Here are my starting running backs for each of the teams in the NFC South, ranked from 1 to 4.
1. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1402 yards on 288 Attempts, 6 TDs
2015 saw Doug Martin return to his phenomenal rookie form, and he was up there in the conversation with Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley for the best RB in the league. Martin's elusiveness, combined with his ridiculous strength is what makes him one of the most terrifying players to tackle in the league. After signing a new contract with the Bucs this offseason, look for Martin to continue his terrorization of defenses across the NFL, especially with a much-improved offensive line continuing to create better opportunities for him. After proving himself for multiple years at the professional level, Martin has surely solidified himself as one of the scariest backs in the league.
2. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
1061 yards on 264 attempts, 11 TDs
Freeman had a solid year last season for the Falcons, and was a big reason why they got off to a 5-0 start. With 8 total touchdowns in his first 5 games of 2015, it's clear to see the immense red zone threat he can be. While I don't believe he possesses the same level of agility that Doug Martin has, Freeman's explosiveness still makes him a very good back, and he's a great complement to the Falcons' Matt Ryan-led passing attack.
3. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
989 yards on 242 attempts, 6 TDs
Although by a small margin, Stewart has been called upon less than both Martin and Freeman, perhaps due to QB Cam Newton's ball running ability being a huge threat to opposing teams as well. Despite this, Stewart completed the 2015 season just shy of 1000 yards, and still accrued 6 touchdowns over its course. Stewart is an incredibly physical back that can pound the ball up the middle unlike many other RBs in the league, and was crucial to the Panthers' impressive run to the Super Bowl. Because of him, the Panthers were one of the most balanced teams in the NFL, as he was a completely different dimension to their already formidable offense.
4. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
769 yards on 166 attempts, 6 TDs
In previous seasons, Ingram has never managed to crack the 1000 yard mark, and his health is a big issue. If he can stay healthy, there's no reason why he couldn't take the spot of anyone above on this list, but until he shows a significant amount of sustained success it'll be hard for him to be in that conversation. Ingram displayed a very promising start to the 2015 season, but a shoulder injury left him on season-ending injury reserve from Week 12 on. As a national champion and Heisman Trophy winner in college, Ingram definitely displays an immense amount of raw talent, but will have to continue to prove himself at the next level in order for him to usurp the likes of Doug Martin for the title of Best Back in the NFC South.
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