Ranking the 15 best running backs in the NFL ahead of the 2022 season


Nick Chubb
Jul 28, 2022; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) runs with the ball during training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Even if the position has been devalued a little, the best running back in the NFL still deserves to be considered among the most dynamic playmakers in the league. In fact, one could argue that well over half a dozen of the best running backs in the NFL in 2022 are bonafide stars.

Ranking the top running backs in 2022 turned into a challenge for us.

Best running backs in NFL

But who are the best running backs right now? We crunched some numbers and made an evaluation to come up with a preseason position ranking of the best running backs in the NFL heading into the 2022 season.

We know there will be room to disagree and plenty of surprises in 2022. Nevertheless, here is our ranking of the top RBs in the NFL this season.

15. Josh Jacobs

With the Raiders bringing in running back help, Josh Jacobs lost some carries last year, causing his numbers to drop and keeping him from reaching 1,000 yards. However, Jacobs still rushed for over 1,000 yards in his first two NFL seasons.

He also did a lot more damage as a pass-catcher last season, which isn’t to be overlooked. That should set up Jacobs to have another impressive season in 2022.

14. Antonio Gibson

With over 1,000 rushing yards last season, Antonio Gibson had a breakout year in 2021, setting the stage for a promising season in 2022.

Keep in mind that Washington didn’t have a strong passing attack last season, so it was even more impressive to see Gibson come out of nowhere to have a big season. He’s not quite at an elite level just yet, but he’s moving toward potentially being a top-10 running back.


13. Najee Harris

The early returns on Najee Harris have been good for the Steelers. While he only averaged 3.9 yards per carry as a rookie, Harris did rack up 1,200 rushing yards while catching 74 passes after Pittsburgh took him in the first round.

With one season under his belt, he surely has the physical tools to grow into one of the top backs in the league as he gets more experience under his belt.

12. AJ Dillon

Even with Aaron Jones ahead of him, AJ Dillon forced his way into more carries last season, and his stock should only continue to rise in 2022 and beyond.

Despite only starting two games last year, he rushed for over 800 yards and was more involved in the passing game than anyone expected. Dillon possesses the physicality to be a bulldozer of a running back and become one of the toughest backs in the league to tackle, which should make him fascinating to watch in 2022.

11. Austin Ekeler

Slowly but surely, Austin Ekeler has made the transition from part-time back to full-time starter. He’s still limited a little by his size, lacking the muscle to be a true workhorse back. But he also had more than 1,500 all-purpose yards last season, proving once again that he’s one of the best receiving backs in the league.

The only thing he hasn’t done is rush for 1,000 yards in a season. But he’s getting close to that level and potentially moving up the hierarchy of top running backs in the NFL.

10. David Montgomery

Playing with the Bears hasn’t made things easy for David Montgomery, and that may not change in 2022. However, he deserves a lot of credit for being as productive as he’s been over the first three years of his career.

Montgomery would have easily gone over 1,000 yards last season for the second straight year if he hadn’t been limited to just 13 games. He’s also made strides as a pass-catcher, which wasn’t a strength of his coming out of college. If Montgomery is able to stay healthy and play a full season in 2022, even on a bad team, he’ll be one of the league’s standout running backs.

9. Joe Mixon

Coming off a season in which he was selected to the Pro Bowl and played in the Super Bowl, Joe Mixon’s career arc is surely on the rise. Keep in mind that he was limited to just six games in 2020 but came back strong with over 1,200 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns last year.

He now has three 1,000-yard seasons on his resume over his first five seasons in the league. With the improvements the Bengals have made to their offensive line this year, the 2022 season could be the best of Mixon’s career.

8. Ezekiel Elliott

Even with over 1,000 yards rushing last season, there are signs that Ezekiel Elliott is starting to decline just a little, perhaps because the Cowboys used him a lot early in his career.

Plus, Dallas has Tony Pollard to share some of the carries.

In any event, Elliott hasn’t been to the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons with both his yards per carry and receiving yards taking a hit. That being said, it’s best not to make too much of his decline. Elliott is still just 27 and should have some good years ahead of him, meaning he’ll likely be a top-10 running back in 2022.

7. Alvin Kamara

It’s hard to find a back in today’s game who has a better combination of rushing and receiving skills. Among all running backs, Alvin Kamara is elite at catching the ball and making plays in the passing game.

Oddly enough, he’s coming off a career-low in receiving yards last year, although he still had five receiving touchdowns. Plus, a drop in his numbers last year can be attributed to missing a few games due to injury. Staying healthy has been Kamara’s biggest weakness during his career. However, whenever he’s on the field, he’s as dangerous as any running back in the NFL.

6. Aaron Jones

The Packers are still reaping the benefits of stealing Aaron Jones in the fifth round of the draft a few years ago. His numbers took a slight dip last year with AJ Dillon earning more touches. But Jones remains a productive and versatile running back.

He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry for his career and has been at 5.5 yards per carry or better in three of his five pro seasons. Jones has also proven to be one of the better backs in the league at catching passes, making him one of the most well-rounded backs in the NFL who’s always been at the cusp of elevating himself alongside the elite rushers.

5. Christian McCaffrey

After playing just 10 games over the last two seasons, it’s obvious that Christian McCaffrey’s stock is down heading into 2022. But that doesn’t mean he lacks the potential to be one of the top running backs in the league this year.

He just has to stay healthy.

Keep in mind that the last time McCaffrey was healthy, he had over 1,300 rushing yards and over 1,000 receiving yards. Needless to say, that’s going to be difficult to replicate. But even if McCaffrey can replicate 80% of that incredible 2019 season, his numbers are going to compare favorably to just about any running back in the league. Plus, with the quarterback questions in Carolina, he should get plenty of opportunities to touch the ball if he can stay healthy.

4. Dalvin Cook

Despite never being able to stay healthy for a full season, Dalvin Cook still projects as one of the best running backs in the NFL this year. Even without playing a full season, he’s been a 1,000-yard rusher and a Pro Bowler in three straight seasons.

He’s the type of runner who can carry an offense almost single-handedly. If Cook can stay healthy, he could challenge as the top back in the league this season. But even if he misses a few games, it’s hard to omit him from the top five.

3. Nick Chubb

With Pro Bowl invitations in three straight years, Nick Chubb has undoubtedly entered the elite class of NFL running backs as he heads into his fifth pro season. He’s missed a total of seven games over the last two seasons but has still been able to eclipse 1,000 yards each year while also averaging at least 5.5 yards per carry.

At age 26, Chubb should have a few more years at his peak, and if can stay healthy this year, there’s no reason why he won’t be one of the top running backs in 2022. 

2. Derrick Henry

An injury-shortened season in 2021 might be the only thing keeping Henry from the top of this list. There has to be some question for Derrick Henry coming off that injury, especially at his age.

Of course, he’s still the guy who led the NFL in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in 2019 and 2020. Henry won Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2020 and has carried the Tennessee offense over the last few seasons.

Even in just eight games last year, he came up a mere 63 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards. Assuming he’s healthy, Henry should be performing at a high level in 2022.

1. Jonathan Taylor

It’d be impossible and irresponsible not to put Jonathan Taylor at the top of this list.

Granted, he’s only been in the league for two seasons while the running backs right behind him are a little more established. But he’s coming off a phenomenal 2021 campaign in which he rushed for over 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns while also showing his chops as a receiver.

Taylor also tied the NFL record by having eight straight games with at least 100 rushing yards and a touchdown. Even if his track record isn’t as long as some others, he’s taken the mantle as the best running back in the league and is likely to be one of the NFL’s biggest stars in 2022.





Source link

Jul 28, 2022; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) runs with the ball during training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports Even if the position has been devalued a little, the best running back in the NFL still deserves to be considered among the most dynamic…