There were some tough decisions to make in the ranking of the running backs in the AFC West. Mainly because there are no sure things. Every back comes with questions as well as the potential to put those questions to rest.
1. Chargers — Melvin Gordon
Gordon bounced back in his second season big time. After a rookie season in which he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry with zero touchdowns either on the ground or through the air, he looked like a new player last season. In 11 starts, he came just shy of 1000 yards rushing (997) while adding another 419 yards receiving and put up 12 touchdowns (10 rushing) en route to the Pro Bowl. It’s easy for some to forget just how incredible Gordon was coming out of Wisconsin in 2015. The Chargers made him the 15th overall pick for a reason and he started to live up to it last season. With some improved offensive line play expected in San Diego, expect Gordon’s star to continue to rise.
2. Raiders — Marshawn Lynch
Critics will point to his age (31) and his not having played since his injury shortened 2015 season – the first of his career. Or they’ll use his 3.8 yards per carry in 2015. The counter argument for that is the fact that he was attempting to play through injury in 2015 and behind a terrible offensive line that routinely got him hit at or behind the line of scrimmage, causing most of his yards to come after contact. His last full season was 2014 when he ran for 1306 yards and 13 touchdowns averaging 4.7 yards per carry. He was 28 then, but hasn’t had much wear and tear in the meantime, having carried the ball 111 times since and taking a year off from football. I am not going to ignore the criticisms, because there are valid concerns. Just as I won’t ignore the possibilities that a player who was on a streak of four-straight Pro Bowl seasons averaging 1339 yards and 12 touchdowns per season his last full season. He’s Beast Mode until proven otherwise.
3. Chiefs — Spencer Ware/Kareem Hunt
Ware ran for 921 yards in 14 starts last season, averaging a decent 4.3 yards per carry and added another 447 yards receiving. He earned those starts after averaging 5.6 yards per carry in 2015 in limited snaps. He figures to split carries with rookie third round pick Kareem Hunt.
4. Broncos — CJ Anderson/Devontae Booker
The Broncos’ Northern California duo. Last season Anderson (Vallejo) averaged 4.0 yards per carry, and Booker (Sacramento) 3.5 yards per carry. Between the two of them, they ran for 1049 yards on 284 carries for a not-so-great 3.7 yards per carry. Anderson has played better in his career as evidenced by his career 4.6 yards per carry. But he’s also never started even a half season and has seen his overall numbers go down each of the past two seasons. Last season Booker got the start by week 7 and after a solid first appearance (17 carries for 83 yards), he was downright terrible, averaging 2.8 yards per carry over the following 5 starts before getting benched.