The age of the workhorse running back is primarily over, but there are a few studs left that can still dominate the touches in their respective backfields. In this article, we list the top 10 RBs that will see a huge workload if they can stay healthy during the 2016 season.
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Top 10 RB Workhorses in 2016
1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
In terms of shouldering the load, no back takes on more responsibility than AP. Not only in terms of his share of touches in the backfield, but in terms of how often the Vikings forced the ball to their best player instead of taking any chances down the field. Peterson turned a league-high 327 carries into a league-high 1,485 rushing yards last season while adding 222 yards on 30 carries. He’s still in fantastic shape and will be motivated to prove that he can help another team given the likelihood that the Vikings trade or release him after this season, which also could convince Minnesota to ride their stud into his wheels fall off.
2. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Extrapolate Gurley’s numbers over the course of a full season and he would’ve surpassed AP in a number of categories. As a rookie, the Georgia product tallied 1,106 rushing yards on 229 carries while missing three games and serving in a limited capacity in two others. He’s now a fully recovered from any complications related to ACL surgery and ready to lead the Rams in a new era in Southern Cali. The only issue for Gurley is that the coaching staff tends to play Benny Cunningham or Tre Mason when the Rams fall behind and are throwing the ball consistently, yet with a solid defense and a highly-touted QB in Jared Goff, expectations are high for this team and they certainly hope to play from ahead with a ground and pound style.
3. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
Over the final five games of the 2015 regular season, no back shouldered a heavier load than Johnson. He logged 90 carries and caught 17 balls while churning out 658 yards from scrimmage and 5 touchdowns during that span, before carrying that momentum into an impressive run during the postseason. All reports out of Arizona indicate that Johnson will be the feature back this season, handling about 60% of the total touches while veteran Chris Johnson serves as a breather for the young stud. Andre Ellington is more of a scat back that will split out wide and see some work as a third-down back, but David Johnson is a true every-down back that will should a star in the NFL for years to come.
4. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell is fittingly the fourth workhorse listed in this article because he will almost certainly miss the first four games of the regular season due to his goof with the NFL’s drug policy. Yet once he returns, he’ll be well rested and probably poised to log career highs in terms of his per game touches over the final 12 weeks of the regular season. Before his gruesome knee injury, Bell was the unquestioned top RB in fantasy and reality with a 4.7 YPC average and 854 receiving yards on 83 catches during a prolific 2014 season. He’s going to lead the way on an excellent offensive team and won’t have to share too much work with DeAngelo Williams after the veteran holds down the starting job for the first four weeks.
5. Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
The Texans have a track record of using a feature back on all three downs and head coach Bill O’Brien has said that he plans to continue that trend with Miller. As a Dolphin, Miller was incredibly effective and seemingly held back by a confused coaching staff that wouldn’t give him the rock more often, but he should be heavily utilized as a receiver and runner in this offense. Houston’s finished 1st and 5th in terms of total carries over the last two seasons and Miller will likely receive the lion’s share of those totes with two mediocre RBs backing him up in Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes.
6. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
Freeman is neck-and-neck with Miller in terms of his upside and might be the preferred back to own in PPR formats. He began the year in close competition with fellow young RB Tevin Coleman, but blew his teammate out of the water with a remarkable first eight weeks of the season. While the Falcons brass has said that they want to limit Freeman’s workload and mix Coleman in a bit more to avoid their feature back breaking down, we should still see Freeman in all key situations because of his superior ability to function as a dual threat and finish in the red zone.
7. Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are being somewhat obtuse about Rawls’ recovery from ankle surgery, but the expectation is that he’ll be ready for Week 1. If he can return to the form of his rookie campaign, he’s an absolute steal at this ADP considering his upside. Rawls was far more effective than Marshawn Lynch after taking over for Beast Mode in the middle of last season and he pairs extremely well with Russell Wilson as a downhill runner in an offense that features the read option at times. Rookie C.J. Prosise and perennial disappointment Christine Michael are the only threats to his workload, which should be ample if he’s fully recovered from his broken ankle.
8. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
The Bills have two very talented backs aside from McCoy in Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee, but neither RB can do what Shady can in the passing game. McCoy hauled in 32-of-50 targets during his 12 appearances last season and was force fed the rock in more ways than one. While Buffalo might spread those touches around a bit more this year, this was the second most run-heavy offense in the NFL last season and that’s not going to change with Rex Ryan at the helm. McCoy will be a great RB1 and steady as they come if he can stay healthy this year.
9. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
The Saints aren’t a prototypical offense when it comes to feeding an RB touches, but that has changed as Drew Brees enters the twilight of his career. The 37-year-old QB targeted Ingram 60 times and the former Heisman Trophy winner caught 50 of those balls, as he was mostly asked to roll out on screen passes and steamroll defenders from there. No one can downgrade Ingram’s ability to run between the tackles and finish at the goal line, so as long as his physical running style doesn’t lead to other big injuries, he’ll serve as the workhorse in a still-deadly Saints offense.
10. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Bucs
On another team Martin might be considered a true workhorse in the mold of Adrian Peterson, as he finished second to AP with 1,402 rushing yards last season. Yet he only logged 6 touchdowns and played a significantly smaller role in the passing game while 3DB Charles Sims was healthy. As long as the Bucs remain one of the worst defensive teams in the league, you have to question Martin’s ability to get consistent carries with his team in catch-up mode. Still, he’s returned to form as an elite RB that can do it all if game flow allows for it.