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Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Ranking the NFL's running backs

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Steven Jackson leads Frank Gore among NFC West running backs in this informal ESPN poll.

The five running backs I enjoy watching the most:

1. Chris Johnson, Titans. Johnson has nearly 4,000 total yards in two seasons. He has to be the most feared runner in the league based on his big-play ability. No back in the league can threaten defenses to the same degree. Big plays change games and Johnson's 5.3-yard career average speaks to his big-play ability.

2. Steven Jackson, Rams. Jackson's game has no real weaknesses. He's battled injuries, but the way he played through them last season -- despite the Rams' irrelevance in the standings -- enhances his credentials. He had 375 touches last season and fumbled only twice. No other current NFL back has Jackson's combination of size, speed, power, toughness and will.

3. Adrian Peterson, Vikings. Peterson's combination of power and speed set him apart. He did fumble seven times in 357 touches, losing six of them, and his yards-per-carry average has fallen significantly each season. Those are relatively minor imperfections.

4. Frank Gore, 49ers. Every back on this list runs hard and Gore packs plenty of power. Don't let his height fool you into thinking he's a small back. The 5-foot-9 Gore is listed at 217 pounds, same as Peterson, and he's tough to bring down. Plus, he does everything well.

5. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars. Jones-Drew can make defenders miss. He can break tackles. He can catch passes downfield, not just on screens.