It is still a measure of greatness for NFL running backs. Reaching the 1,000-yard plateau in a single season is not an easy task, especially in today’s pass-happy game. Last season, a full nine running backs hit the mark. How many will do so in 2019? Who will they be?
Today, we take aim at another of many NFL predictions in 2019 examining which running backs will reach that elite status of attaining 1,000 yards-plus on the ground.
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, DALLAS (-125 OVER 1380.5) In three seasons, the Cowboys All-Pro running back has led the NFL in rushing twice. That includes last year when Elliott totaled 1,434 yards. The only season in which Elliott did not attain the 1,000-yard mark was 2017 when he was forced to serve a six-game suspension. Elliott is averaging 101.2 yards per game in his three-year career. If he maintains that pace, he will likely surpass the 1,000-yard plateau once again in 2019. The Cowboys are expected to battle for the NFC East title again and you can bet Elliott will be the focal point of Dallas’s run-heavy offense.
Online sportsbook America’s Bookie gives Gurley +1750 odds to lead the NFL in rushing. While he might not lead the league, Gurley is surely talented enough and will get enough carries to eclipse the 1,000-yard total. The only thing slowing Gurley down will be arthritis that is in his left knee.
LE’VEON BELL, N.Y. JETS (-120 OVER 1125.5) Unless you took an NFL sabbatical, you know that Bell sat out all of last season due to a contract dispute. He was eventually signed by the Jets in the offseason and should become the man in New York. New head coach Adam Gase will put Bell to work and take some of the pressure off of second-year quarterback Sam Darnold.
Bell has had three seasons (out of five) in which he has gained over 1,000 yards rushing. In 2017, the last time he suited up in the NFL, Bell ran for 1,291 yards and also had 85 receptions for the Pittsburgh Steelers. When Bell signed his new contract, he became the second-highest paid running back in the NFL. Bell’s four-year deal was worth $52.5 million with $35 million of it guaranteed.
SAQUON BARKLEY, N.Y. GIANTS (-125 OVER 1350.5) Barkley burst onto the scene last year with 1,307 yards rushing and 11 TDs. He was also spectacular as a receiver catching 91 passes for 721 yards and four touchdowns. The former Penn State star earned the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award and should enjoy a similar season in 2019.
Barkley is the Giants offense right now. Quarterback Eli Manning doesn’t have much left in the tank, but Barkley helps take some of the pressure off of the aging quarterback all while providing a threat to score on almost any play. Barkley might touch the ball even more in 2019 and you know what that means – Barkley will eclipse 1,000 yards rushing.
CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY, CAROLINA (-120 OVER 1040.5) McCaffrey broke out last year, his second in the NFL, with his first 1,000-yard season. The former Stanford star rushed for 1,098 yards while averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He scored seven touchdowns and also had 107 receptions for 867 yards and six more scores.
He is as complete as a running back as there is in the NFL. McCaffrey can line up virtually anywhere on the Panthers offense and have success. Expect him to do the same in 2019. Carolina head coach Ron Rivera is a big fan of running the football and playing great defense. The Panthers were fourth in the league last season in rushing. Expect that to continue in 2019 and expect McCaffrey to reach 1,000 rushing yards as well.
TODD GURLEY, L.A. RAMS After winning the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015, Gurley went on to capture the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year award. He has only rushed for fewer than 1,000 yards once in four years and that was in 2016, a season in which Gurley and the Rams as a whole disappointed. Under head coach Sean McVay, the Rams rely on the running game to open their highly successful play action passing game.
ALVIN KAMARA, NEW ORLEANS Kamara has yet to even hit 1,000 yards in his short NFL career, but that is about to change in 2019. With the departure of Mark Ingram, Kamara becomes the feature back in the Saints offense. The now third-year pro went from 728 yards as a rookie to 883 last year while sharing the backfield with Ingram. The Saints did sign Latavius Murray, but Kamara is the guy. Expect him to get carries needed and surpass the 1,000-yard mark. What he will not do is lead the NFL in rushing. America’s Bookie has Kamara at +3500 to lead the league in rushing yards.
OTHERS IN THE MIX Over the past five seasons, an average of 10 NFL running backs per season hit the 1,000-yard mark. The high was 2014 (13) and the low was the following season, 2015, in which just seven running backs hit the mark.
New England’s Sony Michel established himself as an elite back and emerged as the Patriots go-to runner in 2018. He finished with 931 rushing yards just falling short of the 1,000-yard mark. Michel is given -110 odds to go OVER 1170.5 yards in 2019. Expect it to happen as head coach Bill Belichick helps the 42-year-old Tom Brady with a solid running game.
PREDICTIONS So, here’s how it all plays out. The usual suspects – Elliott, Gurley, Bell, and Barkley – will reach the 1,000-yard mark again. Add in McCaffrey, Saints star Kamara, and another newbie in Michel and you have the seven running backs that will go over 1,000 yards in 2019.