The AFC North is arguably the best division in the NFL going into the 2020 season.
The Bengals are the most improved team in the division and they could still find themselves at the bottom of the standings this year.
The Ravens and Browns have added key pieces to their roster this offseason. Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, which should give the Steelers a boost.
It's a unique offseason for everyone. Players, coaches and fans are waiting patiently, hoping that the 2020 NFL season can start on time.
COVID-19 has forced us to quarantine without live sports, which has led to some interesting debates. Most people have weighed in on the 'Jordan vs LeBron debate.'
I believe Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever live. We're all entitled to our own opinion, which is part of the fun.
Let's have another sports debate. I'm not sure how this came up, but there are Bengals and Browns fans going back and forth on social media about the top running backs in the AFC North.
Cleveland fans are claiming that Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are better than Joe Mixon. The debate grew enough to get the attention of Bengals wide receiver John Ross, who chimed in on Twitter.
Who is the best running back in the AFC North? It really depends on how you define the word. Are you basing it on stats? If so, then there is no debate.
That's the challenge with a question like this one. LeBron James is going to pass Jordan in multiple career stats, but it's hard to envision a scenario where he moves to the top of my 'greatest of all-time' ranking.
Here's how I would rank the top running backs in the AFC North with a brief explanation about each player.
Chubb has to be number one. He's ran for 2,490 yards and 16 touchdowns in two seasons. He made the Pro Bowl last season and has averaged 5.1 yards-per-carry. He also has 56 receptions for 427 yards over that span.
Chubb is arguably the best player on an offense that includes Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. He may be the second-best player in Cleveland behind Myles Garrett. Chubb overcame the Hue Jackson-Todd Haley drama as a rookie and arguably the worst head coach of all-time — Freddie Kitchens — in his second season.
Mixon is the most-talented running back in the AFC North, but that doesn't make him the best. He's second on my list. He has everything you could want in a back. At 6-1, 220 pounds, he has the size you look for, but is one of the faster backs in the league and has great hands.
Mixon led the AFC in rushing in 2018 (1,168 yards) and has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He has 17 career rushing touchdowns in three seasons, but is also a dynamic pass catcher out of the backfield. He has 108 receptions for 870 yards and four receiving touchdowns.
Mixon being second on this list isn't a slight. He has more talent than Chubb, but production matters. There are some reasons why Mixon hasn't posted elite numbers over the past few seasons. His offensive line has been one the worst in the NFL. The Browns have struggled up front, but not like the Bengals. They've been awful in the trenches for most of the past three seasons.
He's been underutilized in the passing game, which is one of his strengths. NFL evaluators view him as an elite player, even if he hasn't posted elite numbers. It's up to the Bengals to put him in a position to succeed in 2020. They expect the offensive line to be better. The addition of Joe Burrow should help in the passing game. Mixon is capable of having 2,000 yards from scrimmage this season. He could (and probably should) be the best player on the Bengals' offense. If he does that, then he could leap Chubb and become the top back in the division.
Kareem Hunt is third on the list from a talent standpoint. There's no way he should be ranked ahead of Mixon, despite his early success in Kansas City. Hunt landed in the perfect situation coming out of Toledo, but that doesn't mean he's as talented as Chubb or Mixon. He's also less reliable.
If I knew Hunt would keep his head down, work hard and stay out of trouble, then he'd be third.
Disclaimer: Yes, Mixon did something awful at Oklahoma, but he's been a great teammate and citizen since the Bengals drafted him in 2017.
I'll take Mark Ingram, a 3-time Pro Bowler ahead of Hunt. He's reliable. You know what you're getting from him on a weekly basis. Hunt has more talent, but he's played in eight of the past 21 regular season games due to off-the-field issues.
James Conner would be fifth on this list.
How do you rank the top running backs in the AFC North? Vote in the poll below.