What Is A Power Back In Football?

A power back in football is running back who primarily relies on balance and strength to gain yardage carrying the ball. Though these players are still fast and agile it is their large frame that often leads to them beating defenders.

A power back is also more likely to run in between the tackles than outside them. These backs are known as north and south runners and find extra work on short yardage and goal line downs.

Pros And Cons

Now that we’ve defined the power back let’s breakdown how they can help and hurt your team.


Short Yardage

One of the biggest benefits of having a power back on your team is short-yardage situations. As we stated earlier these backs typically run between the tackles. They also have a tendency to fall forward when tackled due to their large size.

This is ideal for third and fourth down conversions when you only need to move the ball a few yards.

Yards After Contact

The ability to continue gaining yards after contact is made is one of the best aspects of a power back. These are the sort of running backs that almost never go down from the first defender.

Not only does this help when you are able to break a tackle for a large gain but it also helps to reduce negative yardage plays. Often times, when caught in the backfield runningbacks, can lose a few yards on the carry.

With a power back it is common that when hit behind the line they will push the defender at least to the line of scrimmage. It is not too common that multiple defenders will end up in the backfield, this often allows the power back to fight his way to the line of scrimmage.

This would not be the case with a scat back that would have trouble breaking a single defenders tackle.

Goal Line / Two-Point Conversions

Another benefit of this style of running back is goal-line situations. Not only are these backs incredibly efficient at picking up yards they also draw a large amount of attention.

If you have a power back in the backfield ready to run up the gut you’ll find the defense will often commit several players near the line of scrimmage. This will make a one on one matchup for your receiver or tight end more likely.

In other words, a powerback will help you score but also aid your receivers in goal-line and short-yardage situations.


No Breakaway Speed

One negative aspect of powerbacks is that they don’t typically have breakaway speed. What we mean by this is that they typically aren’t able to accelerate past the second level of defenders and score a long touchdown.

This lack of top-end speed limits the ability of powerbacks and often stops them from achieving high yards per carry averages.

Hands Like Feet

One common issue amongst power backs is that they don’t tend to be very good at catching the football. In today’s NFL running backs often receive passes which makes the role of a power back less valueable.

It also eliminates power backs from playing in many 3rd and long situations because the running back on those packages typically needs to be an adequate receiver.

Lack Of Elusiveness

One more downside of power backs is that they are not known for being elusive. These backs can take on tacklers but have a hard time avoiding them altogether.

This ultimately limits their ability while carrying the ball as even if the first tackler doesn’t bring you down he will likely slow you.

Best NFL Power Backs Of All Time

Jerome Bettis

Jerome Bettis is likely the truest form of a powerback we will see in the NFL. Famously nicknamed “the bus” Bettis often carried multiple defenders along with him as he ran.

Despite his larger than average size Bettis rushed for over 10,000 yards and 78 touchdowns in his career.

Derrick Henry

Derrick Henry is a 6 foot 2, 250-pound power back that somehow maintained elite top-end speed. Henry has all the traits of your typical power back yet he is still able to outrun defensive backs on a regular basis.

Henry dominated all levels of football with incredible high school stats, an NCAA rushing title and a 2,000-yard season in the NFL.

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson holds the second-highest total of rushing yards in a single season and was only 8 yards of holding the record himself. Like some of the other elite power backs, Peterson featured incredible speed strength and elusiveness.

Bo Jackson

Bo Jackson is simply known as one of the greatest athletes of all time. Not only was he one of the best power backs to play the game he was also an all-star in the MLB. His incredible athleticism, strength, and speed made him an incredible player in multiple sports.

That is all on power backs in football learn about downhill running backs or what the backfield is in football.

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