Sometime around 2013 or 2014, running back was supposed to be a dying position in the NFL. In those two drafts, no back was taken with a first-round pick for the first time since the NFL-AFL merger. Then Le’Veon Bell racked up 854 receiving yards in the 2014 season. David Johnson hit 879 in 2016. This season, Alvin Kamara and Todd Gurley had 826 and 788 respectively, and none of that includes Kareem Hunt’s eye-popping 1782 yards from scrimmage (455 of which came as a receiver) in his rookie season.
Running backs aren’t disappearing from pro football, but their role is changing. We talked to Kamara, Priest Holmes, Carlos Hyde, and Kevin Faulk to find out what it means to play the position now, the different ways in which backs approach their jobs and roles, and what it will take to succeed as a running back in the years to come.