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NFL RB Index, Week 7: Five running backs who could be on the move ahead of trade deadline

We are closing in on the 2023 NFL trade deadline – 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Oct. 31 -- and there has already been one somewhat significant move across the running back landscape this season, with the Los Angeles Rams shipping Cam Akers to Minnesota ahead of Week 3.

I doubt this will be the only major running back transaction prior to the deadline. To get a sense of who else might be dealt, I scanned NFL rosters for backs who look to me like ideal candidates to be traded, based on factors like team competitiveness, the depth of the running back depth chart, contract status and player performance. Below are five running backs who could plausibly be moved by their teams.

Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans (2-4) sit at the bottom of the AFC South heading into their Week 7 bye. I’m not counting this Mike Vrabel-led bunch out just yet, but they appear to have a real quarterback problem. The offense ranks 29th in passing yards, 31st in passing TDs and 26th in scoring. Veteran Ryan Tannehill was playing some of his worst football (logging 188 yards per game this season, with a 2:6 TD-to-INT ratio) prior to sustaining an ankle injury in Week 6 that had him on crutches. Backup Malik Willis isn’t the answer, and we don’t yet know what rookie second-round pick Will Levis brings to the table. The Titans will need to figure out how to navigate the game’s most important position quickly if they hope to turn their season around. If they don’t, moving Derrick Henry for draft capital might help jump-start a rebuild. Henry’s on the books for just over $16 million for 2023, per Over the Cap, but will head for free agency in 2024. 

The two-time league rushing champion still has plenty left in the tank in his eighth season, sitting ninth in the NFL in rushing yards (425) and averaging 4.3 yards per carry in 2023. The 29-year-old is a special player who could change the entire dynamic of an offense and is a shoo-in to rack up 1,000 yards on the season if he stays healthy. Teams who could make a play for the three-time Pro Bowler? The Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons (which would mean a potential reunion with former Titans coordinator Arthur Smith). 

Zack Moss
Indianapolis Colts

Zack Moss took over RB1 duties early in the year while Jonathan Taylor was on the PUP list, and Moss is now having the best campaign of his career. His 93.2 rush yards per game across five games this season more than doubles his output in any of his first three pro seasons, and he's already equaled his previous season high in scrimmage yards (576). Now, though, with Taylor healthy (and, having signed a three-year, $42 million extension, presumably happy), this is the perfect chance for general manager Chris Ballard to sell high on Moss. Quarterback Anthony Richardson is on the shelf for the season, and though the Colts are still vying for the top spot in the AFC South behind backup Gardner Minshew, they must also think about building around Richardson in the future. With Moss headed for free agency after this season, trading him now could allow the Colts to recoup some draft capital to reinforce the roster in 2024. It would be a bit unorthodox, since the Bills traded him away to Indy less than a year ago, but perhaps Moss would be a fit with his old team. I could also see the Bucs or Bears, who are thin in the backfield, inquiring about Moss.

Dalvin Cook
New York Jets

When the New York Jets signed Dalvin Cook in training camp, Breece Hall was coming back from a knee injury he'd suffered in 2022. It made sense to add Cook as insurance. The ex-Viking carried the ball 13 times (for 33 yards) and logged three catches (for 26 yards) in Week 1 but more or less disappeared after that, tallying 26 carries for 76 yards (2.9 yards per carry) and six catches for 20 yards over the next five games. Since Robert Saleh took Hall off a pitch count ahead of Week 5, Cook has played no more than 10 snaps in either of the Jets' contests -- fewer than both Hall (obviously) and Michael Carter. With Hall (6.5 yards per carry) thriving again, it's time to move on from this experiment. The four-time Pro Bowler would fit in well in Buffalo’s offense or with the Los Angeles Rams, who signed Royce Freeman to the active roster and Darrell Henderson to the practice squad on Tuesday in the wake of injuries to Kyren Williams and Ronnie Rivers.

Cordarrelle Patterson
Atlanta Falcons

Yes, Cordarrelle Patterson missed the first three games of 2023 with a thigh injury, but even since his return, he's barely seen any action, logging one carry for zero yards and two receptions for 13 yards on two targets. The Falcons' offense is loaded with talented playmakers, including standout rookie back Bijan Robinson. Patterson might be a 32-year-old veteran in his 11th pro season, but as recently as last year, he was good for 12.7 touches per game and a respectable 5.0 yards per touch. If the Falcons decide to keep rolling with Robinson and Tyler Allgeier, could they be tempted by an offer for Patterson from a team seeking an offensive boost?

Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Kansas City Chiefs

Isiah Pacheco claimed the RB1 job in Kansas City during the team’s run to a Super Bowl victory last season, and Jerick McKinnon has been utilized as a dynamic pass-catching weapon for Patrick Mahomes. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, meanwhile, had his fifth-year option for 2024 declined in May. CEH’s production has declined in each of his four seasons; he averaged 61.8 rush yards per game as a rookie in 2020, 51.7 in 2021, 30.2 in 2022 and just 16.7 in 2023. So far this season, he's played in only 17.8 percent of the Chiefs' offensive snaps. But while he appears to be the odd man out in K.C., the former first-round pick could still serve as an every-down back for a suitor, likely for a reasonable cost.

Former NFL rushing leader and current NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his top 15 each week of the 2023 season. His rankings are largely based on this season's efforts. Here is MJD's list heading into Week 7.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from Week 5's rankings.

Christian McCaffrey
San Francisco 49ers · Year 7

2023 stats: 6 games | 110 att | 553 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 7 rush TD | 23 rec | 177 rec yds | 2 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

The oblique injury that forced Christian McCaffrey to exit in the second half of Sunday’s loss to Cleveland is worth monitoring, as the Niners' offense just isn’t the same without him. Before he was sidelined, he scored on a 13-yard catch-and-run to become the fourth player in NFL history to score a scrimmage touchdown in 15 straight games (including playoffs) -- joining Hall of Famers O.J. Simpson, John Riggins and Lenny Moore. 

D'Andre Swift
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 4

2023 stats: 6 games | 86 att | 452 rush yds | 5.3 ypc | 2 rush TD | 23 rec | 115 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

D'Andre Swift wasn't as effective on the ground as usual, as New York’s dominating defense held him to just 18 yards on 10 carries. However, the dynamic playmaker logged his first receiving touchdown of the 2023 season. With Swift's recent increase in targets, his value continues to increase going into Sunday night's blockbuster game vs. Miami.  

Raheem Mostert
Miami Dolphins · Year 9

2023 stats: 6 games | 75 att | 429 rush yds | 5.7 ypc | 9 rush TD | 18 rec | 145 rec yds | 2 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

The last time I did these rankings, heading into Week 5, teammates De'Von Achane (No. 10) and Raheem Mostert (11) both qualified. Since then, Achane landed on IR, and in Week 6, Mostert dazzled against the Panthers, thus skyrocketing his way up the rankings. Rushing 17 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns, the 31-year-old also managed to catch all three targets and add a receiving score in the convincing win over Carolina. Jeff Wilson Jr. might become activated off IR ahead of Week 7's game vs. Philly. If that's the case, Mostert might not see the same workload or put up the same monstrous numbers he did last Sunday.  

Travis Etienne
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 3

2023 stats: 6 games | 113 att | 451 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 5 rush TD | 21 rec | 172 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

With the help of teammate Josh Allen’s strip-sack of Gardner Minshew, Travis Etienne scored two rushing touchdowns in the span of 16 seconds -- tied for the fourth-fastest span between touchdowns in one half since 1983, per NFL Research. His first came on a 2-yard burst up the gut. Then, after Minshew's turnover, Etienne capitalized with a 22-yard TD to put the Jags up by 10 less than one minute into the second quarter. The third-year back also became the third Jacksonville player to have consecutive games with at least two rush TDs, joining yours truly and my good buddy Fred Taylor. You love to see it. 

Tony Pollard
Dallas Cowboys · Year 5

2023 stats: 6 games | 96 att | 370 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 2 rush TD | 25 rec | 176 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

Tony Pollard wasn't able to secure a touchdown during Monday night's win over the Chargers. However, he thrived as a receiver, catching six of seven targets for a season-high 80 yards, including a 60-yard catch-and-run to set up Dallas’ fourth-quarter touchdown. On the ground, he finished with 15 carries for 30 yards.

Kenneth Walker III
Seattle Seahawks · Year 2

2023 stats: 5 games | 83 att | 345 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 6 rush TD | 11 rec | 100 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

The Seahawks racked up 384 yards of total offense, outgaining the Bengals by 170 yards -- but turnovers doomed them. Kenneth Walker III led all players with 62 rush yards on 19 attempts, including a 1-yard touchdown run on the opening drive. He’s now had a rushing touchdown in four straight games; he can match his five-game streak from 2022 with another in Week 7.

Brian Robinson
Washington Commanders · Year 2

2023 stats: 6 games | 77 att | 302 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 3 rush TD | 11 rec | 113 rec yds | 2 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

The Commanders rebounded nicely after the embarrassing Thursday night loss to Chicago. The offense only gained 193 total yards in a win over Atlanta, but it was a clean performance. While Brian Robinson’s rushing average continues to underwhelm -- 3.1 yards per carry in Sunday’s win -- he was again a solid option for Sam Howell in the pass game, catching both of his targets and scoring on a 24-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter.  

Breece Hall
New York Jets · Year 2

2023 stats: 6 games | 66 att | 426 rush yds | 6.5 ypc | 2 rush TD | 13 rec | 113 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Breece Hall locked in a touchdown at the very tail end of the Jets' first-ever win against the Eagles. The second-year running back rushed 12 times for 39 yards while also connecting on all five of his targets for 54 yards. Hall will be ready and refreshed to help the Jets continue their win streak against the Giants after the Week 7 bye. 

Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · Year 8

2023 stats: 6 games | 98 att | 425 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 3 rush TD | 11 rec | 117 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

The two highlights of Derrick Henry’s London outing came in the third quarter. The first was a 63-yard run out of the wildcat formation that set up one of Tennessee’s three field goals. The second came on a 15-yard TD run to bring the Titans within striking distance of the Ravens. But if you take those two gains out, Henry ended up rushing for 19 yards on 10 carries -- or a dismal 1.9 yards per pop. There’s too much inconsistency for my liking.

Zack Moss
Indianapolis Colts · Year 4

2023 stats: 5 games | 96 att | 466 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 4 rush TD | 14 rec | 110 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

After digging an early hole with a double-digit deficit, the Colts weren't really in a position to turn to their backfield stars -- Zack Moss and Jonathan Taylor -- for help. Indy had a measly 44 rush yards in Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville, with Moss logging 21 of them (with one TD) on seven carries. He added 38 yards on six catches in the pass game, but overall, it was a very underwhelming week for the Colts.

David Montgomery
Detroit Lions · Year 5

2023 stats: 5 games | 94 att | 385 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 6 rush TD | 6 rec | 66 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

The Lions, who are finally having a hot start to their season, could be in some trouble. Both of their star running backs, David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs (hamstring), are dealing with injuries. Montgomery left the field with a rib injury after playing just 18 snaps in Sunday's loss to Tampa Bay. Entering Week 6's game, Montgomery was third in the NFL in rushing touchdowns and on a four-game touchdown streak. There’s a chance the veteran could miss multiple weeks, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. 

Isiah Pacheco
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 2

2023 stats: 6 games | 87 att | 387 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 3 rush TD | 17 rec | 135 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Isiah Pacheco did most of his damage in the first half in the win over Denver, with nine carries for 47 yards (5.2 yards per carry) coming in the first two quarters. He even had a career-high six catches in the contest for 36 yards. He’s evolving nicely into a three-down back.

Bijan Robinson
Atlanta Falcons · Rookie

2023 stats: 6 games | 80 att | 401 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 0 rush TD | 26 rec | 189 rec yds | 2 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

The Falcons divided the backfield work between Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier, who both had 13 carries in Sunday's loss. The latter averaged 1.1 yards per carry more than the rookie; however, the No. 8 overall pick finished second on the team in receptions (five) and tied for second in receiving yards (43). Between the inconsistencies of this offense (SEE: Desmond Ridder’s three INTs) and the amount of talent on this unit, it's been tough for Robinson to produce regularly. 

Kyren Williams
Los Angeles Rams · Year 2

2023 stats: 6 games | 97 att | 456 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 6 rush TD | 13 rec | 105 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Kyren Williams and the Rams' offense had an incredibly slow first half. Then came the third and fourth quarters, where they showed off against a weak Cardinals' rush defense. Williams finished the day with a career-high 158 rushing yards and scored a touchdown. The young back unfortunately sustained an ankle injury during Sunday's win. 

James Cook
Buffalo Bills · Year 2

2023 stats: 6 games | 75 att | 363 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 1 rush TD | 14 rec | 140 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

After a rough Week 5 for the Bills and James Cook in London, the second-year pro bounced back with a much better performance. Cook finished with 14 carries for 71 yards in Sunday night's narrow win over the Giants. With a Week 7 matchup against the Patriots, Cook could be in store for another successful outing. 

DROPPED OUT: James Conner, Cardinals (previously No. 5); De'Von Achane, Dolphins (No. 10).

The Ground Index presented by FedEx ranks NFL running back performances all season long. Check out the weekly FedEx Air NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote after Sunday Night Football.

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