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Young Running Backs Are Taking Over The NFL

Kareem Hunt has dominated the NFL so far

Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette, and Dalvin Cook (who is now on IR after tearing his ACL in week four) were all drafted in 2017.

Jordan Howard, Ezekiel Elliott, Alex Collins, and Derrick Henry were all drafted in 2016.

Todd Gurley, Jay Ajayi, Melvin Gordon, and Ameer Abdullah were each drafted in 2015.

Those 11 running backs are all ranked in the top 20 in rushing yards. Last year, 11 of the top 20 rushing leaders were also were 1st, 2nd, or 3rd year players, but that is pretty unusual. The table below look at every NFL season since 1970, and shows the number of players in the top 20 in rushing that were in their first, second, or third years, and the total number of players in their first three years.

Year1st Yr2nd Yr3rd YrTotal
201734411
201624511
20152316
20142338
20133115
20124116
20111146
201012811
200916310
20084419
20073238
20061135
20052529
20042215
20031179
20021517
20013126
20002136
19993126
19982518
19972237
19962327
19954318
19943339
19934149
19921179
19911528
199026311
198942410
19883148
19872338
19862103
19851258
19843339
19832237
19821427
198133410
198046111
197921811
197827110
19771225
197613610
19752338
197435412
19732417
19721214
197133612
197015612

And it’s not just top 20 production: Hunt and Fournette, Howard and Elliott, and Gurley and Ajayi all rank in the top 10 (actually, top seven!) in rushing yards.  That’s also pretty unusual: it hasn’t happened since 2008.

Year1st Yr2nd Yr3rd YrTotal
20172226
20162215
20151203
20141214
20131113
20122114
20110123
20100145
20090325
20083216
20071001
20060123
20050112
20040011
20030134
20021405
20011113
20002114
19991023
19981012
19971135
19961203
19952103
19942215
19933025
19920156
19911225
19901326
19892114
19882024
19870213
19861001
19851113
19840224
19832013
19821326
19812125
19802417
19791135
19782406
19771012
19760224
19751023
19741326
19731214
19721102
19712125
19701326

Add in Tarik Cohen and Alvin Kamara (22 years old), Alex Collins (23), Isaiah Crowell, Tevin Coleman, and Ty Montgomery (24), and there have been a lot of young talented running backs to enter the NFL in recent years.