5 most overrated running backs heading into NFL season

Saints RB Alvin Kamara on sideline against the Panthers.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is currently in the midst of an era that devalues the running back position. We’ve seen it multiple times. Players at this position holding out for new contracts, hoping the market dictates a value that’s non existent.

For good reason. Some of the most successful teams rely on backfield by committee approaches. The days of Emmitt Smith and Adrian Peterson in his prime are well in the past.

From a high-priced back in New Jersey to another star in the Bayou, we check in on the five-most overrated running backs heading into the 2020 NFL season.

Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets

A three-time Pro Bowl performer during his five seasons with the Steelers, it seems like Bell was more of a product of Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh’s offensive scheme more than anything else. That was magnified this past season after he signed a huge free-agent contract with the Jets.

After holding out the entire 2018 season with Pittsburgh, Bell put up less than 800 rushing yards at a clip of 3.2 yards per rush. From a statistical perspective, Bell was among the most unproductive backs in the game. It’s now led to renewed expectations that the Jets will look to move on from the veteran back sooner rather than later.

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

There’s seemingly a reason Seattle is kicking the tires on potentially bringing back Marshawn Lynch. It is also looking at other free-agent options in that of Devonta Freeman and Carlos Hyde. Despite success over each of the past two seasons, Pete Carroll and Co. are not confident in Carson moving forward.

A seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State back in 2017, Carson is averaging north of 1,300 total yards over the past two seasons. At issue here is the fact that he fumbled the ball a whopping seven times in 2019. The presence of Russell Wilson and his two-way playmaking ability also leads me to believe Carson is overrated in the grand scheme of things. The powers to be in the Pacific Northwest seem to agree with this sentiment.

David Johnson, Houston Texans

Maybe this is just in Bill O’Brien’s mind. The Texans’ head coach and general manager traded away one of the best receivers in the NFL in that of DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals, bringing back this high-priced and injury-plagued running back as the centerpiece of the deal. Needless to say, those around the NFL world were shocked by the trade.

Now one of the faces of the Texans’ franchise, the 28-year-old Johnson is coming off a three-year span that saw him put up just north of 1,300 rushing yards while averaging 3.6 yards per attempt. He’s also slated to count north of $20 million against the cap over the next two seasons. Talk about being overrated.

Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

It’s interesting to this unbiased observer that Kamara is looking for a long-term deal that will make him one of the highest-paid running backs in NFL history. Sure the former Tennessee star is absolutely electric with the ball in his hands. He also has not been utilized to the best of his ability in Sean Payton’s offensive system.

Even then, the track record we’ve seen from Kamara over the course of his three NFL seasons does not suggest three-down duties or being able to handle the bulk of the touches from the backfield. The three-time Pro Bowler is averaging less than 11 rush attempts per game in his career. He might be a great receiving back, but there’s nothing here that suggests an ability to shoulder the load.

Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos

Gordon’s decision to holdout into the 2019 season as a member of the Los Angeles Rams backfired big time. He was banking on a market-setting contract, something the Chargers were rightfully unwilling to pay. Once Gordon did return to action, he was out of shape and struggled big time.

It led to the two-time Pro Bowler averaging less than four yards per rush in 12 games. Ultimately, Gordon had to settle on a two-year, $16 million contract with the division-rival Denver Broncos. While the $8 million annual average is good, the total guarantee of $13 million is much less than what Gordon would have received if he had accepted the Chargers’ original offer. He’s now not even the best running back on Denver’s roster. That honor goes to Phillip Lindsay.