Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content

Is Jamaal Charles the best running back in the NFL?

By Jerry Sullivan

On today's video Roundtable, our Buffalo Bills writers debated an interesting question: If you were going to start an NFL team and could take any running back, would you take the Kansas City Chiefs' Jamaal Charles?

Well, I took a hard look at it and my answer was "yes."

Charles might be the most underrated star in the league. He leads the AFC in rushing with 635 yards. He leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,018, putting him on pace for more than 2,000. He leads K.C. in rushing and receiving yards. He leads all NFL running backs in catches with 41.

Charles is 26. He has 5,171 rushing yards and has the highest average per carry (5.5) of any back in history with 5,000 more yards on the ground. Only Marion Motley (5.7) had a higher average per carry among running backs. So you can make a strong argument for him as the top running back in the sport.

The Vikings' Adrian Peterson would be the choice for many fans. Peterson has 9,420 career rushing yards for a robust 5.0 career average. Two years ago, he rushed for 2,097 yards. But Peterson, who is 28, has almost exactly twice as many carries in his career as Charles. So if I were picking a guy right now to start a team, I'd take Charles because he has much less wear and tear on his body.

The surprising thing was, we couldn't think of any running back under age 25. The Eagles' LeSean McCoy is 25. He leads the NFL in rushing with 733 yards. So he'd be a candidate. But it's hard to find any dynamic up and coming running backs. That shows you how much the NFL has become a passing league, and how few of the young running backs would qualify as stars today.

C.J. Spiller has similar skills to Charles. In fact, I felt Charles was the most fitting model for Spiller when he was putting up those gaudy numbers a year ago. Spiller had a career rushing average of just under 5.4 yards a carry coming into this season, which put him in Charles' company. But injuries this year have set Spiller back and slowed his arrival as one of the game's true elite running backs.

What do you think? Am I missing anyone? Washington's Alfred Morris, 24, is already over 2,000 career yards in his second season in the league. The Texans' Arian Foster, who is 27, has 5,063 career rushing yards and a 4.5 average. Foster has 6,777 yards from scrimmage, just 59 behind Charles.

Anyway, Charles will present a good challenge for the Bills' defense on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills' run defense has improved quite a bit this season. They're allowing only 3.9 yards a pop, more than a full yard better than a year ago. If they can hold down Charles, who provides 37 percent of the unbeaten Chiefs' offense, the Buffalo defenders could be the talk of the NFL come Monday.


C.J. Spiller
comments powered by Disqus

About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |