The NFC North has plenty of superstars at each position group. Running back is no different. Much like the quarterback position, the NFC North Division has one of, if not the best at his position.
After that the running back spot is lined with stars, capable veterans and a pair of promising rookies are among the top two on their respective teams. The top of the running backs within the division are veterans that may not have too many elite-level seasons left in their careers. It is unlikely, given the current rules and offensive schemes, that another group of running backs will be as strong as they are right now in any division.
Here is a ranking of the eight running backs projected to be on the two-deep depth chart of the four NFC North teams.
No. 1 - Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Is there any doubt that Peterson is the best running back in football? No. He is a home run threat with power just one year removed from falling nine yards short of breaking the single season rushing record in an MVP season. Health has been a problem lately, though, with significant injuries in two of the last three seasons. He is the focus of the Vikings offense and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner will have new ways to showcase his talents.
No. 2 - Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Forte is one of the most complete backs in the NFL. He is accomplished as both a runner and a passer. He is a matchup problem for linebackers and safeties out of the backfield and cornerbacks when split out wide. He is a perfect running back for the NFL’s new age of passing schemes.
No. 3 - Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions
Bush may be the most athletic running back in the division. He is a better receiver than runner, but can get some yards when running between the tackles. He is better on the edge and can get into trouble if he cannot get outside. Bush was signed as a free agent prior to last season to save the Lions’ poor rushing attack. He did a little bit, but a porous offensive line was a bigger problem than the running back. He and Joique Bell, who will split carries, will form a very good duo.
No. 4 - Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
Lacy is the future star of the division’s running back group. He came on the scene last season and benefitted from Aaron Rodgers’ reputation. Opposing defenses dared Lacy to beat them and put up yards. Once Rodgers got hurt, Lacy became the focal point and he struggled a little to adjust. He is a power back with enough wiggle to break off long runs. After an injury filled rookie season, Lacy could have a breakout campaign this year.
No. 5 - Joique Bell, Detroit Lions
Bell was an undrafted rookie a few years ago. Since, he has become a very reliable and good between-the-tackles running back. He will split carries with Bush for the Lions, but he will get his yards. Also, he should get in the end zone with the majority of the short-yardage carries. He is a very good complement to Bush.
No. 6 - James Starks, Green Bay Packers
Starks was once the lead back for the Packers. When injuries set in, he slipped down the depth charts. Now he is the backup. He will spell Lacy, but doesn’t really provide the Packers with skills that Lacy doesn’t have. They both are bigger backs that will grind out the yardage more than get it in huge chunks. Most of Starks’ carries will come when Lacy either needs a rest or gets hurt.
No. 7 - Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings
McKinnon is an intriguing player to watch in the preseason. He is fast and elusive in space. He is undersized and needs to learn how to play running back, but the former college quarterback can hit a home run every time he touches the ball. The Vikings will find ways to get him the ball in space, whether on perimeter runs or passes out of the backfield.
No. 8 - Ka’Deem Carey, Chicago Bears
Carey was a very productive running back at the University of Arizona last season. He is a multi-purpose back that can run between-the-tackles or get around the edge. He will not take carries away from Forte, but provides a nice backup option to spell him.