Running backs, once revered as some of the NFL’s most important players, have become afterthoughts in today’s quarterback-driven league.
Adrian Peterson gets some press, but largely, the NFL conversation revolves around quarterbacks. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers dominate headlines, and deservedly so- they are three of the best to ever play the game.
But there are guys out there at the running back position who show up to work every day and do just that, without any recognition or glory.
These players I’m talking about are the unheralded, but necessary, backup running backs.
Depth at the running back position is critical- on average, ball carriers only last three years in the league. Age and injury catches up with running backs faster than just about any other spot on the field, so teams have to have a stockpile of capable backs.
But are there some teams that have a backup that would actually start elsewhere?
Not only are there a few teams that have starting-caliber backups, but it’s more common than you may think. Here are (count ‘em) ten second-stringers that could start on these ten teams.
10. Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks
Michael is a speedster who has the potential to be a great change of pace back in the NFL. His only problem is that he’s behind Marshawn Lynch on the depth chart. I believe this talented youngster would start for the Denver Broncos and would be a great check down option for Peyton Manning.
9. Rashad Jennings, Oakland Raiders
Jennings has shown his promise during backup stints in Jacksonville and Oakland, but given a full-time gig, could shine. He’d be a nice fit in Tampa Bay, where the Bucs have resorted to Brian Leonard after losing both Doug Martin and Mike James.
8. Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers
He’s more talented as a pass catcher than as a runner, which would be perfect for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pass-heavy offense. I like Le’Veon Bell, but Woodhead would be a better fit in Pittsburgh and would provide Ben Roethlisberger with a check down option.
7. Bryce Brown, Philadelphia Eagles
At 6-foot-0, 220 pounds, Brown is a talented bruiser that would be a starter if not for LeSean McCoy’s freak athleticism. Brown would be a great fit for a team that lacks a physical runner; a team like the New Orleans Saints.
6. Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons
Rodgers has shown off his great talent this year subbing for Steven Jackson, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. His speed and pass-catching ability would be perfect on a Browns team that lacks either one of those things out of the backfield.
5. Roy Helu, Washington Redskins
Helu has been a starter in his career, but ever since Alfred Morris emerged in Washington, he’s been playing second fiddle. I believe he’d be a valuable asset in Miami, where
the Dolphins’ running back timeshare has struggled.
4. Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers
Hunter has been San Fran’s change of pace guy since he got to the Bay in 2011. I may take some flak for this, but Chris Johnson is on his way out in Tennessee and clearly has lost several steps. Hunter would give the Titans a boost.
3. Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens
There’s been talk of Pierce rising to the #1 spot in Baltimore due to Ray Rice’s inability to get it going this year. If that doesn’t happen, Pierce’s talents would be better served in Indianapolis where the Trent Richardson era probably won’t start until next year.
2. Joique Bell, Detroit Lions
Before Reggie Bush came to Detroit, Bell was doing just fine, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 9.3 yards per reception, gaining a total of 899 yards. Even with Reggie in Motown, Bell has been productive, and he’d be perfect in Atlanta, where the Steven Jackson experiment has clearly failed.
1. Ben Tate, Houston Texans
Tate has been backing up Arian Foster for three years now, and it’s time he got a full-time shot. He’s averaging 4.4 yards per carry this season and would be a welcome addition to the New York Jets ground and pound rushing attack.