Numerous media outlets carried the comments Jerry Jones recently made about how it is not necessary to have the rushing champ on the roster to win the Super Bowl. Jones could have been saying those words just to make it seem like his team doesn’t need Ezekiel Elliot too badly (but we all know the Cowboys do).
But the truth of the matter is that Jones is 100 percent correct. The rushing champ is not needed to win the Super Bowl in today’s NFL. However, it does help to have the all-purpose yards or yards from scrimmage leader.
The modern version of the NFL running back is much more than just a threat to carry the ball. Nowadays, the more sought-after running backs are the ones with dual-threat potential—as a runner and receiver.
That is why Le’ Veon Bell and David Johnson were able to command the contract extensions they received. It is why Melvin Gordon is holding out for more money. When it comes time for the Panthers, Saints, and Giants to pay Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, and Saquon Barkley.
A great running back can help win games, but a tremendous all-purpose running back can give a team a better shot at making some noise in the playoffs.
So—who will it be this season? According to BetOnline.ag, the odds are as follows:
- Saquon Barkley +500
- Christian McCaffrey +600
- Le’ Veon Bell, Todd Gurley +650
- Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott +800
- David Johnson, Melvin Gordon +1400
- James Conner +1600
- Devonta Freeman, Joe Mixon +2000
- Aaron Jones, Julio Jones, Leonard Fournette, Marlon Mack, Nick Chubb, Phillip Lindsay +2500
- Antonio Brown, Dalvin Cook, Kerryon Johnson, Tarik Cohen, Tyreek Hill +2800
- DeAndre Hopkins, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham +3300
- Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Sony Michel +4000
- Chris Carson, LeSean McCoy +5000
- Mark Ingram +6600
- Adrian Peterson +8000
- James White, Tevin Coleman +10000
A wide receiver could do it, but since they do not do nearly as much in the run game as some running backs do in the passing game, it is unlikely any of them will do it. No, the most likely candidates are the favorites: Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Le’ Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliot, David Johnson, and Melvin Gordon.
If you are going to put your money down sooner rather later, go ahead and eliminate Elliot and Gordon since there is no telling when or if they are going to play. Gurley is probably going to be on a pitch-count this season to protect his knees. David Johnson looked like a star in the making a couple of seasons ago but not anymore.
That leaves Barkley, McCaffrey, Bell, and Kamara. The Panthers have said that McCaffrey is going to be on the field less this season but that his touches will not decrease—which means defenses can key on him more than usual when he is on the field. So, his numbers are going to go down.
Bell has been an excellent all-around back in the past. But after being off for a year, he is bound to need some time to get himself back up to speed—and there is no telling how good the Jets offense will be with him.
That leaves Barkley and Kamara. Both are probably good bets, but Kamara may be the better one. His rushing numbers are likely going to see a boost with Mark Ingram gone—which could be enough to move him up to the head of the pack.
So—take Kamara at +800 to lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage this season.