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Da Don’s Verdict: Top Ten RBs Heading Into the 2013 Season Led By Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster

I’m ultimately turning my attention to the RB position for today’s segment on Da Don’s Verdict and after the feedback I’ve received on my list of Top  Ten QBs I’m sure the debate will continue.

In every top 10 list there will be snubs like RGIII and Eli Manning for the QBs list. Well to be exactly fair the top two RBs in the league are written in stone for sure with Vikings RB Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster going 1 and 2 respectively.

The challenge begins at #3 but since I work the other way around we’ll start at #10. Notable RBs left off Steven Jackson (#15) Matt Forte (#13), Maurice Jones-Drew (#11), Darren McFadden (#14) and Stevan Ridley who came in ultimately at (#12).

10.          Trent Richardson              Cleveland Browns

A couple of second year players featured on today’s list and Trent starts it at #10. Richardson left no questions that he was worth the 3rd overall pick a year ago.

Also consider what he was able to do with Mark Ingram and Eddie Lacy pairing with him in the backfield throughout his collegiate career. Richardson runs hard and has a work ethic to match his on field effort. Another positive to look in the case of Richardson is the fact that Cleveland may very well have something brewing in their future with Josh Gordon, Brandon Weeden and Richardson himself to pair with that young defense.

Look for Richardson to catch up with Alfred Morris and Doug Martin in production this year. Having Joe Thomas at LT is a big help for sure and the numbers should show just that.

9.            CJ Spiller                              Buffalo Bills

Remember this countdown is for the RBs who’ll have the biggest impact this upcoming season. Well Spiller really had a great 2012 season, finally showing signs of why he was selected in the top 10 after leaving Clemson as the one man show that he was.

Buffalo prepares to play a lot of Spiller and if he’s as explosive as he was a year ago than QB EJ Manuel might be able to make some noise with Robert Woods and Stevie Johnson in play action.

Spiller is a guy who needs to be healthy the whole year which has been an issue for him, but with the way the Bills use him that’s a concern and I believe he’ll be up for the big challenge and Buffalo could be able to get to .500 if they can simplify the offense for eventual starting QB EJ Manuel.

8.            Frank Gore                         San Francisco 49ers

Now this is low for Frank Gore but there’s a reason for this, I feel that the 49ers will utilize LaMichael James more in the offense since its firmly established Kaepernick is the new franchise QB.

Gore has been as consistent as you can ask for but as a 49er fan you have to worry about his injury history will always be a concern but by taking carries away to James in his second year in the NFL and has the speed to run more of a spread attack including the new craze of the read option. Frank Gore still has the ability to rush for over 1200 yards and get 8-12 TDs even with James more involved.

It all comes down to the passing game and how many early leads will they have, that always leads to more numbers.

7.            Jamaal Charles                  Kansas City Chiefs

For me defining a good running back is simple picking between 12-15 guys who’re all pretty good is another challenge. But I had no plans of leaving Charles unrepresented.

Since 2008, Charles has emerged from a 3rd down back to Larry Johnson to one explosive asset to a team that should be a playoff team this year. Charles is in for a season that could finally get him some more attention, though with the history that Andy Reid has I’m not so sure he’ll be on a top 5 RB level because Reid likes to throw the ball.

Unless Dexter McCluster becomes a Danny Woodhead type I see Charles as the lone guy. Other than Reid’s coaching style I can only see a another gruesome injury preventing Charles from reaching the Pro Bowl, and of course Kansas City is going to need him if they want to make the playoffs this year.

6.            Marshawn Lynch              Seattle Seahawks

Beast-Mode makes the list at #6, I’ve been watching him fly under the radar since he was at the University of California but when you make one of the best runs in the history of football, people will know who you are.

Lynch and the Seahawks have a season of high expectations to look at and the main cog of their offense is Lynch’s ability to find the hole between Unger and Okung.

The Offensive Line they’ve got is a dominant one and the defense will be sure to draw a lot of turnovers which will bring a lot more chances to score. Now if Russell Wilson gets better as a QB, Lynch could be more deadly although the injury of Percy Harvin could hold Lynch down with 8 men in the box.

5.            Doug Martin                       Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Martin was no surprise to me last year in Tampa Bay and if you think I’m full of it watch his tape from Boise State. You’ll see that he resembles a Maurice Jones-Drew/Garrison Hearst type I see.

The shuffle and glare that MJD brings and the flash and aggressiveness that Hearst brought to Cincinnati and San Fran in the late 90’s. But for those who saw him for the first time last year got a treat because not many can explode into gear like Martin can.

But his #1 trait as a back is his vision; he knows that he’s got a good line with Donald Penn etc. so he can just focus on the handoff and hit the lane. Martin’s Buccaneers are improved on defense and that means that Tampa may have more leads, more leads equals more carries and more carries for Martin is more yards plain and simple.

4.            Ray Rice                               Baltimore Ravens

Here’s the man with a Super Bowl ring from last season and also had the best run of 2012 vs. the Chargers. But it’s those kinds of clutch moments that make Ray Rice the man in Baltimore.

Flacco and Rice were a part of a great 2008 Draft for the Baltimore Ravens that built a nucleus for them to win the Super Bowl this past season. Rice comes into this season with an offense that is centered on him and Flacco; they lost Pitta to injury for the season, Matt Birk to retirement, and Anquan Boldin who was traded to San Francisco.

Teams may be able to stop Rice on the ground but Rice is capable of having 50-65 catches especially this yr. when Torrey Smith is the only proven outside WR threat on the roster.

3.            LeSean McCoy                  Philadelphia Eagles

Shady man this guy is, one second he’s there and the next is gone but remember that he’s not stopping now he’s only going to get better. McCoy is highly touted and also is highly regarded around the NFL. McCoy’s numbers can drastically improve with Chip Kelly as HC of the Eagles after all it takes two to tango on the read option and even if Foles is the starter.

Kelly showed in his time at UNH with QB Ricky Santos that the option isn’t the only forte he’s got up his sleeve. Either way McCoy will see the ball and the injuries at WR will make him a more crucial guy this season for an Eagles team that just didn’t have any consistency.

At the end of the day we could be seeing a 1600-1700 yards rusher in Philadelphia and maybe the Eagles can get back on track.

2.            Arian Foster                       Houston Texans

The Houston Texans would be a below average offense without Arian Foster, that’s obvious. But this former undrafted feature back is perfect the zone run scheme that Kubiak has been using since his days as Shanahan’s OC in Denver.

Foster has had 41 TD in the last three years, that’s LaDanian Tomlinson-esque right there. Overall he was the only Texan who showed up in that playoff loss against the New England Patriots. Foster is on his way to another great season and maybe this year Kubiak won’t freeze up in the playoffs and try to overload Matt Schaub.

Instead he should be giving Foster the ball to set up the pass. If they do just that then Houston will be in great shape.

1.            Adrian Peterson               Minnesota Vikings

You’d have the right to banish me from the web and from talking about the game of football if I had not put AP at number one. Coming off an ACL injury to get 2,000 yards along with an MVP trophy makes me wonder if I thought I’ve seen it all but AP has been one of my favorite athletes since he was a freshman at Oklahoma.

Finishing third for the Heisman as a freshman wasn’t impressive enough for him as he’s gone on to dominate the NFL game in a way that would make Jim Brown and Barry Sanders looking over their shoulders.

I’m not sure if he’ll ever get to 2,000 yards ever again but I know for certain that I’ll be on the edge of my seat watching him play until the end of his career, which for an NFL fans’ sake is not for a very long time.

The Final Verdict:

Running Backs don’t have a long shell life in fact most fade away after a couple of years but as we’ve noticed with the majority of the guys in the top 10 as well as the 5 honorable mentions is that they’ve been consistent for the last couple of years. Some may not be the focal point of their offenses like the top 5 guys are but are keys to the success of their team. Injuries can slow guys down but don’t ask Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles that after last season where they both bounced back after ACL injuries in 2011. Just watch these guys go to work this season and keep an eye out for the top ten WRs coming soon.

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