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AFC NORTH: Running Back Rankings

While the AFC North has been a very strong rushing divison, 2013 was a down year as each team failed to produce a  1,000 rusher. Lets take a look at which backs will improve their numbers and help their team compete for a division title in 2014

1.) Giovanni Bernard (Cincinnati Bengals) 2013 statistics: 170 carries, 695 yards 5 TD’s

Bernard turned heads in his rookie season, showing fans his outstanding agility and versatility since week one.  His skill set features a unique blend of speed and power and also provided the Bengals with and he also gave the Bengals extra receiving option out of the backfield. With a year under his belt and Bernard is poised to hit the 1,000 yard mark if he stays healthy and earns an increased workload. Also, Bernard has the fortune of having a well known power runner in BenJarvis Green-Ellis to come in during third down situations and give him a small break. The Bengals ranked 18th in the NFL in rushing offense, I expect them to approach a top 10 finish  by the end of this year.

2.)  Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers) 2013 statistics: 244 carries, 860 yards, 8 TD’s

Le’Veon Bell’s array of skills embodied everything the Pittsburgh Steelers desire from the position of running back. Great size and lower body strength, physical running style, and just enough speed to break away for long runs. As long as he continues to stay healthy, Bell will receive just as many or more carries which will almost definitely bring about more yardage. Bell also has the most help in his backfield as both LeGarrette Blount and the versatile Dri Archer will be backing him up. Both will earn a solid number of touches, but it won’t hurt Bell’s numbers because the Steelers as a team will be more committed to running the football after finishing 28th in the NFL last year.

3.)  Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens) 2013 statistics: 214 carries, 660 yards, 4 TD’s

Rice is coming off of the worst rushing performance of his career in 2013, where in 16 games, he fell well short of his usual rushing numbers. While Rice has an impressive body of work in Baltimore, it’s important to notice that the Ravens must become a better passing team if he will return to form in 2014. With another year of experience and more receiving talent, it looks like Flacco is poised to make all the throws necessary to open up the run game. Rice also has the least help with the depth behind him at running back, but shouldn’t need it as he is the most polished runner in his division. Look for him to rebound this year and also be a better contributor to the short passing game.

4.) Ben Tate (Cleveland Browns) 2013 Statistics: 181 carries, 771 yards, 4 TD’s

Tate has done an admirable job as a back up to Arian Foster for the Houston Texans for the past three years. Ben Tate’s style is more on the physical side and he is the type of player that can make a couple quick cuts and get up the field. Tate is slated to share carries with rookie Terrence West who is of a similar rushing style. Considering the high probability of Johnny Manziel earning a start at some point in the season, expect the Browns to use both to provide some stability to that offense as soon as possible for their franchise passer. Tate and West fall last in these rankings because both are first year guys in Mike Pettine’s system. In time, I expect both to become solid producers.

 

This division has a plethora of great young running backs and I think we should all be excited to see what they can do in the coming year. I expect the teams with the best back up tailback to see their starter finished the year in a strong fashion. As of right now, Le’Veon Bell will probably have the best numbers in the final five or so games in he season based on my predictions.

 

 

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