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Top 20 Rookie Running Back Seasons in the Past 20 Years

The other day we took at look at the Top 20 Rookie Quarterback seasons, now we look at the top rookie running back seasons.  The quarterback list was somewhat skewed to more current players because of rule changes that have resulted in a more pass-happy league.  The running back position has seen very little in terms of change over the last 20 years. 

Every year there's usually a rookie that steals the show.  Last year was no exception with Alfred Morris and the Washington Redskins.  Morris was somewhat buoyed by the scrambling ability of Robert Griffin III, keeping defensive players guessing on who was going to carry the football.  But it was still an exceptional season, statistically the best we've seen in the last 20 years.  Let's take a look at some of the best rookie running back seasons from the last 20 seasons and see where Morris compares.

Note: We used the threshold of a minimum 200 rushing attempts to make the list.

It's an impressive list, there are only a couple players who didn't extend their career much beyond a solid rookie season.  You can't project Morris' 2012 season out and say that his career will be the simalar to guys like Adrian Peterson, Edgerrin James, and Curtis Martin...but it's pretty elite company to be in.  Honorable mention goes out to Doug Martin's 2012 season with the Buccanneers.

On an efficiency basis, the best yard per carry rookie seasons go to Adrian Peterson and Clinton Portis at 5.6 and 5.5 YPC respectively.

From a coaching perspective, Five of the top 20 rookie RB seasons of the last 20 years were Mike Shanahan running backs.

2013 Breakout Rookie Running Backs? 
As we look to the upcoming season, who are some runners that have the potential to crack this Top 20 list?  Injuries always play a role in how much time a player gets, but here are 3 to think about:

  1. Montee Ball (Broncos) - is there a better team in the NFL for grooming running backs?  Portis, Davis, Anderson, Gary.  The Broncos have 4 rookie runners on the Top 20...can Ball be the 5th?

  2. Le'Veon Bell (Steelers) - almost a shoe-in for the starting job in Pittsburgh after they let Rashard Mendenhall go in the offseason, his only competition could be Isaac Redman (who only had 3.7 yards per carry last season)

  3. Eddie Lacy and/or Jonathan Franklin (Packers) - they still have to compete for the starting job, and it looks like DeJuan Harris, Alex Green, and James Starks will have something to say about that.  With 5 backs on the roster, it could be too crowded for one single guy to shine.


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