Top 5 NFL Running Backs for 2011: NFL Fan

2011 NFL running backs

Although NFL quarterbacks get most of the attention around the NFL in 2011 and wide receivers have begun to take on almost diva-like eccentricities, running backs have been the backbone of most NFL offenses throughout the league's history. As a New Orleans Saints fan, I saw firsthand what happened to my team when all of our running backs were injured in 2010. Take a closer look at the top 5 NFL running backs going into the 2011 season.

5. Jamaal Charles(notes): Kansas City Chiefs

Running back Jamaal Charles has improved each year in the NFL. In 2010, his third year in the NFL, Charles rushed for 1,467 yards. More impressively, he posted a ridiculous 6.4 yards per carry average. Charles has also become a threat as a receiver as he had 468 receiving yards in 2010. After being named to the Pro Bowl and earning first team NFL All-Pro honors, Charles will continue to climb the ranks of NFL running backs if he continues to improve in 2011.

4. Arian Foster(notes): Houston Texans

I'm sure I wasn't the only NFL fan who was shocked that Arian Foster led NFL running backs with 1,616 rushing yards in 2010. His Week 1 game against the Colts was incredible. Certainly, Foster caught NFL defensive coordinators napping last year with his Pro Bowl and first team All-Pro performance. However, I need to see how Foster follows up his great season at running back in 2011 before I can rank him atop the NFL running back list.

3. Maurice Jones-Drew(notes): Jacksonville Jaguars

When the Jaguars named Jones-Drew their clear, number one running back in 2009, he did not disappoint. Since then, the running back has twice rushed for over 1,300 yards. With two Pro Bowls in the NFL, Jones-Drew has proven that he is an effective and durable NFL running back. In 2011, Foster and Charles may eclipse Maurice Jones-Drew. But for the time being, I still have more faith in Jones-Drew at running back in 2011.

2. Adrian Peterson: Minnesota Vikings

By his standards, Adrian Peterson probably feels that he had a subpar NFL season in 2010. But he still rushed for 1,298 yards and scored 12 TDs. I am also impressed that he only had one fumble, something he struggled with in the NFC Championship against the Saints. Now that the Brett Favre(notes) drama is over in Minnesota in 2011, I expect Peterson to rush for over 1,500 yards at running back and earn a fifth straight trip to the Pro Bowl in 2011.

1. Chris Johnson: Tennessee Titans

Like Peterson, Johnson's production fell off in 2010. But what running back is going to improve upon a 2,000 yard season? However, he needs to stop all that talking so that defenses do not have an added incentive to smack him. In his defense, Johnson's production at running back had to be impacted by his team's instability at QB. Chris Johnson is the top NFL running back heading into 2011 as he has shown the ability to dominate at his position.

Honorable Mention 2011 NFL running backs

Peyton Hillis(notes): Cleveland Browns, Steven Jackson: St. Louis Rams, Darren McFadden(notes): Oakland Raiders

Sources

"2010 NFL Rushing & Receiving," pro-football-reference.com

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Updated Sunday, May 22, 2011