The position of running back has been pushed to the back of the line in recent years, as more teams are going by a “committee” approach to securing numbers from the position.
However, if you are lucky enough to have one of these backs, you have a bit of a lead on the rest of the field in the race to the Super Bowl.
Last year, the two team competing for the Lombardi Trophy had Ray Rice and Frank Gore, two strong, powerful backs who know when to try and bust one loose for a touchdown, or just focus on gaining that pivotal yard or two for a first down.
Here’s a look at five running backs that mean more to their respective teams than most:
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
The only knock on McFadden is his lack of durability.
When the former Arkansas two-time runner-up for the Heisman is healthy, I’ll put him up there with the best in the business.
McFadden has the speed and quickness to break one anytime, but his lack of carries seems to have him second-guessing on a number of instances.
Hands-wise, “Run DMC” is an elite back. If he can get his body to cooperate, he could move right to the top.
Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
Just entering his second year, Richardson has become the focal point to Cleveland’s offensive attack.
He has the size to run you over, and the speed to run right by you.
The former Alabama standout caught 51 passes last year, as well, but wasn’t able to break many big-time runs. Look for that to change this year as he becomes more accustom to the NFL game.
While Richardson didn’t break the 1,000-yard mark, he did gain 36 first downs and scored 11 touchdowns, showing his production value.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Trent Richardson got the pub entering the year out of the draft, but Martin was the more valuable player to his team.
Martin, fresh off the “Blue Turf” from Boise State, racked up 200-yard games and was an exceptional receiver.
As tough as Richardson was between the tackles, the diminutive Martin was even better, using his low center of gravity to navigate would-be defenders.
The fourth-leading rusher last year, Martin averaged 4.6 yards per carry and amassed 11 touchdowns, including 11 runs of 20 yards or longer.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
If Fred Jackson is out of the mix, look for 2013 to be the breakout season that Spiller has been forecasted for since departing from Clemson.
Spiller has incredible value in the return game, but the Bills would be smart to keep him from the extra punishment.
The former track standout has lightning quick speed and sports a solid pair of hands out of the backfield, as well. Spiller, on just 207 carries, racked up over 1,200 yards and scored six touchdowns, including 12 runs of 20 yards or more. He also fumbled just twice and averaged six yards per carry.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
No surprise here, as “A.D.” nearly eclipsed the all-time single-season rushing mark last year.
Just a year removed from knee surgery, Peterson started the year fast and never let up, carrying the mediocre Viking offense to the postseason behind his 2.097 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Now, with a full summer to prepare his body for the wars of the gridiron, Peterson looks like a sure-bet to lead the league in rushing and possibly pass Eric Dickerson’s mark this time around.
The one knock on Peterson – fumbles – was even corrected during his 348-carry campaign, as he lost the ball just three times. Included in that was 85 runs for a first down, tops in the league.