Take Your Pick - Best Running Back in NFL
There’s been an ongoing debate this season about who the number-one running back in football is. Of course, it’s little surprise that the argument revolves around Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson and we’ve been bored to death with the talking hands waxing poetic about these two. My question isn’t “who’s better”. My question’s actually, “Why is nobody mentioning Steven Jackson”?. Sure he plays on a terrible football team, but that certainly doesn’t negate his skill and value as a tailback. Nor should it. Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson play on two of the most hyped teams in the 2009 NFL sports betting season, but Jackson is overlooked in this discussion far too many times.
So let’s make this simple. A running back is valued because of their ability to run north and south, to the edges and as a pass catching scrambler. If we rank these guys one, two, three and a lot a certain number of points for these rankings (let’s go with 5, 3, 1to make it interesting) then this should bring us to a logical conclusion, right? Yeah, I know it’s up for debate, but this is MY article, numb nuts!
Steven Jackson is the biggest of the three and most of his yards are actually won on dive, gut and inside rushes. At 6-foot-2 and 236 pounds, he is certainly the biggest of the three, but that’s not the entire story. Jackson, despite a horrible offensive line, powers through defenses that stack eight in the box on virtually every play and is almost impossible to bring down.
This one is an open and shut case for me. Chris Johnson has proved time and again that he’s the most dangerous running-back in the league when he gets to the edges. He’s posted game-highs of 91, 48, 89, 41 and 85 yards this year alone. By comparison, Peterson’s longest run was 64-yards and Jackson’s best this season is just 58.
1. Jackson & Johnson (tie)
If you play fantasy, Adrian Peterson’s ranking drops almost immediately behind guys like Jones-Drew, Westbrook (when he’s alive) and Jackson. The reason is because up until this year, he’s never been used as a receiver. Peterson’s 33-catches this season is just seven less than his career total in the first two years of his career. Simply put, he’s left those duties to Chester Taylor, but he’s also just never proven that he’s a capable pass-catcher.
So why are Jackson and Johnson tied? Simple. Jackson averages 46-catches and 393 receiving yards per season. He showed in 2006 that he can be a tour-de-force with 90 catches for 806 yards. I fully believe that Johnson can do similar damage, but he simply hasn’t had the chance to…yet.
1. Steven Jackson – 11 points
2. Chris Johnson –11 points
3. Adrian Peterson – 7 points
Damnit, we’re stuck in a tie. Only one way to fix this (and Adrian Peterson can stick around for this too). It’s time for…
BONUS ROUND – INTANGIBLES (2 POINTS FOR WINNER)
WORKHORSE BACK – Steven Jackson the epitome of a workhorse back, and almost defies convention by serving as an every-down back despite his size. Chris Johnson can bust a game wide open with his insane speed. But the winner here is Adrian Peterson. Why? In 2008 he notched 10 games over 100-yards, which is more than Johnson (who could match or beat that mark this season) or Jackson, whose best is six games over 100-yards in 2006.
1. Peterson 2. Johnson 3. Jackson
GAMEBREAKER – This is where Jackson falls short. He can take over games, but not in the same way that Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson can. As good as Johnson has been this year, he’s never had a game like Adrian Peterson did against the Chicago Bears during his rookie year. Against the feared Bears defense in Soldier Field, Peterson exploded for 224-yards and three touchdowns and was virtually untouchable. Sure, every dog has its day, but Peterson did it a second time in his rookie season a month later against San Diego where he ran for 296 yards and three more touchdowns.
1. Peterson 2. Johnson 3. Jackson
PROTECT THAT ROCK – When you consider fumbles, the total number of cough ups is important, but even more so is the times those fumbles are lost. That can break your back if you have any money locked in on a football sports betting pick. So let’s put it this way: career fumbles and career fumbles lost.
Jackson – 20 fumbles, 13 lost (65%)
Johnson - 2 fumbles, 2 lost (100%)
Peterson – 19 fumbles, 12 lost (63%)
Jackson’s the worst offender in terms of ratio, but he’s also been in the league for six freaking years. Average that out and it’s just over two per season. Peterson’s actually the worst offender, turning over the rock an atrocious 6.3 times per season. So the winner in this category, undeniably, is CJ.
1. Johnson 2. Jackson 3. Peterson
DURABILITY/EXPERIENCE – The one thing I’m scared about with Chris Johnson is his size. At just 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, he’s the smallest of the three backs listed here. Peterson has some troubling injuries of his own, namely his ankle. Until either of them have done what Jackson’s accomplished in so many years, I’m not even opening this up for debate. If you ask me who’s going to be around three years down the road, it’s Jackson with Peterson second and images of Johnson getting obliterated because of his stature.
1. Jackson 2. Peterson 3. Johnson
YOUR TEAM SUCKS –I guess you know who’s winning this category. Johnson has played on a vertically limited team, while Peterson plays with Brett Favre, one of the best quarterbacks of all time. Aside from playing with Kurt Warner, Jackson’s teams have been downright awful.
Yet Johnson gets second place because Adrian Peterson plays behind one of the best offensive lines in football. Namely, he plays behind Steve Hutchinson who is by and large the best left-tackle in football. Could he have posted massive numbers if he played for the Rams? I’m not getting in to that, but I’m just leaving it out there.
1. Jackson 2. Johnson 3. Peterson
1. Steven Jackson – 15 points
2. Chris Johnson – 13 points
3. Adrian Peterson – 11 points
What makes this an impossible debate is that we have no idea how good Adrian Peterson would be running behind a mediocre offensive line. Shaun Alexander was the greatest back for two straight years before losing Hutchinson and literally disappearing. I am not saying that Peterson is like Alexander, but this two-horse race is actually a three-horse race. Jackson has proven year in and year out that he is a top tier back.
While Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson are getting the nods this season because their teams have been relevant, I’m going in the other direction. For years he’s been proving that he’s a premier back, and I simply can not put that much stock in to just 27-games of Chris Johnson data or 42-games of Adrian Peterson stats. The best running back in football today is Steven Jackson.
In three more years, let’s have this talk again.