Running back is still a very important position in the NFL, despite the altering of its definition. Gone are the days of having backs purely pound away for tough rushing yardage. The modern, pass-happy game requires a back to be more complete, and those who are most well-rounded as "receiving backs" stand out from the rest.

Those who can stay on the field to both get elusive in the open field and also grind for every possible yard on the ground further separate themselves into an elite category.

There's no question, then, that the Panthers' Christian McCaffrey is the best in the business. He stamped his status by going first-team All-Pro at both running back and the McCaffrey-specific "flex" position. The fantasy football numbers do not lie, and the eye test of him dashing everywhere confirm that.

MORE: The best and worst starting QBs for the 2020 season

Here's running with CMC at No. 1, but who might have the goods to catch up to him in 2020? Sporting News ranks the top 20 running backs in the NFL going into the season:

NFL running back rankings 2020

1. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers

Run CMC is throwing down hit track after hit track. He has not only proved to be as fast and as quick as advertised, running past and around many defenders, he also has reminded everyone how incredibly tough he is between the tackles and finishing drives with his strong physique.

2019 stats: 1,387 yards rushing, 4.83 yards per attempt, 1,005 yards receving, 19 total TDs

2. Dalvin Cook, Vikings

Cook wants top-flight money and deserves it. When healthy, he's a dynamic all-purpose back with no limitations, living up to the pedigree and immense production he showed at Florida State. He is the lifeblood of Minnesota's run-heavy offense and also is integral to the efficient passing game.

2019 stats: 1,135 yards rushing, 4.54 yards per attempt, 519 yards receiving, 13 total TDs

3. Derrick Henry, Titans

Henry delivered as the ultimate hammer in winning the league rushing title in 2019. He was the centerpiece of Tennessee's offense, pounding away with great explosiveness, burst and vision. He also has some big-play ability as a pass-catcher, even in a limited capacity.

2019 stats: 1,540 yards rushing, 5.08 yards per attempt, 206 yards receiving, 18 total TDs

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4. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

Elliott has been very steady with his smooth running style since entering the league. He can be counted on to grab all the yards that are there because of Dallas' strong offensive line, getting positive chunks and picking good spots for downfield bursts. He also has proved to be very adept in the passing game when needed.

2019 stats: 1,357 yards rushing, 4.51 yards per attempt, 420 yards receiving, 14 total TDs

5. Saquon Barkley, Giants

Barkley had an ankle injury and a QB transition that curbed the production of his sophomore season following his all-around domination as a No. 2 overall rookie. He, like Cook and McCaffrey, can do it all, in every situation, while carrying the load. Jason Garrett's offense and revamped blocking can help Barkley rebound in a massive way.

2019 stats: 1,003 yards rushing, 4.62 yards per attempt, 438 yards receiving, 8 total TDs

6. Nick Chubb, Browns

Chubb doesn't need to carry a full burden with Kareem Hunt there to spell him, especially in the passing game. But when he's out there for the Browns on early downs and red zone situations, he maximizes his production with fine vision and a great knack for chunk running. That carries over from his superb Georgia days.

2019 stats: 1,494 yards rushing, 5.01 yards per attempt, 278 yards receiving, 8 total TDs

MORE: Ranking the top 25 wide receivers

7. Josh Jacobs, Raiders

Jacobs, who was selected from Alabama in the 2019 NFL Draft, was having a strong rookie season before a shoulder injury derailed the final month. Before then, starting in Week 1, he proved fully worthy of being a first-rounder. He has a well-rounded game very simliar to Elliott's, with the same kind of polish from a top college rushing program.

2019 stats: 1,150 yards rushing, 4.75 yards per attempt, 166 yards receiving, 7 total TDs

8. Aaron Jones, Packers

Jones' dynamic running ability was somewhat held back by Mike McCarthy, but he was totally unleashed as a lead back and special outlet receiver by Matt LaFleur. He took advantage of Green Bay's mighty line and consistently finished drives. He was the team's offensive MVP last season and wants a new contract to match that status.

2019 stats: 1,084 yards rushing, 4.59 yards per attempt, 474 yards receiving, 19 total TDs

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9. Alvin Kamara, Saints

Kamara is another person to watch to creep up near McCaffrey again with a similiar skill set in same division. Kamara battled through knee, ankle and back injuries last season, which caused a dropoff from his torrid rushing, receiving and scoring pace of the previous two years in an offense ideal for his versatile talents.

2019 stats: 797 yards rushing, 4.66 yards per attempt, 533 yards receiving, 6 total TDs

10. Austin Ekeler, Chargers

Ekeler is another unique hybrid back. He rewarded Anthony Lynn's major trust in him with more efficient running and emerged as a premier receiver at the position, making Melvin Gordon easily expendable. Ekeler goes into 2020 in the unquestioned lead and with a nice new contract.

2019 stats: 557 yards rushing, 4.22 yards per atempt, 993 ya

rds receiving, 11 total TDs

11. Chris Carson, Seahawks

The 2017 seventh-rounder remains a gem and the most reliable Seattle back, despite some injuries and the presence of 2018 first-rounder Rashaad Penny and now 1,000-yard rusher Carlos Hyde. He does everything needed in their run-heavy approach and has added to his receiving repertoire, too.

2019 stats: 1,230 yards rushing, 4.42 yards per attempt, 266 yards receiving, 9 total TDs

12. Kenyan Drake, Cardinals

Drake didn't get enough usage with Adam Gase's Dolphins and had to welcome the post-Gase midseason trade that suddenly made him the feature back of choice in Arizona over David Johnson. Drake is explosive as a runner and receiver and can make even a bigger jump in 2020.

2019 stats: 817 yards rushing, 4.81 yards per attempt, 345 yards receiving, 8 total TDs

13. Joe Mixon, Bengals

Mixon is also looking for a nice new deal after putting together two very similar strong seasons. He has produced despite shaky offensive line help and some passing game limitations around him. With better blocking and Joe Burrow at QB, Mixon can rise from his solid floor into a more exciting featured ceiling.

2019 stats: 1,137 yards rushing, 4.09 yards per attempt, 287 yards receiving, 8 total TDs

MORE: Gronk is back, and back in the top 10 TEs

14. Miles Sanders, Eagles

The Eagles have gone with committees in the Doug Pederson era with some good success, but Sanders, Barkley's smooth successor at Penn State, is too talented not to feature. He has three-down skills with wiggle and quickness for every situation.

2019 stats:  818 yards rushing, 4.57 yards per attempt, 509 yards receiving, 6 total TDs

15. Clyde Edwards-Heiaire, Chiefs

Edwards-Helaire's prolific receiving prowess from LSU will serve him well as a surprise rookie NFL first-rounder. He didn't get enough credit for being a tough, compact power running in Baton Rouge. Working with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City's offense will ensure Edwards-Helaire keeps his dynamic state.

2019 stats (at LSU):  1,414 yards rushing, 6.6 yards per attempt, 453 yards receiving, 17 total TDs

16. Leonard Fournette, Jaguars

The Jaguars look ready to move on from Fournette after not picking up his fifth-year option. He did finally stay healthy and was productive with an expanded receiving role last season, but the efficiency and scoring were a little off. He's bound to see more of a power early-down role in Jay Gruden's offense. He definitely could use a new team and scheme in 2021 to live up to his massive '17 No. 4 overall expectations.

2019 stats:  1,152 yards rushing, 4.35 yards per attempt, 522 yards receiving, 3 total TDs

17. Todd Gurley, Falcons

Gurley saw his rushing efficiency and receiving impact diminish in his final season with the Rams. The mileage on the knees is a concern, but being with the Falcons — back near his old college stomping grounds at Georgia — gives him a chance to get back on track. The durability concern is one thing; getting enough run blocking support from a pass-happy offense is another.

2019 stats:  857 yards rushing, 3.84 yards per attempt, 207 yards receiving, 14 total TDs

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18. Le'Veon Bell, Jets

Bell's first season in New York wasn't as bad as it seemed, given Gase's reluctance to fully trust him and some awful offensive line play that was a 180 from his days in Pittsburgh. Bell needs to have Steelers-like season with Frank Gore around and is likely playing for a late-career gig with another team in 2021.

2019 stats: 789 yards rushing, 3.22 yards per attempt, 461 yards receiving, 4 total TDs

19. Melvin Gordon, Broncos

Gordon was overrated with the Chargers as Ekeler ended up being a better fit for Lynn. He is a very good straight up power back and OK receiver, and the Broncos' field-spreading scheme can bring out the best in him. Gordon still has a good nose for scoring after not doing so at all as a rookie.

2019 stats: 612 yards rushing, 3.78 yards per attempt, 296 yards receiving, 9 total TDs

20. James Conner, Steelers

There are mixed messages coming from Pittsburgh on Conner. The Steelers don't want to commit to him more as a high-touch feature back because of durability issues, but at the same time, they know that when healthy, he can do everyhting they need from the backfield in their offense. After promise in his first two years, the all-out ability should be seen again if it comes with availability.

2019 stats: 464 yards rushing, 4 yards per attempt, 251 yards receiving, 7 total TDs