The 2,000-yard rusher club is one of the most exclusive among all American professional sports. Derrick Henry became the eighth member of this prestigious club last year, rushing for 2,027. The last player to achieve this feat before Henry was Adrian Peterson in 2012. Peterson owns the second greatest rushing season of all time and finished only eight yards behind the record holder, Erik Dickerson (2,105).
Aside from breaking that 2,000-yard threshold, there is another striking similarity that most of this group shares. Six of the eight club members were in their mid-20s when they joined. Only Barry Sanders (29) and Adrian Peterson (27) were older than 26 years of age during their 2,000-yard season.
- Eric Dickerson (1984 season, 24 years old): 2,105 yards
- Adrian Peterson (2012 season, 27 years old): 2,097 yards
- Jamal Lewis (2003 season, 24 years old): 2,066 yards
- Barry Sanders (1997 season, 29 years old): 2,053 yards
- Derrick Henry (2020 season, 26 years old): 2,027 yards
- Terrell Davis (1998 season, 25 years old): 2,008 yards
- Chris Johnson (2009 season, 23 years old): 2,006 yards
- O.J. Simpson (1973 season, 26 years old): 2,003 yards
I see a few running backs around the league now who I feel will have a good chance to join the VIP section of NFL running backs.
To have a chance at achieving 2,000 rushing yards in a season, you’ll need to be on a team with a head coach that loves to run the ball. The ground-and-pound style has become much less common in a league where everyone wants their quarterback to throw the ball more than 30 times per game. Luckily for Cook, he’s played for a team that has been committed to running the ball in Minnesota. Cook averaged 5 yards per carry last year while rushing for 1,557 yards and finishing second in the NFL behind King Henry. At age 26, it’s going to need to happen soon for Cook to join the 2,000-yard club. If Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer continues to feed Cook the rock early and often, he’ll have a great shot at becoming the ninth VIP member of this running backs club.
Now I know what you’re saying. Yes, Chubb is currently part of a running back by committee system alongside Kareem Hunt. The Browns two RB system won’t last forever. It may last through this year, but one of these backs will eventually expect a huge payday if the Browns continue to improve as a team. But you can’t give everyone a big deal. Hunt is under contract through the 2022 season. I think the Browns will move on from Hunt at that time (if not earlier), so Chubb can become the bell cow back for the team. Chubb rushed for more yards than Hunt last year on fewer carries going over 1,000. In 2019 Chubb rushed for 1,494 yards and is already a two-time Pro Bowl selection. Once Chubb is no longer required to split the load, I think he has the talent and ability to make a run at the 2,000-yard rusher club.
Harris hasn’t played a regular-season NFL snap yet, but I want to call this out now. I think Harris is going to be good. Extremely good. Especially once Pittsburgh gets that offensive line back on track. At 6-foot-2 and weighing 230 pounds, Harris reminds you of another Alabama running back currently playing in Tennessee. Sundays against Harris this fall are going to be hell for defenses across the league. Now I’m not saying he’s going to approach 2,000 yards rushing in his rookie season. But within the next three to four years, I expect him to begin working on breaking down the door of the 2,000-yard club. Harris has come along at the right time, with old man Roethlisberger being at the end of his career. The Steelers had no running game last year, so they’ll want to get back to what Steelers football has always been about, which is running the ball down their opponents’ throats. I know we’re entrenched in the pass-happy era, but teams still need some balance on offense. The Steelers didn’t draft Harris in the first round to only have him pass block. I think we’ll see a lot of Harris beginning with week one against the Buffalo Bills on the road. The Bills should handle Pittsburgh with ease, but hopefully, for Harris the Steelers offensive line can create the gaps he will need to be effective.
Joining this exclusive club of 2,000-yard single-season rushers is no easy accomplishment. Most backs will never approach the doorstep of this club, but for those that do, it guarantees their names will forever be linked to the NFL’s elite.