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Bell Pegged As Favorite To Pace NFL In Rushing

Predicting who will lead the NFL in rushing yards has been far from a science over the past several years. Dating back to the 2009 season, seven different players have paced the league in rushing yards; Adrian Peterson was the lone back to accomplish the feat twice.

On top of that, the volatility and quick deterioration of running backs have played a big factor in the rushing leader. In the same eight-season span we reference above, seven of the leading rushers were 27 years old or younger. Again, the lone exception is Peterson.

Oddsmakers have taken notice of these two trends and have pegged Le’Veon Bell as a small +300 favorite to pace the NFL in rushing yards next season. The Pittsburgh Steelers back has yet to finish first in rushing in his career, though he did finish third in 2014, and is just 25 years old. Bell’s patience and versatility make him arguably the best running back in the NFL and it seems like he is destined to win at least one rushing crown. That being said, Bell has only played 16 games once during his previous four years in the NFL, which is more than a little concerning.

Close behind Bell is the reigning rushing champion, Ezekiel Elliott. The Dallas Cowboys running back dominated the NFL last season despite being a rookie, leading the league in carries, rushing yards and rushes for 15-plus yards. He has the best run-blocking line in the NFL in front of him and is already one of the premier runners despite being just 21. However, since the beginning of the new millennium, only once has a player won the rushing crown in back-to-back seasons and that was way back in 2006 and 2007 when LaDainian Tomlinson accomplished the feat.

One back who pops out to me is Todd Gurley (+2000). The LA Rams bell cow was absolutely dominant in his rookie season but struggled under the antiquated system that Jeff Fisher ran during his sophomore campaign. Enter Sean McVay. The new Rams coach actually understands how to operate an NFL offense in the 21st century and the offensive line has gotten some boosts in free agency, but Gurley’s stats will be dependent on Jared Goff’s growth. If the quarterback looks as dreadful as he did during his rookie campaign, then defenses can stack the box to stop Gurley. But if Goff can at least be OK, then No. 30 could be in for a good year.

Who Will Lead the NFL in Rushing Yards?

Odds as of July 11 at Bovada

  • Le’Veon Bell (PIT) +300
  • Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) +350
  • David Johnson (ARZ) +1000
  • Jordan Howard (CHI) +1200
  • DeMarco Murray (TEN) +1200
  • Jay Ajayi (MIA) +1600
  • LeSean McCoy (BUF) +2000
  • Melvin Gordon (LAC) +2000
  • Todd Gurley (LAR) +2000
  • Devonta Freeman (ATL) +2200
  • Marshawn Lynch (OAK) +2500
  • Lamar Miller (HOU) +3300
  • Leonard Fournette (JAX) +3300
  • Joe Mixon (CIN) +5000
  • CJ Anderson (DEN) +5000
  • Carlos Hyde (SF) +5000
  • Dalvin Cook (MIN) +5000
  • Eddie Lacy (SEA) +5000
  • Isaiah Crowell (CLE) +5000
  • Paul Perkins (NYG) +5000
  • Spencer Ware (KC) +5000
  • Ty Montgomery (GB) +5000
  • Adrian Peterson (NO) +5000
  • Bilal Powell (NYJ) +6600
  • Doug Martin (TB) +6600
  • Jamaal Charles (DEN) +6600
  • Christian McCaffrey (CAR) +10000
  • Mark Ingram (NO) +10000
  • LeGarrette Blount (PHI) +10000
  • Mike Gillislee (NE) +10000
  • Thomas Rawls (SEA) +10000
  • Rob Kelley (WSH) +10000
  • Matt Forte (NYJ) +10000
  • Devontae Booker (DEN) +10000