Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 10/12/12
The first five weeks of the NFL are a time for overreacting and making judgments on a limited sample size.  In that spirit, it is time to rank some of the top offensive skills players through Week 5.  We move onto the ball carriers of the offense, the running backs.  There were plenty of questions surrounding some of the biggest name running backs during the offseason.  Would Adrian Peterson make his return to the Vikings by the beginning of the season?  Would he be the same explosive runner?  What about Rashard Mendenhall, who suffered a similar injury?  Would Maurice Jones-Drew be a Jaguar when the 2012 season began?We have answers to some of these questions, although none of these names made this list.  There are still some familiar names in the Top 5 and a little known rookie sneaks in among the big names as well.Here are the Top 5 NFL Running Backs through Week 5.#5 - Alfred Morris When Week 1 rolled around for the Washington Redskins, there were some questions in the offensive backfield.  The team’s best runner (when healthy) last season, Tim Hightower, was no longer on the team.  Second-year back Roy Helu Jr. had not established himself as a No. 1 running back, so the team picked up former Green Bay Packer Ryan Grant as an insurance policy.Alfred Morris, a sixth round draft pick from Florida Atlantic, became the answer during the season opener.  He rushed 28 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns to help fellow rookie Robert Griffin III lead Washington to a 40-32 victory over the Saints.Morris was not just a flash in the pan during the season opener.  In Week 4, the rookie had his first 100-yard rushing game with 113 yards on 21 carries in a win against Tampa Bay.  He followed that with another 100-yard game (115 yards on 18 carries) in Week 5 as Atlanta snuck past Washington for 24-17 victory.There were 11 running backs taken off the board in April before Morris’s name was finally called, but none have more rushing yards than the former Florida Atlantic Owl.  His 491 rushing yards rank him No. 4 in NFL, and No. 2 in the NFC behind Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch.On a different team, Morris would likely be the most talked about rookie on the team.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, Robert Griffin III has stolen the limelight from his fellow first-year.  Whichever player is gaining the headlines, the future looks bright for the Redskins.#4 - Ray RiceThe Baltimore Ravens have been well known for team defense since the team won a Super Bowl in 2000.  Ray Lewis and Ed Reed led the team proudly on the defensive side of the ball, but there was a lack of intensity on offense.  That all changed when the Ravens drafted Ray Rice out of Rutgers.Rice is one of the top “duel-threat” running backs in the NFL.  He can run the ball downhill and catch the ball out of the backfield.  He leads all NFL running backs with 23 receptions on year, and ranks No. 9 in rushing yards with 419.The Ravens have attempted to incorporate more of a hurry up offense throughout the game, which has cut Rice’s fairly significantly.  Through the first five games of the season, Rice has carried the ball at least 20 times only once, Week 3 against New England when he had exactly 20.  Despite the lack of touches, Rice continues to rack up total yards.There are few teams that rely on a running back like the Ravens do.  When Baltimore is able to run the ball, Joe Flacco is much more effective through the air.  This is true for most quarterbacks, but with a deep-threat like Torrey Smith and tight ends like Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson working over the middle, the play action pass is Baltimore’s best friend.  Keep Rice involved and the defending AFC North Champions will continue to roll.#3 - Stevan RidleyThe New England running back carousel has revolved for years without having one dominant back in the backfield.  Bill Belichick has always been a master of keeping the opposing defense on its toes.  Names like Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney, Corey Dillon, BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead have filled the starting lineup cards for the past few years, but one running back appears to be ready to stay.Stevan Ridley is currently fifth in the NFL in rushing yards with 490 yards.  He has scored four rushing touchdowns and has three 100-yards rushing games.  The Patriots as a team have rushed for over 200 yards in consecutive weeks for the first time since 1978.  In Weeks 4 and 5, Ridley rushed for 106 and 151 yards respectively.  The 106 yards in Week 4 against Buffalo included two scores.The most impressive number Ridley has produced this season is 37.  That is the number of rushing first downs for the second-year pro, 11 more than the next highest running back (Willis McGahee - 26).  Yes, Ridley is gaining yards, but the yards being gained are important yards.He may not be in the Top 5 in rushing yards at the end of the season, and he may not be on any Top 5 lists at the end of the season, but Ridley will rush for 1,000 yards in 2012 if he stays healthy and continues to run aggressively like he has through the first five weeks.#2 - Arian FosterFoster has picked up in 2012 where he left off in 2011.  Despite an injury-shortened season, Foster rushed for 1,224 yards in 13 games.  This followed a 2010 campaign in which the former Tennessee Volunteer rushed for 1,616 yards.  Foster just does not slow down.Through five games this season, Foster has rushed for 532 yards.  He ranks second in the NFL in this category.  Foster has also scored a league leading five rushing touchdowns.  Foster has become one of the most feared running backs in the league over the past two seasons.  His ability, coupled with a passing attack led by Matt Schaub, make Houston a threat to score on every possession.  Foster only has 10 receptions on the season, and six came in a Week 2 victory over Jacksonville.  Fumbles have been a small problem for Foster in the past (seven over the past two years) but he has not put the ball on the ground through five games in 2012.  Playing turnover free football will be a key to Houston’s success the rest of the way, especially in the running game.#1 - Jamaal CharlesCharles has returned, similar to Adrian Peterson and Rashard Mendenhall, from a horrific knee injury that sidelined him for the entire 2011 season.  He ran for 87 yards on 18 carries in the season opener, but split carries in the backfield with Peyton Hillis.In Week 2, Charles ran the ball only six times for three yards.  When a player has 90 rushing yards through two games, you would not expect him to be on a list like this.Week 3 was a coming out party of sorts for Charles and the rest of the Chiefs offense.  Against the lowly Saints defense, Kansas City scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and overtime, stealing a 27-24 overtime victory in the Superdome.  The Kansas City starting running back carried the ball 33 times for 233 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown.  Charles also caught six passes for 55 yards in the win.Through five weeks, Jamaal Charles has 551 rushing yards, which leads the NFL.  In the second and third quarters of games this season, Charles has averaged over seven yards per rush (7.6).  The Chiefs are not running the ball much in the fourth quarter as they have trailed entering the final period in every game.  Charles has certainly played a role in Kansas City’s woes with three fumbles (two lost) on the season, but its his running that has even given the Chiefs a chance. 
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Kings engaging in trade talks for Cousins

Report: Romo willing to rework contract to facilitate trade

Lonzo Ball's father says son is better than Curry right now

Report: Rams could have interest in Cousins if Goff flops

Report: Butler to Celtics talk will loom over All-Star week

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Carmelo expects to remain with Knicks

James Harden: ‘For sure’ I’m the best player in the world

Report: Pats expected to make good effort to keep Bennett

Glenn Robinson III dunks over three people to win Slam Dunk Contest

Kevin Durant booed at All-Star introductions in New Orleans

Charles Oakley joins Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 league

Is the NBA All-Star Game worth saving?

There will never be another Dirk Nowitzki

The Rewind: Michael Jordan's last All-Star Game

Best of Yardbarker: NBA All-Star Games past, present and future

Eat, Drink, Watch: Everything goes better with a side of New Orleans

Box Score 2/17: Happy birthday, Michael Jordan (and welcome to 1000 point club, Sid!)

The 'Michael Jordan might still win the Dunk contest if he entered' quiz

How to reboot NBA All-Star Weekend

Second-year NBA stars who can salvage the season

Observations from a day at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Box Score 2/16: Getting ready for the ASG

Too much to Process: Can Simmons match the Embiid hype?

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best of YB: NBA All-Star Games past, present and future

Who will break these NBA All-Star Game records?

Is the NBA All-Star Game worth saving?

There will never be another Dirk Nowitzki

The Rewind: Michael Jordan's last All-Star Game

Eat, Drink, Watch: Everything goes better with a side of New Orleans

How to reboot NBA All-Star Weekend

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Second-year NBA stars who can salvage the season

Observations from a day at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker