From a rookie who took the Big Apple by storm to a complete unknown who won hearts and minds in Mile High, Breakout Live reveals the top breakout running backs from the 2018 NFL season.
Despite being called a generational talent and the best running back since Adrian Peterson, the Giants took a lot of heat for eschewing their need for a quarterback and selecting Barkley 2nd overall.
Now that the 2018 regular season is in the books, the Giants have to feel pretty good about their decision as they watched Barkley finished 2nd in the league in rushing yards with 1307. Barkley also became just the 3rd rookie in NFL history to eclipse 2000 scrimmage yards and broke Reggie Bush’s reception record by a rookie. The list goes on and on for Barkley who also had the 3rd most plays all-time of 40+ yards in a season by any running back including veterans with 9. He also led the NFL with runs over 20 yards with 16. He set the Giants rookie rushing record, and per PFF, broke the most combined tackles of any player in the NFL with 71.
Beyond all these impressive accomplishments, Barkley did all this on a 5-11 team with a poor offensive line and a washed up quarterback. Maybe the most impressive thing Barkley accomplished during his rookie season is becoming the face of a Giants franchise ahead of Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr.
The rookie 35th overall selection from Georgia languished on the bench behind primary ball carrier Carlos Hyde through the first 6 games of the season, tallying just 16 carries. Once Hyde was traded to Jacksonville ahead of the Browns Week 7 game vs. Tampa, Chubb would become the starter. In his first game as the new bell cow vs. the Bucs, Chubb would see the ball 18 times, 2 more than he’d seen all season, amassing 80 yards and touchdown. It was now Chubb’s job to lose and one he wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
Cleveland would feature Chubb over their final 10 games. As an integral part of the changing of the guard in Cleveland, Chubb would break the single-season Browns rookie rushing record set by Trent Richardson in 2012 (950 yards) finishing just 4 yards shy of the 1000 yard mark with 996. Chubb set the record on just 192 carries and 5.2 yards per carry,which was good for 2nd among the 5 running backs on our list, while adding 8 touchdowns. Chubb also saw usage as a pass-catcher, bringing in 20 balls for 149 yards and two scores, giving him 10 total touchdowns in his rookie season.
If there was a true Cinderella story in the NFL this season, it’s Phillip Lindsay. Snubbed by the combine and all 32 teams in the draft due to his diminutive 5’7 stature, the kid who grew up in Denver and played his college ball at Colorado signed on with the local Broncos as an undrafted free agent. It took Lindsay all of two games to prove everyone missed on him as he became the first undrafted player in NFL history to post over 100 scrimmage yards in his first two career games. Maybe even more impressive was Lindsay so quickly supplanting 3rd round draft choice Royce Freeman, who was tabbed to be the guy for the Broncos in 2018.
Lindsay finished inside the top 10 in the NFL in rushing at number 9 with 1037 yards and scored 9 touchdowns via the ground. He chipped in 241 yards in the passing game with a score, giving him 10 combined scores in his rookie campaign. Lindsay finished 2nd all-time just 68 yards from breaking the undrafted rookie rushing record set by the Colts’ Dominic Rhodes of 1104 yards in 2001.
Even though McCaffrey was drafted 8th-overall by the Panthers, he wasn’t seen as a guy who could carry the load as an every-down back, and his 2017 rookie season did nothing to dissuade that line of thinking from his pre-draft label. CMC saw 117 carries as a rookie and only averaged an ugly 3.7 yards per carry.
In 2018, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera insisted McCaffrey could be an every-down back, shocking league observers by insisting CMC could touch it as much as 25-30 times per game. After his Week 3 breakout vs. the Bengals where he ran it 28 times for 184 yards and caught 2 passes, McCaffrey not only had his 30 touches but he announced to the NFL he could be a primary ball carrier.
With Cam Newton suffering through shoulder issues, it could be argued there was no one more important to his team than Christian McCaffrey. Not only did CMC rush for 1098 yards, good for 6th in the NFL, he compiled 867 receiving yards on 107 catches and broke the single season record for catches by a running back held by Matt Forte (102) and finished 2nd in receiving yards by a running back behind only the Patriots’ James White. McCaffrey finished 2018 with 13 combined touchdowns and 35 yards short of 2000 yards from scrimmage.
Hampered by poor offensive line play in 2017, Joe Mixon delivered on his considerable talent for the Bengals in 2018, finishing 4th in the chase for the NFL rushing title behind just Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley and Todd Gurley, with 1168 yards while missing two games with a knee injury.
Mixon’s 1168 yards and 8 touchdowns looks better in light of the fact the Bengals played nearly half the season without their #1 wide receiver, A.J. Green, and the final 4 games without Andy Dalton, making Mixon the main threat on the Bengals offense.
The 2nd year standout from Oklahoma also logged a fairly impressive 43 catches out of the backfield for 296 yards and a score, giving him 1464 yards from scrimmage and 9 touchdowns. Mixon also showed his explosive nature as one of only 6 backs in the league to hit double digits in runs over 20 yards (11), good for a tie for 2nd in that category. Mixon finished his sophomore season in the NFL on a strong note with 3 of his 4 100-yard games coming in last 4 games of the season.