Dec 18, 2011; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) rushes for 39 yards against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter at the Metrodome. The Saints win 42-20. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

NFL 2012: Top 5 NFC Running Backs With Something To Prove

Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

Earlier we looked at the 5 AFC running backs that had the most to prove in the upcoming season. If you missed it, you can catch it here.

As before, this is not necessarily a list of running backs that are in danger of losing a starting position, but rather a list of backs with high expectations that have question marks heading into the season. On to the list!

5. Jahvid Best, DET

Jahvid Best is a heck of an athlete. The Lions recognized this, and saw fit to trade up to get him in towards the back of the first round in 2010. Best has shown himself to be a versatile, elusive back; the type of player many people expected Reggie Bush to be. Unfortunately, though, Best has already suffered numerous concussions in his short career, including a nasty one last season that forced him to have to sit out the rest of the year after game 6. It never seems fair when a player is forced out of the game due to injuries, but Best looks to be headed in that direction, and needs a full, healthy slate of games to add to his resume next season if he wants to remain an NFL running back.

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

4. DeMarco Murray, DAL

It feels like every season season since Marion Barber got paid has been a carousel at the running back position for Dallas. Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice were all the thought to be the answer at one point, but neglected to follow through on their displays of promise. Enter DeMarco Murray. Not a whole lot was expected out of Murray last season, as he was just a rookie 3’rd round selection, but he showed enough in his thirteen games last year to earn him the label of starter moving forward. Like many Cowboys runners before him, he is being given an opportunity in which he must deliver, and despite posting a 5.5 YPC average, he will be expected to improve dramatically on his meager 2 rushing touchdowns.

3. Frank Gore, SF

Frank Gore has been one of the most consistent and dangerous backs in the league…when healthy. He is 29, and has carried the ball 1653 times in his career. Gore isn’t necessarily finished, but one has to wonder about his ability to be able to effectively complete a season. Last season finally seemed to wear on him, as even though he played 16 games, his rushing average dropped to a merely acceptable 4.3 yards a carry, and he was taken completely out of the passing attack, catching for just 114 yards; he combined for a receiving total of 858 yards the previous two seasons. Gore has always been one of the toughest in the game, and he needs to show that his time isn’t up just yet.

2. Mark Ingram, NO

Mark Ingram was the only running back chosen in the first round of the 2011 draft. Many people at the time proclaimed it to be a steal of epic proportions. Fantasy drafts saw him being taken as early as third and fourth rounds, with New Orleans awaiting the running back they never had in Bush. Against all seeming odds, though, Ingram struggled last year. On 122 rushing attempts, he managed only 474 yards. Compounding the issue is a player by the name of Darren Sproles, who absolutely went off last year (1313 offensive yards, 9 TD’s). Making matters even worse is that at the current moment, Ingram is listed as the third back on the depth chart, behind Sproles and undrafted journeyman Pierre Thomas. Ingram definitely has a long way to go to live up to his draft status and expectations.

1. Adrian Peterson, MIN

It’s a shame that Peterson is on this list. For a number of years, going back as recently as 2010, Peterson was the unquestioned best running back in the NFL; only Chris Johnson challenged his crown in 2009 with his 2,000 yard season. Try as they may, defensive player after defensive player missed time and time again, and it seemed as though the only player that could stop Adrian Peterson was Adrian Peterson. And, to a degree, that turned out to be true, as he tore his ACL 12 games into the season. At that point, he had still managed to get in the end zone 12 times on the ground and once more through the air, matching those totals from the previous season that saw him take 15 games to reach. ACL injuries are serious, as we all know, and Peterson and the Vikings have said on a number of occasions that, while not 100%, he is looking very good and well ahead of schedule. Still, in this league, people can give up on you in a heartbeat, and it seems as though a number of people have already written him off. People tend to remember accomplishments very quickly, however, and if he can stay healthy and run as hard as he has the potential to, he will prove those very people wrong.

If you missed the AFC Running Backs list, click here!

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Tags: Adrian Peterson DeMarco Murray Frank Gore Jahvid Best Mark Ingram NFC NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West

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