on our lists, but we probably had him number one, at the start of the season. Ed calls him "the most physical back in football with elite speed." His pass-catching has improved, and he was able to find his way into the endzone at a higher clip than last season. In his first three seasons, he's averaging nearly 1,500 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.
1. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson has firmly secured the spot as the best running back in football. Ed calls him "the quickest man in football, and will find any possible way to get into the endzone." Phil goes a step futher in his analysis: "some people might not say he's the best running back in the league, but consider the fact that he made Vince Young relevant for the last half of the season. VY10 wouldn't have sniffed half those wins, if he didn't have the perfect running back, for the perfect offense, for Young's limited skill set."
LaDanian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers: Ed is the only one who has LT in his top-ten, and he says it's simply out of respect. He was undoubtedly the best running back in football for a long time, but it seems like his best days are far past him. He's a future Hall of Famer, but not a player who is longer the elite at his position.
Michael "The Burner" Turner, Atlanta Falcons: This one doesn't surprise me as much as it may others, but it does bear mention that he was the second leading rusher in the NFL in 2008, but was unable to follow up his superb first season as a full-time back.
Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants: I'll admit that Brandon Jacobs is my dude, and as Carter Bedford warned me before the season, Jacobs is too one-dimensional, but I ignored him, and ranked him high anyway. Thanks for making me look like an idiot.