With NFL Training Camp just days away, lets take a look at how the 2017 season will start in terms of player performance and rankings.
In the AFC West, it's a division that's undergone a changing of the guard at the running back position in recent years. Jamaal Charles switched teams — and probably roles. Enter Marshawn Lynch, exit Latavius Murray. And the division's leading returning rusher by yards per carry is Spencer Ware.
Here are the top 5 running backs in the AFC West.
5. Devontae Booker — Denver Broncos
612 YDS, 3.5 YPC, 4 TD, 31 REC, 265 YDS, TD
Booker led the Broncos in rushing last season with C.J. Anderson missing time with injury. While there's certainly a chance he takes over as the No. 1 back, his 3.5 yards per carry leaves much to be desired — though the Broncos O-line was anything but stellar in 2016 and could be improved from the outset in 2017.[divider]
4. Marshawn Lynch — Oakland Raiders
DNP in 2016
Lynch did not play in 2016 (retirement) went through multiple injury scenarios his final two years in Seattle — the last of which produced just 111 carries for 417 yards (3.8 YPC). Whether or not the year off helps or hurts Lynch in the long run remains to be seen but he is 31 and has over 2,100 carries and 250 receptions in nine seasons, suggesting it's difficult to imagine a consistent 16-20 carries.[divider]
3. Spencer Ware — Kansas City Chiefs
921 YDS, 4.3 YPC, 3 TD, 33 REC, 447 YDS, 2 TD
Ware led the Chiefs in rushing last season with Jamaal Charles missing the season with injury and he showed he could be the lead back — and a versatile one. The Chiefs' O-line is very good and Ware is in his prime, but watch out for C.J. Spiller and rookie Kareem Hunt potentially getting more touches and cutting into Ware's workload.[divider]
2. C.J. Anderson — Denver Broncos
437 YDS, 4.0 YPC, 4 TD, 16 REC, 128 YDS, TD
Assuming he's healthy, Anderson is one of the more instinctive runners in the NFL and has found way to average 4.6 yards per carry during his career, including 4.0 last year and 4.7 in 2015, despite a poor offensive line showing. Booker may be gaining steam on the depth chart, but Anderson starts camp as the No. 1 — presuming he's healthy.[divider]
1. Melvin Gordon — Los Angeles Chargers
997 YDS, 3.9 YPC, 10 TD, 41 REC, 419 YDS, 2 TD
Gordon is one of the more dynamic backs in the NFL and far and away the elite of the AFC West entering 2017. He nearly rushed for 1,000 yards in just 13 games and has big-play — and big-game — ability, as evidenced by his 196-yard effort last November versus Tennessee, seven 20-plus yard runs and 4.9 yards-per-attempt on carries 21-30 in a given game (see chart below). A healthy season for Gordon could provide nearly 2,000 total yards and a Pro Bowl for the third-year back. [divider]
Others to keep an eye on: C.J. Spiller — Kansas City; Jamaal Charles — Denver; Jalen Richard — Oakland; Branden Oliver — Los Angeles; Andre Williams — Los Angeles; DeAndre Washington — Oakland; Kareem Hunt — Kansas City.