The NFC South, like the entire league, has incredible athletes carrying the football. The ratings these backs receive will without a doubt be higher than their stats will show given the “new NFL” “2-back league” hippity hoopla. I like to call it: every team searching for their own Double Trouble. This post is not about the Panthers although their tandem, adding Tolbert to the mix to boot, is arguably the most fierce backfield in the league. Without further ado…
T-1. Michael Turner – 91
Michael Turner is a tank. To this day can’t believe the Chargers let him go. He is an elite back in this league, and with opposing defenses’ focus on the aerial threats of the Dirty Birds- Turner could post enormous numbers. More importantly, he will be a bruiser that tires down the defense for quick plays to Julio, Roddy, Jaquizz, Harry, and Tony. If you don’t know any of their last names, you will by week 3. This offense is potent and it’s all kept together by this back.
T-1. DeAngelo Williams – 91
Since his incredible standout collegiate career, DeAngelo has proven he was a good pick in the first round. He has produced big numbers his entire career, while avoiding injury almost entirely. He has underrated speed, underrated vision, underrated strength, but I’ll give the general public credit for acknowledging his quickness… but that’s it. The guy is flat out underrated. He won’t have 2,000 yards this season, though he could if he was the only back.
3. Jonathan Stewart – 90
Arguably a top 10 back in the league. Jonathan will be a free agent after his rookie contract runs out after this season. My guess is he will remain in Charlotte, but he will get a lot of money thrown in his direction. Not to mention I think J-Stew enjoys the bright lights. That worries me, but hopefully I’m wrong. All nonsense aside, Stewart has the best stiff-arm of any running back in the entire NFL. The guy can block and he has evolved as a pass catcher. His running abilities should go without saying. Here at The Panthers Daily, we have a movement: Free J-Stew!
4. Darren Sproles – 89
The ultimate X-Factor, Sproles was the second freak of nature the Chargers let escape to the NFC South. Everyone knows the Brees and Sproles connection will be in full effect, and in a lethal way this season. Sproles will not post very big rushing numbers due to being a member of the most crowded backfield in the NFL. That being said, look for him to get close to the 1,000 yard mark in receiving. You cannot game plan against this X-Factor in the open field.
5. LaGarrette Blount – 86
If Jonathan Stewart has the best stiff arm, Mr. Blount has the second best. The Bucs landed this guy as a steal in the draft out of Oregon (slipping due to character issues.) But he was a force in the Pac-10. I actually recall wishing the Panthers drafted him as he continued to slip down the board. One note about Blount: have you seen him jump? In this year’s Madden I sure hope they let Blount hurdle like he can in real life.
6. Mike Tolbert – 84
Mike Tolbert is yet ANOTHER (this is the third) running back from the Chargers to slip to an NFC South team. This was a convenient situation for the Panthers since Mike Tolbert played college ball at Coastal Carolina, near Myrtle Beach. That school can play some football. Panthers used their 5th round pick this year on CB Josh Norman out of Coastal. Back to the topic, Tolbert is a bowling ball of fury. He is like Maurice Jones-Drew, but at fullback. That’s a deadly element to a backfield that is already well… dominant.
7. Pierre Thomas – 84
Will he start this season? It really doesn’t matter who the starter is in New Orleans, just like in Charlotte. There will be split carries amongst three or four backs. Thomas may receive the title as the starter since he’s the most proven between the tackles. Don’t forget though, Mark Ingram will burst onto the scene this year. Thomas and Ingram will be a great tandem. Not to menton others. All in all Thomas is a consistent, veteran that will produce again this season.
8. Mark Ingram – 83
He’s big. He’s fast. He’s Mr. Heisman. My prediction for Ingram is 1,100 yards with 8 TDs this season.
9. Chris Ivory – 77
On 216 career rushing attempts Ivory carried for 1,090 and 6 TDs. That is production in my book. The guy hasn’t had an opportunity to be a featured back, and it’s going to stay that way. He is young, and has produced. The Saints like him, so he will definitely be a part of the Drew Brees Playbook.
10. Doug Martin – 77
As Lee Corso would say, “Hey! I really like this kid.” Boise State product is no project. He is a well oiled machine. I hope he does well. The Bucs need him to play well, that’s for sure. I expect the tandem of Martin/Blount will be no joke. The Bucs drafted very well this year, namely this pick.
11. Jacquizz Rodgers – 77
Who isn’t excited about this kid? He is remarkably quick, and will grow within the Falcons offense this year. One play that stood out to me by Rodgers last season was at Carolina when he caught a pass like it was his job. It’s not his job to catch deep balls. I have included the highlights to that game, which, of course features a great DeAngelo Williams showing, and overall a great NFC South battle until Olindo Mare comes in for the meltdown. Enjoy.