National Football League

In The Running

July 9

The NFL might be experiencing a new golden era for the running back position, and with a surplus of talent occupying the backfield, it could be difficult to determine who is the best at the position.

With that, ESPN recently conducted a poll of over 50 NFL executives, scouts, and players to figure out the top 10 running backs going into the 2020 season, and New York Giants sophomore sensation Saquon Barkley topped the list as the league's premier tailback.

Barkley only played in 13 games last season but still tallied 1,003 yards and 6 rushing TDs, to go along with 52 receptions, 438 receiving yards, and 2 receiving TDs.

Barkley edged out Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, the highest-paid halfback in the league, for the top spot.

McCaffrey is coming off of a season in which he rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 rushing TDs, and was named First Team All-Pro. He also caught 116 balls for 1,005 yards, becoming the third player in NFL history to tally over 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in a single season.

The biggest eyebrow-raiser on the list might have been who came in at No. 5: the most dominant running back in last season's NFL playoffs, the Tennessee TitansDerrick Henry.

Henry led the NFL in rushing yards last season with 1,540 yards, before continuing his dominance in the playoffs, rushing for 446 yards in three games, including 182 yards at New England in the AFC Wild Card Round and 195 yards at Baltimore in the AFC Divisional Round.

Former NFL linebacker Rob Ninkovich said on ESPN that he would have slotted Henry at No. 3 instead of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, purely as a result of Henry's physical tools.

"I can tell you as a linebacker that a strong running back can break the will of a defense very easily ... I think that Derrick Henry should be up in the No. 3 spot because of that. He's big, physical, powerful, and not only can he break you, he can outrun everybody on the football field."

Last season, Henry totaled nine carries of 20+ yards compared to four for Elliott. Henry also scored 16 TDs, while Elliott scored 12.

Despite Henry outdoing Zeke in the stat box, and carrying his team to the AFC Championship, ESPN analyst Domique Foxworth is hesitant to move Elliott down the list just yet.

"It's hard to say that he lost a step. The numbers don't seem to lie ... I think that if you are building an offense, you would almost rather have a guy who is going to be sure to get you 5, 6, 7 yards, sometimes 10, than have a guy who goes 1, 2, 3, 20."

It sounds like both Henry and Elliott will have even more to prove this upcoming season, assuming they are aware of their positioning on this recent ranking.

That could signal bad news for opposing defenses across the NFL.


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