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    The top 25 NFL running backs heading into the 2020 season

    Who are the top 25 running backs in the NFL for the 2020 season? Pro Football Network draft analyst Andrew DiCecco breaks down his top choices.

    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.

    15. Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals

    I mentioned David Montgomery as a breakout candidate earlier, and Kenyan Drake is another player poised for success in 2020. After essentially wasting away in Miami, Drake was dealt to the Arizona Cardinals last October. In eight games, Drake rushed for 643 yards on 123 carries. With only Chase Edmunds and Eno Benjamin behind him, and one of the better receiving corps in football, Drake finally finds himself in an ideal position to thrive.

    14. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

    Austin Ekeler made the most of his opportunities last season, establishing himself as one of the more dominant all-purpose running backs, rushing for 557 yards and bringing in 92 receptions for 993 yards and eight touchdowns. Melvin Gordon signed with Denver in free agency, so the backfield officially belongs to Ekeler. If he proves he can withstand the rigors of a full slate of games, it’s feasible he amasses 1,800 all-purpose yards in 2020.

    13. Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets

    The Jets’ big-ticket free agent addition a season ago didn’t quite pan out as expected, but that had little to do with Le’Veon Bell and everything to do with Adam Gase’s offense. When he wasn’t shaking off defenders in the backfield, Bell showed glimpses of the dynamic player he was in Pittsburgh. With a retooled offensive line and a healthy Sam Darnold, Bell should return to prominence.

    12. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

    One of my favorite running backs in the game today, Chris Carson brings a downhill, physical element to the Seahawks backfield. Considered more of a volume runner, the more carries Carson gets throughout a game, the stronger he gets — and the more defenses relent late in games. Carson’s punishing running style has often led to various injuries throughout his career, but when healthy, there aren’t many power runners you’d rather have.

    11. Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

    When Jordan Howard left to join the Miami Dolphins in free agency, the Eagles’ backfield was officially turned over to the ascending Miles Sanders. The Penn State product came on strong in the second half of the season, establishing himself as a three-down running back. I wouldn’t rule out a 1,200-yard rushing season from Sanders, who I project to add another 50-plus catches in the passing game.

    10. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

    Another player who has battled a myriad of injuries during his young career, Aaron Jones started all 16 games in 2019, rushing for 1,084 yards and 16 touchdowns and adding 49 receptions, 474 yards, and three touchdowns in the air. The Packers selected Boston College running back A.J. Dillon is the second round, giving Green Bay their own version of Thunder and Lightning, which should only keep Jones even more fresh for what many expect to be his coming-out party.

    9. Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

    Josh Jacobs burst onto the scene as a rookie last season, rushing for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games. The Las Vegas Raiders added the draft’s premier deep threat in Henry Ruggs III, to go along with Bryan Edwards and Lynn Bowden, which should create more opportunities for Jacobs to find running room this season.

    8. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

    If the Browns didn’t have Kareem Hunt backing up Nick Chubb, there is a good chance Chubb makes a run at the rushing title in 2020 — he’s that special. While I certainly expect Hunt to take some carries away from Chubb, I still anticipate the Georgia standout to put together his best season to date. Chubb is one of the best blends of power and finesse at the running back position in the game today.

    7. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

    As talented as Joe Mixon is, he tends to get overlooked because of where he plays. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound runner possesses innate patience at the line of scrimmage and outstanding contact balance while navigating through traffic. Mixon eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in two out of his three seasons thus far, and with the key offseason additions, he could be in store for his best campaign to date.

    6. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

    Alvin Kamara is one of the game’s most prolific receiving threats out of the backfield and has tremendous vision and elusiveness as a runner. He should continue to lose some goal-line touches to Latavius Murray, but Kamara is still among the best at his position.

    5. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

    If his playoff performances were any indication of what he could be with that kind of volume, there is a good chance Derrick Henry finishes as the top running back next season. A true volume runner, Henry will need to prove he can withstand the rigors and shoulder the load for a full season, but his running style and athleticism is conducive to sustained success.

    4. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

    Prior to last year, Dalvin Cook hadn’t been healthy for more than 11 games in a single season. In 2019, Cook played in 14 games, rushing for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns. Cook has the luxury of having one of the league’s top backups in Alexander Mattison, who offers starter upside, which kept him fresh throughout the season. If the Vikings’ 1-2 punch proves to be just as effective in 2020, I foresee a 1,300-yard campaign from the Florida State product.

    3. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

    The Cowboys have an abundance of offensive weaponry, with Ezekiel Elliott being the centerpiece. Whether he’s catching the ball out of the backfield and manufacturing yards after the catch or surging ahead and ripping off chunks of yards at a time on the ground, Elliott is one of the more complete running backs in the game. With an improved passing attack, Elliott should put up big numbers.

    2. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

    Saquon Barkely’s production dipped in 2019, largely due to missing three games due to an ankle injury, but between the key additions to the offensive line and Daniel Jones’ expected sophomore surge, Barkley, the Giants’ primary offensive weapon should have little trouble getting back on track.

    1. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

    The NFL’s premier all-purpose running back now gets to work with the innovative Matt Rhule, a revamped receiving corps, and a new quarterback. Christian McCaffrey will once again be the focal point of the offense, but it will be interesting to see all the different ways they choose to deploy the 2019 first-team All-Pro. I expect McCaffrey to build off a prolific third season, effectively making himself a frontrunner for Offensive Player of the Year.

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