Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
When the Titans made Johnson their first round draft selection in 2008, many fans only knew he was incredibly fast. Since then, they have discovered he is so much more after making the Pro Bowl in each of his two seasons.
He led the league with 2006 yards, 358 carries, 2,509 yards from scrimmage, 125.4 yards rushing per game, and a 91-yard run last year. It was shades of Earl Campbell, and people wondered what he could possibly do for an encore this year.
He leads the league with 113 carries, about the same pace as last year, and six rushing touchdowns. He also has 13 catches, on pace to surpass his career best of 50 set last season.
His 485 rushing yards ranks second in the NFL, and it is very possible the best running back in the game today is en route to his second consecutive rushing title.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
AP is the only good thing to talk about when it comes to the Minnesota offense. Thanks to horrible quarterback play, the opposition knows this more and more each possession the Vikings have.
Peterson also no longer has the luxury of the excellent Chester Taylor backing him up anymore, so he has 13 receptions and is on pass to easily exceed his career best total of 43.
He also ranks third best in the league with 480 yards, averaging a very impressive 5.5 yards per carry.
He has been to the Pro Bowl in each of his previous three seasons, including leading the league in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage in 2008, but the start to this season may be his most impressive yet.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans
Though the undrafted Foster finished his rookie season strong, after having sat out much of it, few people knew who he was heading into this year.
All he has done is lead the league in rushing with 562 yards at almost six yards a carry. He has also caught 13 balls and scored five times.
This all has been done to the fact he has only carried the ball more than 19 times in a game once, and was shut down with 25 yards last Sunday and was forced to sit out much of the first half the week before.
Steven Jackson, Saint Louis Rams
In seven years, Jackson has gone to two Pro Bowls. Yet this may be his most impressive start yet. Though he has been healthy in just three of his five starts, the Ram still ranks tenth in the league in rushing and has 13 catches.
In his past, Jackson had quarterback Marc Bulger providing offensive balance the times Bulger was healthy enough to play. He came into this year with unproven Sam Bradford, the first overall 2010 draft pick, now at the helm.
Though Bradford has been exceptional at times, Jackson is the glue of the offense and the leader of the team. Without his tough yards, gained behind a young offensive line, things would be much tougher for the rebuilding Rams right now.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers
After a rookie season that saw the 2008 first rounder get hurt for the year in his first start, Mendenhall ran for 1,108 yards in 12 starts in 2009.
This season has seen him get 406 yards in four games, good for seventh best in the NFL. What makes his yards more impressive is how he has got them.
Pittsburgh came into the year missing their star quarterback to suspension. The player they had slotted as a replacement was hurt in the last preseason game. Their third string quarterback was lost for the year in the second game.
Opposing defenses, already crowding the line of scrimmage knowing Pittsburgh would run much more than pass, came in closer with each injury. Mendenhall responded with a 4.6 yards per carry average.
The fact the 3-1 Steelers have been such a feel good story this year has more to do with just their top rated defense. Mendenhall has been the hero of their offense so far, and his carries should come easier now that the star quarterback has returned.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
They lovingly call him Mo Drew in Jacksonville, and the 5’8″ 205 lbs back has been a star there since being drafted in the second round in 2006.
Drew started carrying the team full-time last year, his first Pro Bowl season, and has continued that trend this year. His 406 yards rushing is tied for eighth best in the league, and he has caught ten balls too.
LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets
When Tomlinson joined the Jets this year, after nine years and five Pro Bowls in San Diego destined to be on display in Canton, most figured he was running on flat tires.
However, the 31-year old Tomlinson has already shown he has plenty of gas left in his tank. His 437 rushing yards ranks fifth and he has caught 12 balls.
His backfield mate, Shonn Greene, has four less carries, but has run for 280 yards. They have helped the Jets got 3-1 with the top-rated rushing attack this season.
Though it is uncertain the future Hall of Famer will continue to run for six yards a carry, Tomlinson has spent his whole career making believers out of his critics.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
He is coming off his first Pro Bowl season in 2009, where he ran for over 1,300 yards and averaged an impressive nine yards on 78 receptions.
This season sees him ranked 13th in the NFL in rushing, and he has 15 catches too.
Built low to the ground at 5’9″ 195, his combination of quickness, strength, and intelligence has quickly made him a fan favorite in just his third season in Charm City.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants
His carries, receptions, and yards have increased in each of his previous three years after the Jints grabbed him in the seventh round of the 2007 draft.
After having just one career start under his belt, he was named the starter this year and is easily on pace to shatter most all of his career high marks.
He has recently become the fourth-ranked rushing leader in the league, though he has matched his career high total of three fumbles already.
Brandon Jacobs, the starter the past few years for New York, has chipped in 172 more yards to give the team quite an effective duo.
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
After a career high 376 carries led the NFL in his 2008 Pro Bowl year, “Burner” Turner has dealt with nagging injuries. He missed five games last years, and parts of the five games so far this year.
On a pace to carry the ball 465 times this year, he is currently ranked sixth in the NFL with 421 yards. Not much of a pass catcher, he already has tied his career best mark of six.
Yet Turner has had help in a Falcons offense that loves to run the ball down their opponents throats. His backup, Jason Snelling, has run for 244 yards and caught 11 balls that is third best on the team.
The duo has helped lead Atlanta to the second best rushing attack in the league, which has helped the 5-1 Falcons take top spot in the NFC South.
Best of the Rest
LeSean McCoy came into this year knowing he was the cowbell of the Philadelphia Eagles. He is 12th in rushing and has already grabbed 28 passes. His five rushing scores is second best in the NFL.
His toughness is also incredible, as shown by his 92-yards rushing and five catches against a tough 49ers defense on cracked ribs.
Cedric Benson, of the Cincinnati Bengals, is tied for eighth in the league in rushing. He is the only consistent part of the Cincy offense.
Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles are a very effective duo for the Kansas City Chiefs. They have helped the surprising Chiefs have them tied with Atlanta with the second best rushing game in the league. The fact Kansas City has had no passing game make it an ever better accomplishment.
Darren McFadden has run for 392 yards in four games for the Oakland Raiders, 11th best in the NFL. He might be the best running back in the AFC West right now.
Matt Forte exploded for 166 yards and two scores last Sunday, after getting just 134 on 50 carries the previous four games. Yet he has also chipped in 18 catches and three scores, including a league longest 89 yard reception.
Peyton Hillis was seventh round steal for the Denver Broncos in 2008, but quickly was buried in their depth chart and let go after last year.
The Cleveland Browns luckily signed him, and he has carried the team with 350 yards, 20 receptions, and five total touchdowns. He gets most all his yards between the tackles with hard nosed running.