One of the biggest disappointments at the running back position in 2014 was Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington. He was expected to have his breakout season last year, but that didn’t end up happening.
Arizona simply didn’t get the type of production that they needed from him, but that will change in 2015. There is no question that Ellington has the talent to be an above average starter at the NFL level, but he needs to work hard this offseason to prepare to be a feature back. It was obvious that he wasn’t ready for a full-time starting job, and he didn’t know what it would take.
During the 2014 season, Ellington rushed for 660 yards and three touchdowns on 201 carries.
Those numbers are going to take a major jump in 2015, and he will come back looking much stronger and much more ready to take on the starting job. Arizona has been rumored to be looking at bringing in another starting caliber running back, but if they don’t then Ellington will be a major breakout player next season.
(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams
Keeping it in the NFC West with the second name on the list, the St. Louis Rams are expecting a big season out of Tre Mason in 2015. He was a rookie in 2014 and showed quite a bit of potential during his first season.
St. Louis has been looking for a franchise running back since Steven Jackson left, and Mason appears to be that guy. At 5-foot-8, 207 pounds, he is a completely different kind of running back than Jackson, but he is more than capable of putting up big numbers. The Rams are very high on him, and he will come back even better with a full offseason of improvement.
During his rookie season, Mason ended up rushing for 765 yards and four touchdowns on 179 attempts.
Expect to see a big season from the Rams on the ground next season thanks to Mason. He has all of the potential to take the next step in his sophomore season, and St. Louis will give him every chance to do so.
(Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders need a boost from their running game next season, and if they don’t end up signing anyone else then Latavius Murray appears to be the first in line to win the starting job. Murray is a big running at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, but he possesses great speed and will be a threat if he does get on the field consistently as the starter.
During the 2014 season, Murray ended up rushing for 424 yards and two touchdowns on 82 carries.
At 25 years old, Murray has been waiting for this kind of chance to prove himself to the NFL. There is no question that he has the ability to be a starting running back, and he could soon get the chance to prove that.
Oakland is planning to give him that opportunity unless they are able to come away with a player like DeMarco Murray in free agency.
That being said, Murray is going to figure out a way to put up a huge season in 2015. He has the physical ability and he got just enough experience in 2014 to get himself ready and prepared for the big stage next year.
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the NFL at the running back position last season was Jeremy Hill, who took over the Cincinnati Bengals’ starting job fairly quickly. Hill is poised to come up with an even bigger season in 2015, and the Bengals believe that they have a star in the making in their backfield.
Last season with the Bengals, Hill ended up rushing for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns on 222 carries.
Cincinnati needs that type of running back in a big way with Andy Dalton as their starting quarterback. Hill will be the workhorse running back for the Bengals, and will produce even more than he did this past season.
The Bengals will be relying on him to put up even bigger numbers if they want to make another run at the postseason.
Needless to say, Hill has “star” potential looking ahead into the future. He has the exact right balance of speed and strength to be an every down back, and is in a perfect system for him to excel.
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Andre Williams, New York Giants
The darkhorse of this group is New York Giants running back Andre Williams. He had a very solid all-around rookie season this past year, and has quite a bit more potential to play himself into.
Last season in his rookie year with the Giants, Williams ended up carrying the football 217 times for 721 yards and seven touchdowns.
At 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, he is a very strong running back but still possesses enough speed to break off a long run when he’s given the opportunity. New York is very high on him looking ahead to the future, and he is primed to have a big season in 2015. Eli Manning works very well alongside of Williams, which is another big key for the young running back out of Boston College.
It will be interesting to see what improvements he makes to his game throughout the offseason. He has a very well-rounded game already, but there is no doubt that he will come back next season an improved player.
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
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Running backs are the main way to take pressure off of quarterbacks, and they force defenses to respect more than just the man throwing the ball.
There are a few "elite" running backs in the NFL, with the increased "running back by committee" strategy. It isn't a knock on the position as a whole, but there simply aren't enough players that have proven themselves to play consistently at a superstar level.
Despite that fact, there are a few running backs with the potential to break out in the 2015 season.
Last season, there were quite a handful of rushers that showed the potential to turn into something in the future. Whether that "future" is now or farther ahead, they could be poised to have a breakout season in 2015.