When the Buffalo Bills traded for LeSean McCoy, it changed the dynamic of their running game. C.J. Spiller is no longer there, but they have a much more accomplished McCoy expected to take the bulk of the carries with a very capable backup in Fred Jackson. McCoy might not be the NFL’s leading rusher in 2015, but the combination of his rushing and receiving skills, and keeping Jackson as insurance gives the Bills a desirable backfield situation.
There are better backs in the league than McCoy, and a few of them are highlighted in our rankings from second through fifth.
DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing in 2014 and has changed locales to a very different backfield mix, and a deeper one.
Each of the top three teams in our top-five ranking have added either a starter or primary backup to upgrade over what they had in 2015. Cincinnati and Seattle were top-six rushing teams already in 2014.
Depth: Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon, Bryce Brown, Karlos Williams
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 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. Sure, the Bills were 25th in rushing last year, but adding McCoy and Rex Ryan’s style lead us to believe McCoy will still surpass 1,300 yards while the overall running game will be upgraded in Buffalo.
Depth: Ryan Matthews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, Matthew Tucker
The Eagles were as busy as any team in free agency, trading away RB LeSean McCoy but protecting their running game by signing Matthews as insurance while the Murray deal was still in limbo. Now the Eagles, who finished ninth in rushing last year, have more of a power game and better depth, and they still have Darren Sproles for a speed element. Murray isn’t likely to lead the NFL in rushing for the second straight year, but the Eagles’ overall running game should be better.
Depth: Jerick McKinnon, Matt Asiata, Joe Banyard, DuJuan Harris
With Peterson back, the Vikings could significantly improve from their No. 14 ranking in a season of backfield turmoil. Peterson has something to prove after coming off his legal issues and the tag of now being a 30-year-old running back. McKinnon is a viable option, especially in a backup role. The combination of them together should be a good one.
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. The only thing left to prove is that Bell’s 2014 season will be the norm for him in the coming years.
5) CINNCINATI BENGALSStarter: Jeremy Hill
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. In other words, he might be the most underrated running back in the league right now.