C.J. Spiller will enjoy a breakout campaign this season. But the 2010 first-rounder will not be alone. Three other running backs are also set for breakout seasons.
These include a veteran who will finally be free from the constraints of a crowded rotation. While a pair of exciting second-year backs will benefit from becoming the feature of their respective offenses.
1. Chris Ivory, New York Jets
Chris Ivory has spent three seasons sharing the load in the New Orleans Saints backfield. He has yearned for carries as if they are scraps from a dinner table.
When Ivory has been given his chance to run the ball he has rarely disappointed. A tenacious power back with deceptive quickness, Ivory can be a true workhorse.
He will certainly get that chance with the New York Jets. Gang Green will give Ivory more carries and may have to lean on him, if neither Mark Sanchez or rookie Geno Smith emerge as a competent quarterback.
2. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
Trent Richardson should have been the happiest person in town when the Cleveland Browns hired Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. Turner has always favored relying on a single featured back and Richardson is an ideal fit.
He is a powerful and shifty north-south runner, who is not even close to realizing his potential. Richardson struggled with consistent rib injuries as a rookie. But he boasts breathtaking acceleration for his stout frame and can attack every angle of a defense.
He will flourish in Turner's inside running game, which features both power and zone principles. Turner coaxed the best from greats like Emmitt Smith and LaDanian Tomlinson.
He also did the same for less heralded, but still talented runners like Stephen Davis. The Browns are not completely settled at quarterback and Turner will not hesitate to lean on his most dynamic skill player.
3. David Wilson, New York Giants
David Wilson can be the most exciting running back New York Giants fans have witnessed since Dave Meggett. He possesses awesome speed that should scare any defense.
Wilson spent most of his rookie year impressing as a return man. He showcased a natural flair for the big play. That quality has been missing from Big Blue's ground game for too long.
The player the Giants drafted in the first round in 2012 enters year two as their starting running back. With more carries Wilson will be able to maximize his playmaking skills and should enjoy a huge year.
4. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
If the Buffalo Bills are smart they will turn C.J. Spiller loose this season. New head coach Doug Marrone has already indicated Spiller is set for a bigger role.
That means the player who can cut and weave at top speed will have more opportunities to embarrass defenders. Initial quickness, combined with sudden moves, define Spiller's running style.
Marrone and his staff should incorporate more sprint draws to take advantage of Spiller's top-notch acceleration. Spiller is a big-play back, ready to mature as a featured runner.
This quartet of ball carriers will keep the running game relevant this season. Each has a great chance to top 1,000 yards on the ground.