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RB Index, Week 13: Ezekiel Elliott, Ronald Jones among running backs I was wrong about

It's that time of year when I have to swallow my pride and do something I absolutely dread: admit I was wrong.

I ranked all 32 RB1s heading into the 2020 NFL regular season back in July, and now that there's roughly a quarter of the season remaining, I am reviewing those rankings. If I do say so myself, I nailed the majority of my list. On the other hand, I unfortunately whiffed on a few of them.

Today, I'm holding myself accountable for three running backs I was wrong about (excluding players who have missed significant time to injury). Let's dive right in.

Ezekiel Elliott
Dallas Cowboys · Year 5

Offseason ranking: No. 2


Ezekiel Elliott was one of the most consistent running backs coming into 2020, which is why I thought he might earn his third rushing title. Boy, was I wrong. With just one(!) 100-yard rushing game this season, he currently ranks eighth in the league with 707 rushing yards -- 550 yards behind the league leader, Derrick Henry -- and is averaging 3.9 yards per carry and 64.3 rushing yards per game, both career lows. Zeke averaged 96.5 rushing yards per game coming into 2020, and I thought he'd hover around that mark under new coach Mike McCarthy. Dallas has been a run-first team (owning one of the NFL's best rushing attacks) since Elliott's arrival in 2016, so I figured, even with a loaded receiving corps, he'd still get his due. Wrong again! The Cowboys leaned heavily on the passing game early, putting Dak Prescott on record-setting pace before this team was ravaged by injuries at the quarterback position and along the offensive line. Elliott's fumbling issues also haven't helped. Apparently my expectation was too high for Zeke to meet.

Leonard Fournette
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 4

Offseason ranking: No. 13 (with Jacksonville Jaguars)


There are two parts to this one. While I was accurate in saying the Jaguars' offense would lean on its bell cow in 2020, I was wrong about the player carrying the ball. The Jaguars released their 2017 first-round pick just before the start of the 2020 season and turned to undrafted rookie James Robinson, who leads all rookies and ranks third in the NFL with 890 rushing yards. Robinson has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. While the Jags seem to have found their feature back (at least in the short-term), Leonard Fournette signed a one-year deal with the Bucs within days of his release to join an offense already loaded with superstars. He's shared the backfield with Ronald Jones, LeSean McCoy and rookie Ke'Shawn Vaughn, logging just 69 carries, 271 rushing yards and three rushing TDs. That's a steep letdown from the 265 carries and 1,152 rush yards he had a season ago, mainly because his opportunities have been limited.

Ronald Jones
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 3

Offseason ranking: No. 32


Ugh ... what was I thinking?! Actually, no. My assessment of Ronald Jones coming into the season was fair. He was extremely underwhelming in his first two seasons in the league, with 768 yards and seven rushing TDs over 25 games (nine starts). To his credit, he's already had himself a career season, logging 820 rushing yards (fourth in the NFL) and five rushing TDs, and there are still four games left on the Bucs' regular-season slate. He has looked more comfortable in this offense, and he's fought like hell to keep his RB1 spot with guys like Leonard Fournette and Shady McCoy behind him on the depth chart. The Bucs were quick to pull Jones whenever he made a mistake in past years and early this season. But lately, Jones, who's averaging 5.1 yards per carry, has been so explosive with the ball in his hands that they've had to keep him out there.

Top 10 Running Backs

Former NFL rushing leader and current NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his top 10 each week of the 2020 season. His rankings are based on this season's efforts alone. Here is MJD's list heading into Week 13.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week's rankings.

Rank
1
1
Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · Year 5

2020 stats: 11 games | 256 att | 1,257 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 12 rush TDs | 14 rec | 93 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Derrick Henry claims the top spot after leading the Titans to a dominant victory over the Indianapolis Colts. He had 140 rushing yards and three TDs over the first two quarters to put the game away by halftime. This week, he takes the field against an equal in Cleveland's Nick Chubb. What a treat for those of us who love smashmouth football!

Rank
2
1
Dalvin Cook
Minnesota Vikings · Year 4

2020 stats: 10 games | 219 att | 1,130 rush yds | 5.2 ypc | 13 rush TDs | 29 rec | 255 rec yds | 1 rec TD


My top three running backs are interchangeable week to week. These three are pushing each other; anyone who wants to keep the top spot must show out. So, naturally, after logging his fewest rushing yards (61) since Week 1, Dalvin Cook had to drop. 

Rank
3
Alvin Kamara
New Orleans Saints · Year 4

2020 stats: 11 games | 128 att | 585 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 68 rec | 646 rec yds | 4 rec TDs


Alvin Kamara's usage in the passing game has dipped tremendously with Taysom Hill under center. He's caught just one pass for -2 yards over the last two games, compared to 67 catches for 648 yards in Weeks 1-10 with Drew Brees. I'm all about doing what's necessary to win games, even if that entails Kamara taking more of a backseat.

Rank
4
2
Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns · Year 3

2020 stats: 7 games | 115 att | 719 rush yds | 6.3 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 6 rec | 49 rec yds | 0 rec TDs



Nick Chubb has been a menace for opposing defenses since his return from injury in Week 10, racking up 384 rushing yards, including 273 after contact (with 18 missed tackles forced in this span). He's definitely making up for the lost time. 

Rank
5
2
James Robinson
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 1

2020 stats: 11 games | 194 att | 890 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 36 rec | 280 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


The latest in unfortunate events for the Jaguars was Sunday's loss to the Cleveland Browns, which led to the firing of general manager Dave Caldwell. However, one thing that has been a delight each week is the play of undrafted rookie James Robinson. In fact, he is just 159 scrimmage yards away from breaking the record set by Dominic Rhodes (1,328) for most scrimmage yards by an undrafted rookie in the common-draft era. He's going to do it. There is no quit in this kid.

Rank
6
2
Josh Jacobs
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 2

2020 stats: 11 games | 206 att | 782 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 27 rec | 175 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Josh Jacobs had just 27 rushing yards last week vs. Atlanta after piling up 361 rushing yards and four rushing TDs over the prior four weeks. The second-year back has an opportunity to bounce back this week, when the Raiders play the winless Jets, and I expect him to take full advantage.


UPDATE: Raiders head coach Jon Gruden announced Friday that Jacobs will miss Sunday's game due to an ankle injury.

Rank
7
NR
Antonio Gibson
Washington Football Team · Year 1

2020 stats: 11 games | 139 att | 645 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 11 rush TDs | 32 rec | 233 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


What a Thanksgiving Day performance for Antonio Gibson! He recorded his first career game with three rushing touchdowns, and it couldn't have come at a better time, with the NFC East title up for grabs. The rookie now has eight rushing scores over his last five games, during which the Football Team has gone 3-2, winning its last two. Gibson's explosive efforts -- along with Alex Smith's inspirational return to the field -- have Washington trending in the right direction ahead of an opportunity to knock off the last undefeated team in the league.

Rank
8
NR
Ronald Jones
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 3

2020 stats: 12 games | 162 att | 820 rush yds | 5.1 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 27 rec | 161 rec yds | 1 rec TD


Over the last three weeks, Ronald Jones has provided the Bucs with a steady backfield option, averaging 6.7 yards per carry over 42 totes. On a bye week ahead of a date with the Vikings, the Bucs need to try something different after losing three of their last four games. Hey, I know! Why not ride the hot hand (not Tom Brady) and lean on your most explosive back?

Rank
9
4
Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 1

2020 stats: 11 games | 151 att | 692 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 30 rec | 234 rec yds | 1 rec TD


The beauty of the Kansas City Chiefs is that they can run the ball 30 times one week and throw it 50 times the next. It just so happened that Week 12 required a pass-heavy game plan against the Bucs' solid run defense. Clyde Edwards-Helaire's production has certainly dipped over the last few weeks as Patrick Mahomes' MVP campaign has ramped up.

Rank
10
NR
Damien Harris
New England Patriots · Year 2

2020 stats: 8 games | 110 att | 561 rush yds | 5.1 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 3 rec | 37 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Damien Harris has jumped onto the scene and provided a big boost for the Patriots' offense. Since making his first career start in Week 4, the second-year running back has rushed for 561 yards and is averaging 5.1 yards per carry -- joining Derrick Henry and Ronald Jones as the only players in the league with at least 500 rushing yards and 5.0 yards per carry in that span. He's earned his spot in the top 10 as a key player who's helped the Patriots win three of their last four games.

DROPPED OUT: Kareem Hunt, Browns (previously No. 8); Aaron Jones, Packers (No. 9); Todd Gurley, Falcons (No. 10).

The Ground Index presented by FedEx ranks NFL running back performances all season long. Check out the weekly FedEx Ground NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote after Sunday Night Football.

Follow Maurice Jones-Drew on Twitter.

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