At Grantland.com, Bill Barnwell asks and answers the question: Who is the best running back in football?
If youve ever read any of the material at Grantland always loaded with articles for the smart fan who appreciates clever writing about sports and pop culture you know the answer to this question would go fairly deep.
Barnwell starts off with a historical perspective in which his thesis is that this season is the first in 42 years when you couldnt easily point to a particular running back as the best in the NFL. His list actually may be more debatable than anything he says about this season, which hell concede.
But then we get to 2012, and he separates five backs to compare for title of No. 1 Matt Forte, Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew, LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice. The breakdown includes charts that go beyond your normal stats. This is compelling stuff how much of his teams offense each accounts for, how much more productive he is than his backup, what percentage of his output comes when the game isnt close, how productive he is on first down.
The Ravens Rice has the highest rushing average on first down 5.8 to Jones-Drews 5.2. Rice also accounted for 35.3 percent of the Ravens offense, nearly as much as Jones-Drews 35.7 for the Jaguars.
In the end, Barnwell picks Rice as No. 1.
Rice is the healthiest back of these five, he writes. He's the best receiver and has the most reliable hands. He's been an essential part of an offense that would likely break down without him. And since he's the second-youngest of our five backs, at 25, he still has some room left on his growth curve.
For Ravens fans who like to play up the no respect angle, sorry about this bad news.