When thinking about top running backs in the NFL there are a lot of popular names. Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliot, and Derrick Henry are among the top of most lists for this upcoming season, and while they’re great players, there is a lot expected of them and a high potential they will be a top focus of many defenses. The running backs listed below are at the top of the to-watch list as they are rising stars who have the best potential, in my opinion, to have a breakout year and top the stat sheets.
1. Saquon Barkley – New York Giants
Saquon Barkley is already among the top-ranked running backs but I don’t think we’ve seen him at his full potential. His rookie year, behind a very weak offensive line, he was the second-highest rusher with 1’300 rushing yards while maintaining 5 yards per carry. His sophomore year he had another 1000 yard rushing year, but he only played 13 games due to injury. He still wasn’t fully recovered when he stepped back on the field and managed to produce solid numbers rushing, while also adding 52 catches. The Giants added 3 offensive linemen in the draft which should improve their line, plus Barkley has had an offseason to get fully recovered. He has the experience now, plus will be running behind a behind the best offensive line of his career. With the Giants not relying on Barkley as much after his injury last year, defenses may not be prepared for Saquon and he can have a big year.
Josh Jacobs – Las Vegas Raiders
Jacobs was the first Raiders rookie in team history to rush for 1000 yards. He achieved that while playing half the season with a fractured shoulder which caused him to miss 3 of the games. He has already established himself as a powerful running back that balances speed and strength and if he can stay healthy for a full season he can easily top his stats this next season and become the Raiders biggest threat. Teams may not be prepared for Josh Jacobs breakout year and it will be exciting to see him full strength.
Aaron Jones – Green Bay Packers
Aaron Jones was overlooked a little bit in his early career in the pass-heavy Packers offense but has proven to be a productive running back. He started a combined 12 games his first two years but still had 12 rushing touchdowns and averaged a league-best 5.5 yards per carry during that time. When he stepped into a full time starting role last year he showed himself as a touchdown machine scoring 16 on the ground and 3 in the air and started every game of the season. He can potentially see even bigger numbers if Green Bay focuses on the run game more as he only saw 236 carries last year, but he still had 4-digit rushing numbers. He is a reliable option for the Packers plus he has stayed healthy so far and his best years still could be to come.