Most of the teams in the AFC are returning their top running backs, but one of the teams that made the most noise in free agency might now have the best running back situation in the conference.
The Buffalo Bills had the 25th-ranked rushing attack in the NFL last year, but they were aggressive in trading for LeSean McCoy and that should significantly boost their rushing attack.
Some of the other top rushing attacks in the AFC this year are ranked there because of their recent history of success with returning workhorses.
Here are the top running back situations in the AFC, taking into consideration depth behind the starter:
Depth: Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon, Bryce Brown, Karlos Williams
LeSean McCoy was one of the most-used running backs in 2014, carrying the ball 312 times for 1,319 yards and catching 28 passes. That was with the Philadelphia Eagles. This year, his pairing with Fred Jackson in Buffalo could be one of the most productive duos in the league. And the depth behind them is as solid as it gets, too.
Depth: DeAngelo Williams, Dri Archer, John Harris, Ross Scheuerman
Bell had a breakout season in 2014, rushing for 1,361 yards and a very healthy 4.7-yard average. His 85.1-yard average per game was third in the league, and having Williams as a secondary option should help keep Bell fresh after a 290-carry season.
Depth: Giovani Bernard, Rex Burkhead, Cedric Peerman, James Wilder Jr.
Hill’s 5.1-yard average was one of the best in the league last year, and the combination of him and the explosive Bernard sets up nicely for a one-two backfield punch. Hill was top 10 in yards, average, and runs of 20 yards or more and 40 yards or more.
Depth: Alfred Blue, Chris Polk, Jonathan Grimes, Kenny Hilliard
Foster is an ideal combination of workhorse back (with 260 carries, despite missing two games) and production per carry. He had one of the top average-per-carries at 4.8. Blue proved he can capably fill in for Foster, as he had an incredible 36-carry, 156-yard game in one of Foster’s missed outings.
Depth: Knile Davis, Cyrus Gray, De'Anthony Thomas, Charcandrick West
Charles continued to be one of the league’s best rushers with a 5.0-yard average, but that’s still down from his 5.5-yard average over his seven-year career. He’s a great back on an offense that struggled overall. He is also one of the best receivers out of the backfield. If the Chiefs can get a little more out of Davis, they can improve on their No. 10-ranked rushing attack from 2014.
Depth: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Jarvorius Allen, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Terrence Magee
After years as an afterthought and backup, Forsett had a breakout season in 2014 in his first opportunity as a featured back. He rushed for 1,266 yards, an impressive 5.4-yard average and caught 44 passes. Depth behind him is thin, however, so keeping the 5-foot-8, 197-pound back healthy will be key for the Ravens rushing attack.
Depth: Damien Williams, LaMichael James, Mike Gillislee, Jay Ajayi
The progression of Miller’s career continues. In 2013, he became a full-time starter for the first time in his career, running for 709 yards. Last year, he broke the 1,000-yard mark with 1,099 and a strong 5.1-yard average. If LaMichael James or rookie Jay Ajayi can pick it up when Miller gets a rest, it could be a well-rounded rushing attack in 2014 that could break into the league’s top 10.
Depth: Stevan Ridley, Zac Stacy, Bilal Powell, Daryl Richardson
The Jets had the third-ranked running game in the NFL last year, but the loss of Chris Johnson, who had 663 yards and a 4.3-yard average won’t help. But they still have their leading rusher in Ivory (821 and 4.1-yard average) and a nice situation for the depth with Ridley and Stacy.
Depth: Dan Herron, Vick Ballard, Zurlon Tipton, Josh Robinson
How much can the addition of Frank Gore mean to last year’s 22nd-ranked rushing attack? That’s the million-dollar question. He had 1,106 yards in his final season in San Francisco, which is just about on average for his 10-year career, and getting Trent Richardson out of the lead spot should be a welcome sight. Gore and Herron could form a solid backfield by committee in 2015.
Depth: Branden Oliver, Danny Woodhead, Donald Brown, Jahtwan Edwards
There is no doubt the Chargers’ running game needed a shot in the arm after ranking 30th in rushing offense in 2014, and electric rookie Gordon should provide that. Oliver was the team’s leading rusher last year, but he had only 582 yards and a 3.6-yard average. Making the top 10 is based on projection, not past performance, in this case.
AFC’s top 10 RB situations for 2015
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