Is David Johnson the Best Running Back in the NFL?

By DavidHirschhorn
Oct. 18, 2016

Raise your hand if David Johnson either won you your week or beat you in fantasy football this week. Sadly, I am one of those people as David Johnson scored 31 points in fantasy football last night to give me a loss. He ran for 11 yards and 3 TD's. He showed why he is a face of the Cardinals and why he looks like the best running back in the NFL.

There are so many factors that are contributing to why Johnson looks so great and will continue to be great. I would be more skeptical of him if this was the first time he has looked like a star but it hasn't. Last year, after Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson succumbed to injury, David Johnson had to step up. He was a game-changer and looked to have a bright future in the NFL ahead of him. However, some people, myself included, didn't know how good he'd be in his following seasons. It was such a small sample size of work and production that I had no clue if it was a fluke or if it was legit.

He was for real and has taken his performance to the next level so far. Since Bruce Arians became the head coach of the Cardinals in 2013, he has always been a "throw the ball deep" type of coach. That has been his identity regardless of who he has coached. From 2013-2015 seasons, Arians would always have his QB put up gaudy numbers because the style of play that Arians would run was throw as much as you can. He never disliked the run, but he always has aired the ball out. A problem was, he never had a running back with such elite talent to work with.

In the 2015 NFL Draft, Arians finally got his hands on an athletic back with tons of potential. That was David Johnson, a third round pick out of Northern Iowa. What makes David Johnson so special is that he has elite size (6'1"), elite speed (4.5 forty-yard dash), elite power, elite vision, and the biggest wild card, his amazing ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. His hands are on par with Le'Veon Bell for best in the league for a running back. 

Le'Veon Bell has made a name for himself in the NFL being not only a pass-catching back but being just as qualified as a runner. To me, David Johnson looks five times better than Le'Veon Bell looked at this stage of his career. 

Johnson has transformed the identity of the Cardinals from the Arians Arial Attack to the David Johnson Show.  So far this season, Johnson has 568 rushing yards and 8 TD's. To give you a sense of perspective, in his rookie season in that limited amount of work, Johnson had 581 rushing yards and 8 TD's. This year, Johnson also has 265 receiving yards. He is also leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage.

To me, there are a handful of other guys that are top running backs and I will list them but to me, David Johnson is better than all of them. 

Ezekiel Elliott -- I love "Zeke the Freak" so far but he is still a rookie. I don't know if he can do this for his entire NFL career. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt because he looks super talented and is leading the NFL in rushing yards. While he still is a good pass-catcher, Johnson is simply better. Already, so early in both of these guys careers , they each look like the future at running back in the NFL.

Le'Veon Bell -- As I mentioned before, Le'Veon Bell was the first real running back who could be great as both a runner and a receiver and that is the mold that David Johnson fits into. Bell has similar size and elite talent levels. However, if I were an NFL GM and had to pick one running back to build my offense around, I'd pick Johnson. Bell is still incredibly talented but their are two major drawbacks. First, he is incredibly injury-prone. People often say that Bell is the best running back in the game when healthy, but he has been injured so much. Secondly, he has had discipline issues with marijuana and seems to always be missing time for an injury or a suspension. Johnson is younger which benefits him as well.

Adrian Peterson -- AP has been Mr. Reliable throughout his career and is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He is getting on the older side and is starting to slow down. He never has been the elite receiver that Johnson or Le'Veon Bell was. He has always been the best pure combination of speed and power but never was a threat to catch the ball. If he was healthy this season, I'd still take DJ over AP.

Lamar Miller -- I know, some of you readers are going to think that this is an accident I included Lamar Miller. It is not. I think that Lamar Miller is a top-five back in the NFL. He possesses elite quickness and is a great hybrid of a runner and a receiver. He was amazing in Miami but severely underused. He left the Dolphins to join the Houston Texans where Bill O'Brien & Co. had a hard time with play calling. This past week, they finally figured out that in order for them to be successful, they need to get Lamar Miller involved and especially in the red zone. I'm predicting right now, that Miller has an insane second half of the season starting from Week 10-Week 17. Miller has elite talent, but Johnson is the overall better player because he has better power and better size. 

There you have it! I hope that I have convinced you that David Johnson is the best running back in the NFL. He literally has every single tool you want from a running back. As I previously mentioned, if I were an NFL GM and had to select one running back to build my offense around, David Johnson would be my guy. He has a really bright future and will continue to be one of the faces of the NFL and a model of a great running back for years to come.