While the days of having a true, workhorse running back are all but extinct in today’s NFL, there are special talents around the league that possess the innate intangibles to transform offenses. The shelf-life for the position is among the shortest in pro football, and many of the names that once sat atop the rankings have begun their inevitable tumble to make way for the next wave of talent. The list below details the top NFL running backs for the 2020 season. It features many of the usual suspects expected to flourish, and others that aren’t necessarily household names but poised for success in 2020.
Disclaimer: The list below is my opinion, based on my projections for the 2020 NFL season. Rookies were omitted from this list.
Top 25 running backs in the NFL for the 2020 season
25. Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers
Raheem Mostert, last season’s pleasant surprise, surged up the 49ers’ depth chart seemingly out of nowhere to ignite their rushing attack late last season. The diminutive runner has tremendous vision, game-breaking speed, and a versatile skill set to take advantage of mismatches. Jerrick McKinnon returns from injury this year, and Tevin Coleman still looms, but one could argue that Mostert’s stellar performances in critical moments down the stretch have earned him the lead running back role in 2020.
24. Sony Michel, New England Patriots
There is nothing that particularly stands out about Sony Michel’s game. While he may lack breakaway speed and doesn’t offer much in the passing game, Michel is a powerful runner equipped to grind out the tough yards. Most importantly, Michel’s chief competition — James White — does the majority of his damage as a receiver. As New England’s de facto lead runner, Michel should see plenty of carries this season — provided he can stay healthy.
23. Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills
Devin Singletary may measure in at 5-foot-7, 203 pounds, but the Florida Atlantic alum plays much bigger than that. The compact runner has the elusiveness and burst to turn the corner and run to daylight, but he also showed a willingness to run the ball between the tackles. Durability will always be a concern, but with T.J. Yeldon being the only true threat of usurping Singletary for carries, as rookie Zack Moss figures to be behind the curve due to the shortened offseason, the stage is set for a sophomore surge.
22. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers
Many felt like James Conner was poised for NFL stardom as the Steelers’ lead running back, but injuries and a quarterback carousel hindered his progress. Conner seems best suited as a prominent rotational player rather than a three-down workhorse, as rookie Benny Snell proved himself worthy of a role in the backfield in Conner’s absence.
21. David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
One of my primary breakout picks a season ago, David Montgomery failed to live up to his billing for various reasons, averaging a paltry 3.7 yards per carry on 242 rushing attempts as a rookie. The Bears added several key pieces on offense over the offseason to complement their young running back, which should lead to more production and help alleviate some of the pressure. I am expecting a breakout season from Montgomery in 2020.
20. Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens
Mark Ingram recorded his third 1,000-yard season in his first year with the Ravens, and even at 30 years old, I like Ingram’s odds to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark once again, as the lead running back on arguably the most explosive offense in football.
19. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
As of this moment, Leonard Fournette is still very much a part of the Jacksonville Jaguars plans. Barring something unforeseen, the burly running back should be an offensive focal point once again. While Fournette carried the ball 265 times in 2019, the next closest in carries was quarterback Gardner Minshew with 67. Expect Fournette to shoulder the lion’s share of the carries once again.
18. Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos
Injuries have limited Melvin Gordon to 12 games in consecutive seasons, but when healthy, the 27-year old is one of the best running backs in football. The main concern surrounding Gordon’s 2020 outlook isn’t necessarily his health, but rather the uncertainty of his usage, with Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman still in the picture.
17. David Johnson, Houston Texans
One of the premier running backs in football just a few seasons ago, injuries have hampered David Johnson’s production in recent years. Traded to the Texans in March, Johnson becomes the centerpiece on a team suddenly absent of an elite receiving option. Veteran running back Carlos Hyde produced the finest season of his career in the very same offense a season ago, so if Johnson can stay on the field, he should find success in the Deshaun Watson-led offense.
16. Todd Gurley, Atlanta Falcons
Todd Gurley’s knee injuries have been well-documented over the years, and the Falcons will reportedly put him on a touch limit. The top running back in football merely two seasons ago, Gurley is expected to be part of a committee that includes Brian Hill and Ito Smith, which should ultimately keep him fresh enough to make an impact on minimal touches.