While the NFL has turned into more of a passing game in recent years, there are still plenty of excellent running backs throughout the league. The NFC North has two of the best ones in Aaron Jones and Dalvin Cook. Jones re-signed with the Green Bay Packers this offseason, while Cook enters his fifth season with the Minnesota Vikings. The AFC North just added another impressive player to their running back ranks as well this offseason, as the Pittsburgh Steelers nabbed Najee Harris out of Alabama to bolster their backfield.
Even though the quarterback is obviously the most important player on the field, every team needs a quality running back. These three players are going to need to step up and take pressure off of the aerial attack.
How will these players fare in 2021? Here are some predictions for Jones, Cook and Harris this upcoming season.
Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Jones returned to the Green Bay Packers this offseason, re-signing with them despite receiving interest from the Miami Dolphins. Green Bay is happy to have him back as he is one of the most dynamic dual-threat running backs in the NFL.
Jones is as dangerous carrying the ball between the tackles as he is going out on passing routes. This season, he is set up once again to have an excellent year.
Green Bay is going to look to establish the run more with Jones and A.J. Dillon this season. It will result in Jones re-setting his career-high in rushing yards with at least 1,200, adding 500 yards through the air. He will have 13 total touchdowns as well in an explosive Packers offense.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings rode Dalvin Cook last season and he responded with a huge season. He set career-highs for touches, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. This season, he will once again be in a position to produce.
Cook has cemented himself as one of the best ball carriers in the NFL but is also a capable pass-catcher. He has caught at least 40 passes in three consecutive seasons and will keep that streak alive in 2021.
The Florida State product will rush for 1,450 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground, adding 50 receptions for 450 yards and another four scores this upcoming season.
Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers used the No. 24 overall pick on Najee Harris out of Alabama. Harris will be tasked with getting the Steelers running game back on track after they had a dismal season on the ground in 2020.
Harris was dominant with the Crimson Tide and Pittsburgh hopes he brings that to the Steel City as well. The offensive line has some concerns, which will curtail his production a bit, but the coaching staff will scheme him into touches in the open field.
Harris will rush for at least 1,100 yards as a rookie as the Steelers will look to assert themselves on the ground, especially with Ben Roethlisberger’s arm strength waning. Harris will add nine scores on the ground while adding another three scores and 400 yards through the air.