Jordan Howard has been a star for the Chicago Bears almost since the beginning. The Bears took him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft to provide depth. He took over as the primary ballcarrier in Week 4 and never looked back.
Howard is the best player on the Bears offense. That should not change for a few years with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky entering Year 2 and the receiver group still lacking depth.
Howard has rushed for over 100 yards at least five times and topped the 1,100-yard mark in each of his first two seasons in the NFL. He is an every-down back that has the size and strength to run between the tackles and the hands and athleticism to catch the ball out of the backfield.
#2 – Dalvin Cook
Cook was well on his way to challenging for the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award last season, but tore his ACL while making a cut in Week 4. The Minnesota Vikings moved up in the second round to get Cook to be their all-purpose back. He is a tremendous athlete with the ability to beat anyone in space. He does not have the size or strength to be a consistent between-the-tackles runner.
#3 – LaGarrette Blount
Blount has been on the Super Bowl winning team in each of the last two seasons. The Detroit Lions signed him earlier in the offseason in hopes that he can make it three for three with three different teams this season. However, the Lions may be asking more of him than they should. He is big, strong and very difficult to tackle, but is not an every-down or any-situation back. He is a short-yardage, ground-and-pound back.
He ranks 10th in rushing attempts, 10th in rushing yards, eighth in rushing touchdowns, eighth in yards per rush attempt, 24th in total touchdowns and 30th in yards per touch among active players.
#4 – Tarik Cohen
Cohen is one of the most explosive and dynamic backs in the league. The diminutive backup for the Bears is nearly impossible to tackle in the open field. He has tremendous speed and lateral quickness. He is a weapon out of the backfield as a receiver and as a kick and punt returner. Despite all his athleticism and speed, he is not an all-round back. He averaged only just over five yards per touch as a rookie last season.
#5 – Aaron Jones
The Green Bay Packers have trying to find a primary running back for several years. They even tried moving wide receiver Ty Montgomery to running back. No matter who has gotten the ball, they have had some, but not consistent, success. Jones may be the guy to change that. He was fifth round pick of the Packers in 2017 and four games in the middle of the season. He finished the season as the backup and was second on the team in carries to fellow rookie Jamaal Williams. Jones may begin the season as the backup, but Jones will finish the season as the lead running back.
#6 – Latavius Murray
Murray got off to a slow start in his first season with the Vikings in 2017. He missed the beginning of training camp after having ankle surgery, but finished his first season in Minnesota as the clear-cut No. 2 behind Cook going into 2018. He is big and long with a 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound frame. He uses his size to get extra yards and forces defensive backs to change they way they try to tackle him. Along with being good around the goal line, he is an asset on third down. He is a very good receiver and blocker that will help the offense stay on the field in either role. He ranks 22nd in rushing attempts, 26th in rushing yards, 21st in rushing touchdowns, 22nd in yards per rush attempt and 24th in yards per touch among active players.
#7 – Theo Riddick
Riddick is one of the best receiving backs in the league. He is a third-down matchup running back that will catch almost anything thrown his way. He has been a valuable member of the Lions for his ability to be a receiver and that he can play on special teams. He has yet to rush for 400 yards or four yards per carry in a season, but has topped 400 receiving yards twice and eight yards per catch three times in his five-year NFL career.
#8 – Jamaal Williams
Williams has good size and athleticism, but didn’t make the most of his opportunity to get the workhorse carries. As stated earlier, he led the Packers in rushing and will likely begin the season as the starter. However, his average production will likely make him a better backup than starter. Despite starting seven games last season, he reached 70 yards just twice and topped four yards per carry once. It was a rather mediocre first season for the fourth round draft pick.
#9 – Ameer Abdullah
The Lions were really excited about Abdullah when they drafted him in the second round of the 2015 draft. They thought he would be their best running back since Barry Sanders retired after the 1998 season. However, injuries and mediocre play have left the Lions looking for their next starter. His roster spot is in trouble after the Lions drafted Kerryon Johnson in the second round and signed Blount as a free agent. There is a decent chance that Abdullah is cut prior to or during the preseason.
#10 – Aaron Ripkowski
Fullbacks are a rare breed of player in the NFL today. Ripkowski is one of the even rarer players that is good at it. He isn’t a great athlete, but does whatever the coach asks of him and does it well. He can run and catch the ball as well as block. In addition to his duties on offense, he can play all special teams situations.