Two AFC North players made the top-10 running back rankings for 2015, which was put together by Matt Williamson from Scouts Inc. Neither choice will surprise you, although their ranking might cause you to do a double take.
The Browns' Trent Richardson, who would be in his fourth season at that point, was ranked No. 1 on the list. While you'll need an Insider subscription to read the entire post, here's part of Williamson's analysis:
I'm very confident putting Richardson atop this list even without seeing him perform at the NFL level yet. The only worry I have with the Browns' 2012 first-round pick is that Cleveland is going to take a lot of tread off his tires in the very immediate future due to the lack of receiving options. But when the 2015 season rolls around, Richardson will have already gone to multiple Pro Bowls (assuming they still have the Pro Bowl in 2015) and will be in the prime of an outstanding career.
Some might shake their heads at this ranking because Richardson has yet to take a carry in an NFL game. That's the fun of rankings and projections. Richardson definitely has the potential to be the top running back. He has the power and elusiveness to excel in the AFC North, much like Jamal Lewis did when he was the fifth overall pick in 2000.
The Browns' offensive line also has the chance to be a very good run-blocking one with left tackle Joe Thomas, guard Jason Pinkston, center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. If Richardson isn't in the top five at this point, the Browns have serious problems on their hands.
The other AFC North running back on the list is the Ravens' Ray Rice, who is ninth. That seems low for a running back who will be 28 in 2015. I still see Rice being more productive than the likes of Ryan Mathews, Jonathan Stewart and Jamaal Charles at that point. What helps Rice reduce the wear-and-tear is that 20 percent of his touches the past three seasons have been receptions and not carries in between the tackles.