Top 10 Best Running Backs in the NFL Today 2023
Based on Overall Talent and Production Throughout the 2022-23 Season
This is a new era for Running Backs. Not only are they expected to be dominant in between the tackles, but the best running backs in the NFL are also expected to be dominant pass catchers.
This season featured some fall-offs of some of the best and some young running backs approaching stardom. These are the best running backs in the NFL today based on overall talent and production throughout the 2022-2023 season.
#10 – Tony Pollard
Tony Pollard is living proof that you should not overpay your running backs. Especially ones that aren’t effective at catching passes. Ezekiel Elliott is getting paid 15 million dollars per season. Tony Pollard is getting paid just under a million. Ridiculous. Even with Zeke getting paid 15x more money, Pollard was the far more efficient running back averaging a whole 1.4 more yards per carry.
Not only that, he established himself as one of the better pass catching running backs in the NFL. That dual threat ability is what makes him so special. When he’s in the backfield, his all-around ability opens up the playbook for the offense. He can do anything which makes it harder for defenses to predict the play.
With Pollard entering free agency this season, it’s unclear what the Cowboys will decide to do with him. My guess is it’s either cutting Zeke and paying Pollard, or just letting him walk. Either way he is going to be a massive asset for whichever team he decides to join. While he did suffer a broken leg at the end of the season, I believe in his recovery and that his overall talent will prevail.
#9 – Dalvin Cook
You know you’re a superstar when recording over 1100 rushing yards is considered a down year. While Dalvin Cook’s 4.4 yards per carry were the lowest of his career, he was instrumental for the Vikings’ 13-4 finish this season.
One of my questions was whether or not he would be able to finish a full season. Throughout his career he had yet to play over 14 games in a season. This was his first. That reliability allowed for the Vikings to continue to rely on the consistent rushing attack.
I still believe in Dalvin Cook as an elite talent at the running back position. You still see just how explosive he is when he touches the football. His burst is like he’s shot out of a cannon. I expect his production will continue to be among one of the league leaders next season. He passes the eye test with flying colors.
#8 – Kenneth Walker
With all the hype around rookie Breece Hall coming into the season, Kenneth Walker really flew under the radar. What a mistake that was. The moment Rashaad Penny got injured, Kenneth Walker exploded onto the scene and is my vote for offensive rookie of the year.
This man is a freak athlete. He ran a 4.38 40 yard dash at the combine which is in the 98th percentile amongst all running backs. We saw this on display this season as he was a home run hitter.
While Geno Smith gets most of the love for turning around the Seahawks, it was their rushing attack that really propelled them into the playoffs. Kenneth Walker was their rock and should be the star running back for the Seahawks for years to come.
#7 – Aaron Jones
The Packers were a massive disappointment this season, but Aaron Jones was not. Believe it or not, Aaron Jones’ 1121 rushing yards this season was the most of his career. He also recorded that career high while averaging an impressive 5.3 yards per carry. This Packers rushing attack almost salvaged their season.
He also continues to be among one of the best pass catching running backs in the NFL. He was one reception shy from leading the entire Packers roster in receptions.
With Aaron Rodgers’ future in doubt, Aaron Jones’ future is not. The Packers paid this man and rightfully so. He is quietly one of the NFL’s best dual threat running backs.
#6 – Saquon Barkley
The comeback season. Welcome back to stardom Mr. Saquon Barkley. After a couple of injury riddled seasons, Saquon once again proved why he is one of the best running backs in the NFL today. He is an absolute freak of nature and one of the main reasons the Giants were able to make such a massive turnaround this season.
With the perfect combination of speed and strength, Saquon is a highlight play waiting to happen. I feel bad for the ground when he runs because he tries to run through it like he’s angry.
One of his most underrated stats this season is 0 fumbles lost. The turnover battle is one of the most underrated aspects of winning a football game and it’s clear Brian Daboll made that an emphasis this season.
With the Giants offensive line finally looking capable, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Saquon’s best season of his career in the next couple of seasons. He looks as good as ever and the Giants offense has been trending upwards.
Honorable Mention – Breece Hall
I already showed my love for Kenneth Walker, and the same goes for Breece Hall. Michael Carter looked good last season, but you don’t have to look too closely to see Breece Hall is a superstar.. He was a do-it-all running back with serious breakaway speed. He is a 98th percentile athlete with a pass catching prowess dating back to college.
If he hadn’t been injured this season, there is no doubt in my mind he would have won the offensive rookie of the year. No disrespect to Kenneth Walker, but I believe Breece Hall could have been considered a top 5 running back this season if he stayed healthy.
Going forward, I’m very excited to see what Breece Hall will become. A torn ACL isn’t what it used to be and at 21 years old, I wouldn’t be shocked if Breece Hall comes back even more explosive than before. Especially considering the upward trending offensive line of the New York Jets, Breece Hall will have a very bright future.
#5 – Austin Ekeler
This is the new NFL. Do you know who holds the Chargers single season record for most receptions? Austin freaking Ekeler. This undrafted running back has developed into arguably the best pass catching running back in the NFL.
His rushing stats aren’t too shabby either. Not only was he 85 yards shy of cracking 1000 yards, he also had a ridiculous 13 rushing touchdowns. You would think someone who is 5 foot 8 inches wouldn’t be your guy in short yardage situations, but he packs a punch. Shoutout to my short kings out there. Low man wins and Austin Ekeler knows how to use that low center of gravity to his advantage. Being a freak in the gym probably helps.
With Keenan Allen and Mike Williams injured for most the season, Justin Herbert had to rely on Austin Ekeler a lot this season. The results were there. Going forward I expect his workload to be spread out more allowing for even more efficient results.
#4 – Derrick Henry
I feel bad for Derrick Henry. The Tennessee Titans are so damn one dimensional. That one dimension is feed Derrick Henry. Over and over again. He has been backpacking this team to success for far too long. They need to get him some help.
With the AFC South title on the line, Derrick Henry rushed for 109 yards on 30 carries to a loss. He’s been known to own the Jaguars in recent years, but the streak finally ended with Joshua Dobbs at Quarterback. Even with a vintage Derrick Henry stiff arm highlight, it wasn’t enough.
I really thought that the workload would catch up to him, but Derrick Henry is still a beast. He continues to wear out defenses and still has that home run hitting ability. It takes a few steps for him to hit full speed, but once he does, it’s a near impossibility for just a single player to tackle him.
#3 – Christian McCaffrey
I can only imagine the excitement for McCaffrey once he found out he was traded to the Super Bowl contending San Francisco 49ers. Much like Derrick Henry, he has carried the Panthers offense for far too long. He needed some help.
Kyle Shanahan knows how to use his running backs and that was evident immediately for McCaffrey. In only his 2nd start with the team, he had a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a passing touchdown in a single game. Must be nice.
Everyone questioned whether McCaffrey could stay healthy and he proved he could. Not only that, he continues to prove his versatility. While Austin Ekeler finished with the most receptions for a running back, I still consider McCaffrey the best pass catching running back in the NFL. He doesn’t just catch swing passes in the backfield. He can do it all.
Consider McCaffrey a target of mind in fantasy football next season. The 49ers are a perfect fit and McCaffrey still has a lot left in the tank.
Honorable Mention – Travis Etienne
Consider this the rookie season of Travis Etienne. While he was technically a rookie last season, an off-season injury would prevent him from playing a single snap.
That might be for the better as this season he stepped in as the lead running back for a newly competing Jacksonville Jaguars team. James Robinson got all the hype last season, but they believed in Etienne so much that they shipped him away to the Jets.
Once that happened, Etienne’s production skyrocketed. Not only was he efficient, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, he also nearly cracked 1500 yards from scrimmage.
My one question going forward will be his usage in the passing game. He was a very efficient pass catching running back in college, but was used seldom this season in comparison.
#2 – Nick Chubb
Nick Chubb is the best pure rusher in the NFL today. There is no running back I would rather hand off the ball to than Nick Chubb. No disrespect to Derrick Henry or Josh Jacobs, but Nick Chubb is a joy to watch. He has the massive tree trunks of legs that packs a punch, but what really impresses me is how nimble and elusive he is.
This season marks Chubb joining Jim Brown as the only two Browns players to surpass 1500 rushing yards. He also recorded 13 rushing touchdowns which were a career high.
He also did this while averaging over 5 yards per attempt. For comparison sake, Derrick Henry recorded 1538 rushing yards this season on 349 carries. Nick Chubb recorded 1525 rushing yards on only 302 carries.
The Browns relied on Jacoby Brissett and a rusty Deshaun Watson all season, but they were able to compete because of their rushing attack. They went on the back of Nick Chubb.
#1 – Josh Jacobs
I want to take this moment to thank Josh Jacobs for carrying my fantasy team. I drafted him in the 6th round of my league and the rest is history. If I ever see him I’ll buy him a beer. Actually, he can buy his own damn beer. He’s rich, and I’m here ranking the top 10 running backs.
What a season for Josh Jacobs. From game winning touchdown runs to career bests in yards receiving, rush yards per game and yards per carry. With all the doubt surrounding him when the Raiders didn’t pick up his option year, he dominated this season. For someone to be this dominant on a horribly inefficient team shows just how talented he is. I was especially impressed with how far he’s come as a pass catcher.
It’s wild to me that the Raiders had the best running back in the NFL and one of the best wide receivers in the NFL yet were abysmal offensively. Josh McDaniels, you suck. Derek Carr, you suck. Al Davis, I feel bad for what has happened to your beloved franchise. I think all Raiders faithful would agree, re-sign Josh Jacobs this off-season and figure out your Quarterback situation.
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