Which Running Back Will Take Home the 2019 NFL Rushing Title?

By Rick Rockwell in NFL on August 5, 2019

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Minute Read

The 2019 NFL rushing title will be one of the most coveted individual crowns in all of pro football. It often symbolizes the best running back in the National Football League. Even as the league evolves into a fast-paced passing attack, a strong running game with an elite running back is sought after by all 32 teams. Heading into this season, the 2019 NFL rushing title appears to be Ezekiel Elliott’s to lose, according to most NFL betting sites. However, I wouldn’t be so quick to crown Elliott the rushing champ. In fact, there’s plenty of competition for “Zeke” with numerous betting options.

NFL Rushing Leader Betting Odds

The following NFL prop bet is courtesy of BetOnline:

  • Ezekiel Elliott (+400)
  • Saquon Barkley (+550)
  • Joe Mixon (+1000)
  • Nick Chubb (+1000)
  • Derrick Henry (+1200)
  • Todd Gurley (+1200)
  • Le’Veon Bell (+1400)
  • Christian McCaffrey (+1600)
  • Melvin Gordon (+1600)
  • Dalvin Cook (+2000)
  • Leonard Fournette (+2000)
  • Marlon Mack (+2200)
  • David Johnson (+2500)
  • James Conner (+2500)
  • Chris Carson (+3300)
  • Kerryon Johnson (+3300)
  • Phillip Lindsay (+3300)
  • Sony Michel (+3300)
  • Alvin Kamara (+4000)
  • Damien Williams (+4000)
  • David Montgomery (+4000)
  • Derrius Guice (+4000)
  • Devonta Freeman (+4000)
  • Josh Jacobs (+4000)
  • Aaron Jones (+5000)
  • Jordan Howard (+5000)
  • Mark Ingram (+5000)
  • Rashaad Penny (+5000)

The Favorites to Lead NFL in Rushing

According to most NFL betting sites online, the following running backs are considered the odds on favorites to win the 2019 NFL rushing title:

Ezekiel Elliott (+400)

Elliott has won the rushing title in two of the last three seasons including the 2018 NFL season when he only played in 15 games. In his three-year career, Elliott has averaged 101 rushing yards per game and 4.7 yards per attempt. The Cowboys are 16-3 when Ezekiel goes over 100 yards rushing in a game. This year, the Cowboys are considered an NFC Super Bowl contender.

Unfortunately, things aren’t great in Dallas right now. Elliott is currently holding out and skipping training camp as he wants a new contract. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been trying to negotiate through the media by pointing out that an NFL team doesn’t need a rushing champ to win a Super Bowl. The Patriots are the perfect example of this as they never had a rushing champ despite all of the Super Bowls the franchise has won.

With that said, the Dallas offense goes through Elliott, and they are a much better team with him than without him. As of now, the Cowboys are 12-12 when Elliott doesn’t tally more than a 100 yards rushing.

Saquon Barkley (+550)

Barkley had a stellar 2018 season in his first year in the NFL. Barkley won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award after leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 2028 total yards. He finished with 1,307 rushing yards, 81.7 yards per game, and 5 yards an attempt.

Barkley will be the main focal point of the new look Giants as they traded Odell Beckham this offseason and have reshaped their offensive identity. Barkley is expected to compete for the 2019 NFL rushing title and lead the NFL in scrimmage yards once again. Some pundits are already declaring Saquon as the best running back in the league.

Joe Mixon (+1000)

No, this is not a typo. Joe Mixon is actually being talked about as a contender for the 2019 NFL rushing title, and it’s a bit of a surprise to many fans. With that said, there is some evidence that Mixon could become an elite running back in 2019. Last year, Mixon played in 14 games and finished with 1,464 total yards, nine touchdowns, and zero fumbles. He improved on all of his numbers from 2017, which was his rookie year.

Mixon averaged 4.9 rushing yards an attempt last season and could have a big year in 2019, as the Bengals have a new head coach and offensive system. Zac Taylor comes over from the Los Angeles Rams and will employ a similar offensive attack that heavily features three wide receivers and one running back. We’ve seen what Todd Gurley did in the Rams’ explosive offense, but will that translate into Mixon and the Bengals having the same success?

Nick Chubb (+1000)

Chubb came on strong in his 2018 season and was a revelation for the Cleveland Browns. Although he didn’t crack the 1,000-yard mark, Chubb flashed power and speed as he finished with a 5.2 yards per attempt average.

In his second season, Chubb will have Beckham and Landry as wide receivers to stretch the field and keep extra defenders out of the box. This could bode well for the second year back. One big concern that I have is the other backs on the roster. The Browns signed former Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt who is expected to miss eight games this season due to suspension. That will give Chubb a massive lead in this running back competition and plenty of opportunities to put up at least 100 yards rushing per game.

With that said, Hunt did lead the NFL in rushing during the 2017 season. Furthermore, he’s a dynamic threat that could eat into Chubb’s carries in the second half of the season. Of the 2019 NFL rushing title betting favorites, I have the least confidence in Chubb and the Browns.

Derrick Henry (+1200)

2018 saw Henry finally live up to his potential as he put together an impressive final stretch of games last season. Over the last four games of the year, Henry tallied 585 rushing yards and helped the Titans make it to the playoffs. He also scored seven rushing touchdowns during that stretch and looked like the best running back in the league.

Heading into this year, the Titans will feature a heavy dosage of Henry in their rushing attack. However, he will still give up touches to Dion Lewis, who the Titans are paying $5 million per year to be a backup running back now.

Henry’s fit with the Titans’ smash mouth offense is a match made in heaven. He embodies the physical style of play that they want to use this season. With that said, obtaining a 2019 NFL rushing title will depend on whether we will get the Henry from December 2018 or the Henry for the first two years of his career, who was nothing more than a backup.

Todd Gurley (+1200)

Gurley might not have led the NFL in rushing so far, but he set the bar for running backs on the field and with their contracts. This is why he may be a good contender for the 2019 NFL rushing title. Prior to the 2018 season, Gurley reset the market for elite running backs when he got paid $60 million dollars. Then, he went out and delivered with 1,831 yards from scrimmage and 21 total touchdowns.

Unfortunately for the Rams and Gurley, his workload over the last few seasons has worn on the 25-year-old back. Gurley missed two games last year and was a non-factor in both the NFC championship game and the Super Bowl.

The Rams have taken this seriously enough to draft a highly-talented running back. In the third round of this year’s draft, they selected Darrell Henderson out of Memphis. Gurley has said all of the right things in regards to welcoming the reduced workload, but one has to wonder how many touches Gurley will lose this season due to an electric Henderson.

Too Risky to Wager On

These flashy names have potential for the 2019 NFL rushing title, but I believe the risks outweigh the rewards:

Le’Veon Bell (+1400)

Bell returns to the NFL after missing all of 2018 because of a holdout. He couldn’t come to an agreement with the Pittsburgh Steelers and chose to sit at home instead of playing for the team. His last full season was in 2017 and he finished with just under 1,300 rushing yards, 655 receiving yards, 85 receptions, and 11 total touchdowns. Bell was one of the best all-around backs in the NFL. With that said, one has to be cautious with a player who hasn’t seen the field in quite some time. Additionally, he’s playing for the New York Jets who have a young quarterback, a new head coach, and a new offensive system. Until we see how well Bell looks in a Jets uniform, it’s best to stay away.

Melvin Gordon (+1600)

Melvin Gordon could be this year’s Le’Veon Bell, as he’s threatening to sit out regular season games unless the Chargers pay him like an elite back or trade him. Unfortunately, he has no leverage. The Chargers have other capable backs on the roster. Additionally, Gordon has only played one full season since he came into the league in 2015. I don’t trust Gordon even if he gets paid like an elite back.

Marlon Mack (+2200)

I like Marlon Mack and plan on targeting him with my fantasy football team. However, I wouldn’t put money on Mack winning the 2019 NFL rushing title. Mack is versatile and a dual threat, but he’s not built to be an every-down back that touches the ball 25 to 30 times a game like Henry, Elliott, and Barkley. Additionally, the Colts will be a pass-happy team once again with a healthy Andrew Luck leading the charge and an improved offensive line. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mack eclipse 1,100 rushing yards, but he’s not a threat to win the rushing crown.

Chris Carson (+3300)

Carson finished last year with 1,151 rushing yards and was a wrecking ball for the Seahawks, who led the NFL in rushing as a team. As much as I like his rushing skills, I expect Rashaad Penny to eat into Carson’s touches. This could end up being a split backfield where Carson has 60% of the workload at best. Hold off on this backfield until we see how things shake out in preseason.

Derrius Guice (+4000)

Guice is coming off a torn ACL and it’s unclear as to how healthy he will be for the season. Furthermore, he’s competing against two other running backs for the starting job and that includes future Hall of Fame RB Adrian Peterson who is a three-time NFL rushing champ. This is a backfield to avoid betting on or drafting in fantasy football.

Josh Jacobs (+4000)

If you ask Josh Jacobs, he believes that he will be one of the greatest running backs of all time. I like the confidence that the rookie displays, but he wasn’t even the best running back in college last year. Jacobs has a lot of potential and will be a dual threat out of the backfield. However, he’s not a Saquon Barkley. I don’t expect him to contend for the 2019 NFL rushing title on a team that will throw the ball more than it runs it.

Aaron Jones (+5000)

Jones is a talented 24-year-old running back, but he’s spent too much time splitting carries with Jamaal Williams in the Packers backfield. In two seasons, he’s only totaled 1,176 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. When you factor in that the Packers throw as much as any team in the NFL, it’s hard to imagine Jones or any Green Bay running back being in the Top 10 for rushing yards when it’s all said and done.

Best Betting Value for Rushing Leaders

The following running backs offer solid 2019 NFL rushing title betting value based on their current odds, teams, and career success:

Dalvin Cook (+2000)

Cook is a highly-talented running back who has been held down by injuries. Now that he’s 100% healthy, big things are expected of Cook this year. Dalvin will be featured in an explosive offense that has a strong passing game, solid o-line, and veteran QB. Another factor that could help Cook have a big year is the hiring of Gary Kubiak. The former Broncos and Texans head coach has produced a 1,000-yard running back every team that he’s been with. That also includes an OC stint with the Ravens. If Cook can remain healthy, then he can definitely compete for the 2019 NFL rushing title.

Leonard Fournette (+2000)

Like with Cook, if Fournette can stay healthy, then he can be a beast for the Jacksonville Jaguars offense. Fournette took a step back last year due to injuries. In his rookie year, two seasons ago, he finished with 1,040 yards rushing in 13 games. With Nick Foles at QB, I expect the Jaguars to have an improved passing game, which will help alleviate stacked boxes. Fournette could be in line for a bounce back season.

Alvin Kamara (+4000)

Melvin Ingram has left the New Orleans Saints, and Alvin Kamara is now the number one running back on a high-octane offense. Instead of being the 1-A to Ingram’s 1-B, Kamara is now the main man and a major focal point to an offense that should be at the top of the stats in every major category.

Behind Kamara is Latavius Murray and Jacquizz Rodgers, two running backs who are only there to give Kamara a breather. Last year, Kamara started 13 of 15 games and finished with 1,592 total yards from scrimmage. He caught 81 receptions and had 18 offensive touchdowns. And he did all of that with Ingram on the roster.

This year, Kamara offers the best 2019 NFL rushing title betting value. He can compete with Saquon Barkley as the top all-around running back. And he’s on a better offense than Barkley. I expect at least 20 touches per game for Kamara, which should translate into a lot of yards on the ground and in the air.

Top Longshots to Win 2019 NFL Rushing Title

These two running backs are longshots to win the rushing title based on their current odds, teams, and projected stats for 2019:

Devonta Freeman (+4000)

Freeman continues the trend of running backs that could have a big year if healthy. Freeman will no longer share a backfield with Coleman who left for the 49ers via free agency. Devonta broke 1,000 yards rushing in 2015 and 2016 before Coleman became a credible running option in the Falcons backfield. With a strong o-line, a talented QB in Matt Ryan, and an explosive passing attack led by Julio Jones, Freeman could be the benefactor of all this talent.

Mark Ingram (+5000)

I briefly mentioned Ingram above when talking about Kamara. He played in 12 games last year and finished with 645 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Ingram had a respectable 4.7 yards per rushing attempt, but snapped his streak of breaking 1,000 rushing yards in 2016 and 2017.

Ingram left the Saints and a crowded backfield with Kamara to join the Baltimore Ravens who epitomize rushing the football. With a run heavy offense, an OC in Greg Roman who loves to run the ball, and a second year QB who has more success rushing than passing, Ingram could have a monster season. It’s why he’s the best longshot for the 2019 NFL rushing title and has a realistic chance to upstage the favorites listed above.

Who Will Win the 2019 NFL Rushing Title?

After breaking down all of the options above, I believe this battle comes down to a handful of running backs: Barkley, Elliott, Kamara, and Mixon. If Le’Veon Bell returns to his All-Pro form, then he could be in the conversation as well. However, until that happens, I like the other four better.

Of the backs I mentioned, I really like Barkley’s potential. He had more total yards from scrimmage than any other back, had a better yards per carry than Elliott, Kamara, and Mixon, and he will be the main weapon on his team whereas all three other backs have legitimate #1 receivers and decent passing attacks. Furthermore, Barkley can run inside or outside, catch the ball out of the backfield, break tackles, and take it to the house on any given play.

For this bet, I’m taking Saquon Barkley to edge out Elliott and Kamara for the 2019 NFL rushing title. He could also end up in the Top 10 for NFL MVP as well.

The 2019 NFL Rushing Champ: Saquon Barkley (+550)
Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site.

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