After every NFL season, there are only two precious spots for running backs on the first
team All-Pro squad. A.P. All-Pros don’t get a trip to Hawaii. However, they do get to bask in the glow of knowing that fifty A.P. voters, made up of media members, former players and coaches, think they’re the best at what they do for at least one season. Last year, I was in the majority. My votes went to Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew and LeSean McCoy of the Eagles. Will they repeat as All-Pros? Even if all contract disputes are resolved, probably not. And here’s why.
Since the turn of the century, 18 different running backs have been named All-Pro. However, in those 12 seasons, only four of them have made the team more than once. One, Marshall Faulk, is in the Hall of Fame. Another, Priest Holmes, was un-drafted. Adrian Peterson made the team multiple times but he’s coming off an injury this year, and LaDanian Tomlinson just retired.
Who are this year’s favorites? Well, do you even want to be a frontrunner? Do you have to be on a good team, a playoff team? The answer is no on both counts. Neither Jones-Drew nor McCoy were on good or playoff teams. The Eagles were one of the biggest flops of the season while the Jaguars dumped their coach before the year was over.
At running back, it’s simply a numbers game. There are lots of numbers to look at. Most
important to me are yards rushing, yards per carry, total yards and touchdowns. MJD
was a workhorse, carrying the ball more than 340 times and rushing for the most yards in
the league. Meanwhile, McCoy scored the most total touchdowns, a combined 20, with 17 of those coming on the ground.
The year before last, un-drafted Arian Foster led the league in rushing. He was an All-Pro on a losing team. When Chris Johnson blazed his way to All-Pro glory in 2009, rushing for over 2000 yards, his Titans were just a .500 team. He was the favorite to repeat but didn’t. Last season, after striking it rich with a new contract, he struck out on the field. He had more sub-30-yard games (5) than he did 100-yard games (3).
Which brings me to my All-Pro favorites. As Captain Renault said in Casablanca, “Round up the usual suspects.” And there are plenty. For a position that’s been de-valued in this pass happy era, there’s a plethora of top flight All-Pro possibilities at running back.
Here’s my top ten:
1-Arian Foster-A fantasy favorite too. Lots of touches. Elusive and fast. A student of the
game and a hard worker. His new contract will not diminish his drive.
2-Ray Rice-Could easily have made first team last year if coaches didn’t screw up by
keeping the ball out of his hands in a couple of games.
3-Adrian Peterson-When healthy and when his coaches don’t forget to get the ball in his
hands, he’s as good as it gets.
4-LeSean McCoy-I don’t think he gets 20 touchdowns again, but he’ll get a bunch.
5-Maurice Jones-Drew- New coach, new owner, old contract. Holdout, holding breath in
6-Matt Forte-Healthy, and I assume happy, with new deal. Explosive running and
catching the football.
7-Chris Johnson-He can’t be that bad again, can he?
8-Frank Gore-Remarkable career considering all the major injuries he had in college
and assorted ones in the pros.
9-Jamaal Charles-The knee is rebuilt, and if it’s working, he’s moving way up on my list.
10-Michael Turner-Not what he was a few years ago, but the numbers are still good.
Bob Berger is a 35-year veteran of sports radio. For the last 18 seasons Bob hosted "Around The NFL" on Network Radio. He's on the Panel of Voters for the Associated Press NFL All-Pro team and post season awards. In recent years Bob hosted weekends on Yahoo Sports Radio, Sporting News Radio and One On One Sports. He is a graduate of the University of Miami.