NFC East Top 20: No. 8 Alfred Morris

In the final 20 days before the start of the regular season, we are counting down the top 20 players in the NFC East. For a full explanation, see this post. And if you want to read any of the other posts that have run since we started this series, you can find them all here, in this link.

No. 8 -- Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins RB

(Last year: Not ranked)

Robert Griffin III may have been the story of the year in Washington, but his rookie brilliance shouldn't obscure the remarkable rise of Morris. One year ago at this time, Morris was a sixth-round rookie who was only starting to establish himself in people's minds as a candidate to factor into the Redskins' starting running back mix. Not only did he win the job, and not only did he keep it all year, but he finished second in the NFL to Adrian Peterson in rushing yards with 1,613. He rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns in the Week 17 division-clinching game against the Cowboys, and he returns as the clear-cut starting running back for the Redskins in 2013.

There's no reason to think, barring injury, that Morris' effectiveness won't continue this year. He runs hard. He shows patience. He adds yards because he runs with a strong forward lean and always falls forward at the end of his runs. He fits Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking run scheme perfectly, as a guy who embraces the "one-cut-and-go" mentality. Should you expect 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns again? Maybe not, but it's not as crazy as you might think. The Redskins want to lead the league in rushing again, and with Morris happily playing a quiet second fiddle to Griffin, they have the perfect guy to help them do that.

The rest of the rankings:

9. Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants

10. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys

11. Jason Peters, OT, Philadelphia Eagles

12. Sean Lee, LB, Cowboys

13. Trent Williams, OT, Redskins

14. Evan Mathis, OG, Eagles

15. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants

16. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles

17. Anthony Spencer, DE, Cowboys

18. London Fletcher, LB, Redskins

19. Brian Orakpo, LB, Redskins

20. Jason Hatcher, DL, Cowboys