Led by the Colts, how do AFC South running backs compare to the rest of the NFL?
Even though the NFL has evolved into more of a passing league, teams like the Indianapolis Colts still have a great running back room.
The best offensive teams in the league have found support by having a great running back, or at least multiple good running backs to change the game each Sunday. With the role of a hard-hitting running back changing and backs becoming smaller and more athletic, teams have focused on committees.
For instance, the San Francisco 49ers seem to have an unlimited supply of unheard-of running backs that get the job done.
Recently, CBS Sports ranked the NFL divisions based on the running backs in those divisions. Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans fans are not going to like this list. The AFC South came in third out of eight spots in these rankings, which is very odd considering the two best running backs in the NFL reside in the AFC South.
Ranking 4-8: the pass-heavy offenses
Some of these rankings aren’t a huge surprise, based on what offenses look like in these divisions. Even if one of the teams has a solid lineup, the rest of the division is dragging them back in the rankings.
The four divisions on the bottom include the AFC East, NFC West, AFC West, and NFC East. So essentially, the East and West divisions, which if you really dig into the meat and potatoes, have high power passing offenses. These divisions include Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Justin Herbert, Mac Jones, Tua Tagovailoa, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, and Jalen Hurts.
The QB power in these four divisions takes away the running back position and it is not needed as much, hence the weaker depth charts at the position.
As mentioned above, San Fran has a decent backfield, but the rest of the division is dominated by the QB play. So there is no real surprise the division falls that low.
Ranking 1-4: The run-heavy offenses
This is where things got interesting on how Jordan Dajani ranked the divisions. In order from 1st to 4th, it is the AFC North, NFC North, AFC South, and then the NFC South.
One could make an argument that the AFC North has the best depth at running back in the league. With the North having Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Najee Harris, and Joe Mixon, that does show a lot.
The entire Baltimore Ravens running back room is still unproven after missing everyone with injuries last year. The team is still mostly operational with Lamar Jackson as the main running option.
An argument can be made having three top 10 running backs in the same division warrants the top spot. But what if you have the top two running backs in the division?
How the AFC South was ranked third behind the NFC North does not make any sense. These rankings are grasping at straws if they believe that David Montgomery, DeAndre Swift, Aaron Jones, and Dalvin Cook make up a better backfield than what can be found in the AFC South.
Considering Jones is touchdown-dependent and Cook is never fully 100% healthy, this is just asinine.
The AFC South carries Jonathan Taylor, Derrick Henry, James Robinson, Travis Etienne Jr, and Marlon Mack. With two of the fastest, hard-hitting single-backs on their team, the AFC South is looking nice.
Ultimately, the biggest factor is that the division still carries the best two running backs in the league. That should carry enough weight to be a top-two division.