The running game isn’t going out of style in the NFL, as many teams have made an effort to add to their running back groups via free agency and high draft picks in the last few years. With rosters mostly set for this fall, these are the top running back committees for the 2019 season.
The Seahawks led the NFL in rushing with 160 yards per game last season, but they lost Mike Davis in free agency, and quarterback Russell Wilson added 23.5 rushing yards per game himself. But 1,100-yard rusher Chris Carson and 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny is a formidable duo, with both guys as all-around players that can carry the load for Seattle. You could make the argument for this backfield being borderline top-five.
James Conner showed that he can be one of the NFL’s top workhorse running backs while stepping up during Le’Veon Bell’s absence last season, and Jaylen Samuels stepped right in when Conner was injured and put up 172 total yards in a start against the Patriots. Fourth-round rookie Benny Snell Jr. was also added to the mix in a Steelers backfield that will remain very productive this season.
The addition of C.J. Anderson makes the Lions one of the better running back committees in football, as he joins promising second-year runner Kerryon Johnson and experienced receiving back Theo Riddick. Johnson gives Detroit the all-around game, Anderson gives them a change-of-pace power element, and Riddick excels on third downs—though they can all do everything well if asked, particularly Johnson and Anderson.
This might seem too high for the Bears, but their running back group is really intriguing after they sent Jordan Howard to the Eagles for a sixth-round pick and instead signed Mike Davis and drafted David Montgomery in the third round. And then there’s one of the most explosive playmakers in football, Tarik Cohen, who can probably be used even more after he had 99 carries and 71 receptions last season. Matt Nagy clearly has a plan on how to use the backfield combination, and all three players should help Chicago put up big numbers in 2019.
Frank Gore should be a lock for the Hall of Fame, and LeSean McCoy probably has a chance, so the Bills could have a couple of guys that’ll be wearing gold jackets headlining their backfield. Gore and McCoy are both over 30, but they’ve run for a combined 25,354 yards—by far the most of any duo in NFL history—and 146 touchdowns in their careers. McCoy might need to make the team for them to actually ever play a game together, though.
With just 133 carries in his career entering last season (all with the Dolphins), Damien Williams took advantage of a starting opportunity with the Chiefs last season by scoring a whopping ten touchdowns in the final six games (including playoffs). Kansas City also added former Niners second-round pick Carlos Hyde, who should also be at his best while playing in Andy Reid’s talent-loaded offense.
Injuries are a concern, with both second-year running back Derrius Guice and rookie fourth-rounder Bryce Love coming off torn ACLs, while Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson have both battled injuries throughout their careers. But the upside of Washington’s backfield is massive, as all four guys can make huge plays, and a committee approach could help keep everyone fresh—though “All Day” is better the more he gets the ball, even at age 34.
LeGarrette Blount’s free agent departure and in-season injuries made the running back situation a concern for the Eagles in 2018, but they addressed the position aggressively this offseason. Jordan Howard has the third-most rushing yards in the league since being drafted in 2016, and second-round pick Miles Sanders is a balanced player that should contribute immediately for Philadelphia. There’s also the underutilized Corey Clement in the mix, and it’s possible Darren Sproles plays another season.
There is no bigger size difference in running backs than the monstrous Derrick Henry and the “undersized” Dion Lewis, but both guys play like they’re Henry’s size in terms of effort and toughness. Henry has shown he can be unstoppable when he’s fed the ball, while Lewis has a knack for picking up extra yardage by moving forward before going down. Lewis is seen as the better receiver, but both he and Henry are reliable options out of the backfield for Marcus Mariota.
The Chargers are probably the one backfield in the NFL that can draw legitimate Batman and Robin comparisons entering 2019. Melvin Gordon (38 total touchdowns in the last three seasons) is the Batman for the Chargers, as he’s become an elite offensive centerpiece arguably on the same level as the other top running back in LA, Todd Gurley. But when Austin Ekeler comes into the game and covers for Batman, he does serious damage as Robin.
None of the top four backfields have played together yet, but the upside is enticing for them all. While Alvin Kamara hasn’t rushed for 1,000 yards in a season, he certainly has the ability to do so, and he’s a threat for an elusive 1,000/1,000 season (done only three times in league history and not since Marshall Faulk in 1999). Former running mate Mark Ingram is now in Baltimore, but former Raider and Viking Latavius Murray shouldn’t be a drop off (if he’s not an upgrade). The Saints have a thunder-and-lightning combo that’ll be tough for opposing defenses to stop in 2019.
The Niners just have a bunch of lightning in their backfield, as Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, and Matt Breida all have 4.4 wheels, with game speed that arguably exceeds their timed speed. It’s unclear how Kyle Shanahan is going to utilize so many dynamic players in his backfield, but it’s a good problem to have. There should be a ton of big plays from San Francisco’s runners this season.
The Patriots already had one of the best and deepest backfields in football, and they added to it after drafting Alabama’s Damien Harris in the third round of this year’s draft. Harris joins Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead on a team that was already fifth in rushing last season. All four guys are also versatile weapons in the passing game for Tom Brady—particularly White and Burkhead.
Duke Johnson Jr.’s status is up in the air, but the Browns arguably have the NFL’s most talented backfield even if Johnson is traded before the season. Nick Chubb was exceptional as a rookie in 2018, running for 996 yards and eight touchdowns on just 192 attempts (5.2 yards per carry), and Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing as a rookie in 2017. The off-field issues for Hunt are no doubt troubling, but in terms of just talent, Cleveland has one of the best one-two punches in recent memory in Chubb and Hunt.