What running backs in the NFL are the most explosive?
In 2019, 26 running backs accrued over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. Tailbacks implement various styles to churn up this yardage: some are downhill runners, others are slasher-type backs, and a few are hybrids of both styles.
As a disclaimer, this analysis does not necessarily illuminate the best running backs in the NFL. Instead, it will delve into those ball-carriers that gained large chunks of yardage on single plays and can, therefore, be interpreted as “explosive.”
The metric is offensive gains of 15 yards or more on single plays–via rush and pass reception–and that total number of gains is then divided by the player’s total number of touches.
A percentage is derived. A minimum of 150 touches is assigned to ensure that those who are getting the bulk of touches are duly recognized.
Some will be miffed and mortified that Christian McCaffrey is not among the top-five. In no way is his absence intended to be an insult. McCaffrey did, indeed, lead the NFL in explosive plays (those 15+ yards gains) with a total of 31 in 2019. But, he did so on a whopping 403 touches.
Had this list been a top 10 of explosive play merchants, McCaffrey would have placed eighth via his percentage to total touches. Interestingly, McCaffrey’s pass-targets alone were so plenteous that he had more balls thrown in his direction than, for instance, Odell Beckham or Courtland Sutton in 2019.
Alas, here are the most explosive running backs in the NFL heading into the upcoming season, ranked in ascending order.