Tuesday, March 15, 2011
AFC East running back power rankings
By Tim Graham
Every Tuesday, when ESPN.com reveals its positional power rankings for the week, I will post my breakdown of the AFC East's best players.
Running backs were in the spotlight this week. No AFC East running back made the list, and that was appropriate. None of them had a superstar season. But that doesn't mean they weren't influential within the division.
- Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills: Best all-around runner in the AFC East, although the Bills didn't use him as a receiver as much as they could've.
- LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets: Faded after a hot start, but can't argue with 52 receptions and 1,282 yards from scrimmage.
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England Patriots: Led division with 1,008 rushing yards, but non-factor as a receiver.
- Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots: Few were more exciting. He had 926 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns in 14 games.
- Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins: Down season with 976 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns, but still a weapon.
- Shonn Greene, New York Jets: Almost ranked him fifth, but too limited in the passing game.
- Ricky Williams, Miami Dolphins: Balanced but uninspiring season with three offensive touchdowns.
- C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills: After a hyped-up preseason, fell flat with one offensive touchdown.
The first three players were easy to slot, as was the last player. The four running backs in between were tough.
I suspect Woodhead's rating will generate the most discussion. After all, the Jets didn't think he was among the top three running backs on their depth chart when they dumped him and decided to keep rookie Joe McKnight instead.
But Woodhead became one of the NFL's great stories after the Patriots snatched him up. He was a sensational dual threat for a team that went 14-2. He gained 40 more yards from scrimmage than Greene on 70 fewer touches. Woodhead had just 50 fewer yards than Brown on 102 fewer touches.
As for Jackson, his 2010 numbers didn't reflect his capabilities. The Bills hardly used him for the first month, while they tried to figure out what to do with Marshawn Lynch and tinkered with how to incorporate Spiller into the offense. Jackson didn't have double-digit carries until Week 5 and didn't catch more than two passes until Week 8.
Jackson's pace over the final 12 games, multiplied over the course of a season, would give him 1,220 yards rushing and 296 more receiving.