The National Football League currently has some of the best young talents they have ever had at the running back position.
Over the last few seasons, there has been a multitude of backs who have been drafted early, most recently Saquon Barkley, and have lived up to the hype early on. Additionally, there also have been many unexpected running backs who have gone on to shine in the early going.
These are our top 10 running backs in the NFL who are 25 or younger this season.
10. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals, 22
Mixon has made one of the most notable jumps from Year 1 to 2 amongst players on this list. His rookie season was plagued with injuries and inconsistent playing time, but after being handed the starting job this season he has shined. The Oklahoma product currently ranks 15th in the league in rushing yards (584), and that’s after missing two games with a leg injury. Mixon also has caught 24 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown this season. He has proven to be a dual-threat option when given the opportunity and is sure to improve as he is just 22 years old.
9. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers, 22
In just his second pro season, McCaffrey has shown he is one of the best pass-catching backs in the league. The former Stanford Cardinal caught 80 passes last season and is on pace to eclipse that mark again, already posting 60 receptions and six games remaining. McCaffrey only rushed for a meager 435 yards in his rookie season but has shown signs of improvement, scampering for 632 yards in only 10 games. At only 22 years old, he already has shown he is capable of being a lead rusher as well as a premier pass catcher.
8. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars, 23
Fournette has suffered multiple injuries throughout his first two seasons but has performed like one of the top backs in the NFL when healthy. He dashed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns in just 13 games last season while also hauling in 36 passes for 302 yards. Fournette hasn’t seen the field much throughout his sophomore season, but has been solid in both games since returning from injury in Week 10. Over the last two games, the LSU alum has racked up 148 rushing yards and two TDs to go along with seven catches, 102 receiving yards and another TD.
7. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers, 23
Nobody has been more positively affected by Le’Veon Bell’s holdout this season than Conner. The second-year running back was given an opportunity with the absence of Bell and has shown no signs of looking back. Conner has been the breakout star of 2018, ranking third in the league in rushing yards (796) and third in rushing touchdowns (10). On top of his rushing prowess, Conner also has been a major player in Pittsburgh’s passing offense, with 45 catches for 411 yards with a touchdown.
6. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers, 25
Gordon is the oldest player on this list, but has improved in each of his four seasons. This campaign is shaping up to be Gordon’s best yet, as he already has 741 rushing yards with 42 receptions and 448 receiving yards. Gordon has been a touchdown monster this season, posting seven rushing touchdowns and four more through the air.
5. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs, 23
The second-year running back has been one of the very best in the NFL since he burst onto the scene with 246 total yards and three touchdowns in his first regular-season game in 2017. Hunt went on to lead the league in rushing yards that season with 1,327 and currently is fourth this season (754) with six games remaining. The 2017 Pro-Bowl selection also has been marvelous in the fast-paced Kansas City Chiefs passing game, with 23 receptions and six touchdowns.
4. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants, 21
Barkley is the only rookie on this list but could have the brightest future of any player in this group. Barkley has been the brightest star for a lowly New York Giants team this season, living up to all of the hype that came with being selected No. 2 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Penn State product has been one of the best running backs in the league this season with 728 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. The 21-year-old is second in receiving on the Giants to Odell Beckham Jr., with 64 receptions for 540 yards with three TDs. Even with one of the worst offensive lines in the league, Barkley has been able to dominate opposing defenses and is sure to be a terror for years to come.
3. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints, 23
After being selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft to a team that already had a Pro Bowl running back in Mark Ingram II on the roster, it wasn’t expected that Kamara would make a major impact initially. This idea ended up being completely false, as Kamara earned playing time and went on to win the 2017 NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Kamara mainly dazzled in the passing game, catching 81 passes for 826 yards with five touchdowns, but he also rushed for 728 yards and eight touchdowns. The 23-year-old has not suffered the sophomore slump, as he is on pace to improve his numbers in nearly every offensive category.
2. Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys, 23
Since being selected No. 4 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, Elliot has not disappointed in any stretch. The 23-year-old led the league in rushing yards his rookie season (1,631) and also had 15 rushing touchdowns. He wasn’t able to defend his rushing crown last season as he missed six games due to suspension, but he still was able to rush for 983 yards with seven touchdowns in just 10 games.
This season, Elliot is second in the NFL in rushing yards (953) and also has five touchdowns. Elliot is having his best season in the passing game as he already has caught a career-high 42 passes to go along with 341 yards and a touchdown. Elliot has been almost unstoppable since entering the league, and at just 23-years-old is sure to continue to eat for years to come.
1. Todd Gurley II, Los Angeles Rams, 24
The 2018 Los Angeles Rams’ explosive offense has drawn comparisons to the 2007 New England Patriots, and Gurley has been at the center of it. Gurley led the league in rushing TDs last season (13), and already has matched that number with six games to go this season. The 24-year-old running back is having one of the most dominant seasons in NFL history, leading the league in rushing yards (988), rushing TDs (13) and rushing yards per game (98.8).
Gurley also has been one of the most important weapons in the Rams’ passing offense with 40 catches for 402 yards and four TDs. Gurley also is leading the league in total touches (238), yards from scrimmage (1,390) and total touchdowns (17). He has been one of, if not the most consistent running backs in the league since he was drafted in 2015.
All stats and figures are provided from pro-football-reference.com.
Thumbnail photo via Danny Wild/USA TODAY Sports Images
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