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Ranking all 32 RB1s heading into the 2023 NFL season: Saquon Barkley not a top-five running back?

It's that time of year again, when I give football fans what they've all been waiting for: The official rankings of every starting running back as we head into the 2023 NFL season.

I did pretty well on some of my rankings from last year (SEE: Derrick Henry); I also completely whiffed on a few (Josh Jacobs). But let's not waste any more time looking back -- it's time to spin forward!

Here is this year's preseason ranking of all 32 RB1s.

NOTE: If a team operates with a committee backfield, I simply chose the RB who I think will have the most production in 2023.

Christian McCaffrey
San Francisco 49ers · Year 7

2022 stats: 17 games | 244 att | 1,139 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 85 rec | 741 rec yds | 5 rec TDs | 0 fumbles lost

San Francisco went on a tear following McCaffrey’s midseason arrival, winning 12 straight before the NFC Championship Game defeat in Philadelphia. Run CMC was the only player with 1,000-plus scrimmage yards and 10-plus scrimmage TDs from Week 8 through 18 last season. The offense averaged eight points more per game with McCaffrey in the lineup. That’s a massive impact for one player who’s not a quarterback. If he can stay healthy, the 27-year-old should continue running around defenders as a featured player in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · Year 8

2022 stats: 16 games | 349 att | 1,538 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 13 rush TDs | 33 rec | 398 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 3 fumbles lost

Henry has been one of the most dominant players in the NFL, ranking first in the league in carries, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, scrimmage yards and scrimmage TDs since he became the Titans’ full-time starter in 2018. Even with a healthy Ryan Tannehill -- and DeAndre Hopkins joining the aerial attack -- this offense will run through Henry until his production plummets, which I clearly don’t see happening in 2023. 

Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns · Year 6

2022 stats: 17 games | 302 att | 1,525 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 12 rush TDs | 27 rec | 239 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

Chubb was my third-ranked RB heading into the 2022 season, and he again delivered a marvelous campaign as the center of the Browns’ offense, recording career highs in carries, rushing yards and scrimmage TDs. With Deshaun Watson getting back into rhythm, it’s possible the Browns throw the ball more than they have over the last several seasons, but I’d like to think Kevin Stefanski will continue to lean on his ever-consistent running back to set the tone and eat up the clock late in games. And hey, Chubb agrees.

Austin Ekeler
Los Angeles Chargers · Year 7

2022 stats: 17 games | 204 att | 915 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 13 rush TDs | 107 rec | 722 rec yds | 5 rec TDs | 3 fumbles lost

The Chargers’ success in 2022 was often tied to Ekeler’s production, as they went 9-2 when he had at least one scrimmage touchdown but 1-5 when he was held scoreless. Despite requesting a trade early in the offseason, Ekeler should occupy a huge role in Kellen Moore’s offense -- even if the new OC wants to stretch the field more. A player as talented and elusive as Ekeler will always find a way to produce.

Josh Jacobs
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 5

2022 stats: 17 games | 340 att | 1,653 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 12 rush TDs | 53 rec | 400 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 1 fumble lost

This is obviously assuming Jacobs ends his holdout and is on the field with the Raiders for a majority of the 2023 season. The reigning NFL rushing king showed what he was capable of in Josh McDaniels’ offense last year, posting a league-leading five games with at least 140 rushing yards and one rush touchdown while accounting for 80.3 percent of the Raiders’ total ground yards.

Saquon Barkley
New York Giants · Year 6

2022 stats: 16 games | 295 att | 1,312 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 10 rush TDs | 57 rec | 338 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 0 fumbles lost

A healthy Barkley completely transformed the Giants’ offense in 2022, helping New York finish in the top five in rush yards per game (148.2) and rush TDs (21). Saquon has earned a long-term deal, no doubt, but after he was reduced to signing a one-year pact, you can bet Barkley will show up in full in another contract season for a Giants team looking to make a deep playoff run. 

Alvin Kamara
New Orleans Saints · Year 7

2022 stats: 15 games | 223 att | 897 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 57 rec | 490 rec yds | 2 rec TDs | 4 fumbles lost

Kamara is suspended for the first three games of the season for violating the league's personal conduct policy, but he should seamlessly slide back into the Saints’ offense in Week 4. He’s going to benefit from having Derek Carr under center and has a real chance to continue his streak of six consecutive seasons with 1,300-plus scrimmage yards.

Jonathan Taylor
Indianapolis Colts · Year 4

2022 stats: 11 games | 192 att | 861 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 28 rec | 143 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 3 fumbles lost

It's been a turbulent offseason for the Colts and their RB1. The most recent development occurred Monday, when the team granted Taylor permission to seek a trade. This came after the 24-year-old back requested a trade in July and then had two excused absences while rehabbing his ankle on the PUP list. Yet until Taylor is officially dealt by the Colts, I'm operating as if he still headlines this backfield. The sky’s the limit for Taylor when healthy, as evidenced by his 2021 campaign when he won the rushing triple crown. He’s in line for a big bounce-back year -- again, assuming he’s on the field -- with Indy adding new head coach Shane Steichen (who led a top-three scoring and total offense in Philly last season) and dual-threat rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson. This offense is going to be completely different than what we saw a year ago, and thank goodness for that.

Tony Pollard
Dallas Cowboys · Year 5

2022 stats: 16 games | 193 att | 1,007 rush yds | 5.2 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 39 rec | 371 rec yds | 3 rec TDs | 0 fumbles lost

For the first time since 2015, the Cowboys’ RB1 is not named Ezekiel Elliott. The team released Zeke this offseason after watching Pollard thrive in an elevated role last season. Pollard has always been an efficient rusher, but showed he can still be that type of back when tasked with nearly 200 carries. After all, he had the fewest totes (193) by any 1,000-yard running back in 2022. Pollard should fully establish himself as The Guy in Dallas' backfield this year -- and also grow as a dynamic pass catcher in Mike McCarthy’s offense.

Najee Harris
Pittsburgh Steelers · Year 3

2022 stats: 17 games | 272 att | 1,034 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 41 rec | 229 rec yds | 3 rec TDs | 2 fumbles lost

The Steelers have leaned heavily on their bell cow since he entered the league in 2021, helping take pressure off an out-of-juice Ben Roethlisberger and rookie Kenny Pickett. In fact, the third-year pro leads the NFL with the highest percentage of team scrimmage touches (40.8 percent) over the past two seasons; he also leads the league with 579 carries and 694 touches in that span. Even with Pittsburgh expected to give Pickett more freedom in the passing game, everything about the offense should continue to run through No. 22.  

J.K. Dobbins
Baltimore Ravens · Year 4

2022 stats: 8 games | 92 att | 520 rush yds | 5.7 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 7 rec | 42 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Back on the field after a knee injury, Dobbins should pick up right where he left off in the final stretch of the 2022 campaign: as the lead back in Baltimore. When healthy, Dobbins is comparable to the best in the league, as evidenced by his production in Weeks 14 through 17 of last season, when he led the NFL in both rush yards (397) and yards per carry (7.0) among players with a minimum of 35 attempts. He’s hungry for a full bounce-back season and a new contract. Might we see him get both? I like his chances. 

Dameon Pierce
Houston Texans · Year 2

2022 stats: 13 games | 220 att | 939 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 30 rec | 165 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 2 fumbles lost

A top Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate before missing the four games of last season with an ankle injury, Pierce will again be the focal point of the offense with a rookie quarterback likely under center. There is a lot to like about Pierce, but the stat that most sums up his brilliance is this: He was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on 53.6 percent of his carries last season and totaled the second-most forced missed tackles (38) on such carries, per PFF. Having a back like that is a huge asset for an offense in transition. 

Javonte Williams
Denver Broncos · Year 3

2022 stats: 4 games | 47 att | 204 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 16 rec | 76 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 1 fumble lost

Williams was back on the game-day field last weekend for the first time since a serious knee injury ended his 2022 campaign in Week 4, and it was a promising step forward. Now healthy and with Sean Payton orchestrating the offense, Williams has a good chance to match -- if not exceed -- his 2021 production of 1,219 scrimmage yards. 

Breece Hall
New York Jets · Year 2

2022 stats: 7 games | 80 att | 463 rush yds | 5.8 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 19 rec | 218 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

The Jets’ backfield is oh so crowded with Dalvin Cook joining Breece Hall, Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight. Of all those talents, though, Hall should get the bulk of the load as a big-time playmaker with the capability to take this offense -- one that now has a four-time MVP in tow -- to the next level. When healthy -- and despite last October's torn ACL, it appears he is -- Hall is one of the most electric players at his position.

Rhamondre Stevenson
New England Patriots · Year 3

2022 stats: 17 games | 210 att | 1,040 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 69 rec | 421 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

Stevenson should rank higher after being one of just three running backs to post 1000-plus yards rushing and 400-plus receiving last season, leading him to a top-10 finish in my year-end RB rankings. But while Stevenson should get a majority of the carries for the Patriots (who had a bottom-10 rushing offense a year ago), I expect newly signed Ezekiel Elliott to get his fair share of opportunities as one of the most productive players at the position since he entered the league In 2016. With all of the offensive changes -- both in personnel and the hiring of Bill O'Brien as offensive coordinator -- there are a lot of unknowns around this unit.

Travis Etienne
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 3

2022 stats: 17 games | 220 att | 1,125 rush yds | 5.1 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 35 rec | 316 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 3 fumbles lost

Etienne didn’t take long to show Doug Pederson his worth last season, claiming the RB1 job in Week 6 and ultimately leading the team in rushing and scrimmage yards. With an entire offseason to work on attacking the hole downhill, Etienne is capable of amassing 1,600-plus rush yards, according to Jacksonville’s second-year head coach. The one thing keeping the third-year pro from the top 10 on this list? Rookie backup Tank Bigsby, a physical tackle-breaker who’s shown out in the preseason and could see a healthy amount of carries as a spell back.

Kenneth Walker III
Seattle Seahawks · Year 2

2022 stats: 15 games | 228 att | 1,050 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 27 rec | 165 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 0 fumbles lost

Walker led all rookies in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns last season despite missing two games. That said, he’s been banged up this preseason with a groin injury, and rookie RB Zach Charbonnet is taking advantage of increased opportunities. The Seahawks also feature arguably the best receiving trio in the league (DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and first-round pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba), so touches for Walker could be more limited than I thought they’d be back in February.

D'Andre Swift
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 4

2022 stats: 14 games | 99 att | 542 rush yds | 5.5 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 48 rec | 389 rec yds | 3 rec TDs | 0 fumbles lost

After boasting the league’s fifth-best rushing offense last season, the Eagles swapped Miles Sanders out for D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny. Swift should be the starter here as a dynamic playmaker in both the run and pass games; he is the only active player with at least 500 rush yards, five rush TDs, 300 receiving yards and multiple receiving TDs in each of the last three seasons. He has a lot of potential in this offense, but has to share the load with Penny and Kenneth Gainwell. Not to mention, QB Jalen Hurts is really the focal point of the run game.

Joe Mixon
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 7

2022 stats: 14 games | 210 att | 814 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 60 rec | 441 rec yds | 2 rec TDs | 0 fumbles lost

I’ve always been a fan of what Mixon does on the field. He is a versatile asset out of the backfield who really tapped into his pass-catching ability in 2022, setting career highs with 60 receptions and 441 receiving yards. That said, the Bengals ranked 29th in rushing a year ago, with Joe Burrow throwing the ball more than 600 times. As Burrow slices up defenses with an elite receiving trio in the pass game, there just isn't a wealth of opportunity for Mixon, who took a pay cut this offseason to stay in Cincinnati, as a runner. 

Alexander Mattison
Minnesota Vikings · Year 5

2022 stats: 17 games | 74 att | 283 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 15 rec | 91 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Now taking over as Minnesota’s lead back after the release of Dalvin Cook, Mattison has played well in spurts, averaging 129.5 scrimmage yards per game in four contests as a starter since 2021. The biggest question surrounding the former third-round pick: Can he produce as the full-time starter over an entire 17-game regular season?

Bijan Robinson
Atlanta Falcons · Rookie

There’s a ton of hype around Atlanta’s rookie running back, and I get it. He’s a three-down talent who will take Arthur Smith’s offense to new heights. But it’s possible Tyler Allgeier, who just eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards as a rookie, sees a healthy amount of carries. And gadget guy Cordarrelle Patterson could be in the mix for regular backfield opportunities, too. I might be completely wrong about this -- and Bijan could have a top-10 finish on this list come January -- but I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. 

Jahmyr Gibbs
Detroit Lions · Rookie

Gibbs is going to be special in Ben Johnson’s offense with his Alvin Kamara-like skill set. He’ll elevate a Lions rushing attack that ranked 11th last season and offer Jared Goff another sure-handed weapon in the pass game. But like most players in this range, he’ll be splitting carries with another RB1-caliber player in David Montgomery.  

Aaron Jones
Green Bay Packers · Year 7

2022 stats: 17 games | 213 att | 1,121 rush yds | 5.3 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 59 rec | 395 rec yds | 5 rec TDs | 3 fumbles lost

Jones makes his money as an elusive back who thrives in the pass game, ranking in the top five among running backs in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns since 2019. He’ll split carries AJ Dillon, especially late in the season when the winter really hits Green Bay. Also, I expect the Packers to throw the ball more than some anticipate as they figure out what they have in Jordan Love.

Rachaad White
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 2

2022 stats: 17 games | 129 att | 481 rush yds | 3.7 ypc | 1 rush TD | 50 rec | 290 rec yds | 2 rec TDs | 3 fumbles lost

White had just one 100-yard rushing performance in 17 games (eight starts) as a rookie last season. The fact that Tom Brady threw the ball a whopping 733 times, an NFL single-season record, didn’t help. The second-year running back should see more opportunity this year with Baker Mayfield as the starter

Raheem Mostert
Miami Dolphins · Year 9

2022 stats: 16 game | 181 att | 891 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 31 rec | 202 rec yds | 2 rec TDs | 1 fumble lost

My concern in this piece last year was Mostert’s health, but he responded by logging 16 games (14 starts). The concern now is that Mike McDaniel doesn’t run the ball. Mostert had a team-high 181 carries and 891 rush yards for a Dolphins offense that ranked 31st in rush attempts and 25th in rush yards last season. I also expect dynamic rookie De’Von Achane to carve out a role in this offense.  

Brian Robinson
Washington Commanders · Year 2

2022 stats: 12 games | 205 att | 797 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 9 rec | 60 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Despite ranking fourth with 31.7 attempts per game in 2022, the Commanders finished 28th with an average of 4 yards per carry and 29th with nine rush TDs. It won’t take long before we see offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s affect on the offense, as it should be far more efficient this season. However, there are a lot of mouths to feed, especially in the passing game, and Robinson will likely still split carries with Antonio Gibson. One positive here is that Robinson feels a “night and day” difference from how he felt in 12 games last season, after being shot in an attempted carjacking just days before Week 1. 

Isiah Pacheco
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 2

2022 stats: 17 games | 170 att | 830 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 13 rec | 130 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 2 fumbles lost

A 2022 seventh-round pick, Pacheco carved out a nice little role down the stretch last season, averaging 13.6 carries, 69.2 rush yards and 84.3 scrimmage yards per game from Week 10 through the Super Bowl. He’s efficient, but the biggest factor playing against him is the Chiefs’ quarterback. When you have the league’s best player taking snaps, it’s hard to hand the ball off to someone else. 

Cam Akers
Los Angeles Rams · Year 4

2022 stats: 15 game | 188 att | 786 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 13 rec | 117 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 2 fumbles lost

Akers finished strong down the stretch after underperforming for much of the 2022 season. He’s a terrific talent -- leading the NFL with 508 scrimmage yards between Weeks 15 and 18 -- who is hungry to perform in a contract year. 

Khalil Herbert
Chicago Bears · Year 3

2022 stats: 13 games | 129 att | 731 rush yds | 5.7 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 9 rec | 57 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

After averaging better than a yard per carry more than David Montgomery during his first two seasons in Chicago, Herbert takes the reins as the Bears' RB1 this fall. He’s a reliable runner between the tackles and in space, but this situation is a lot like D’Andre Swift's in Philadelphia. Herbert is splitting caries with D’Onta Foreman and promising rookie Roschon Johnson -- oh, and a guy named Justin Fields, the most explosive rusher in the league.

Miles Sanders
Carolina Panthers · Year 5

2022 stats: 17 games | 259 att | 1,269 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 11 rush TDs | 20 rec | 78 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 2 fumbles lost

Sanders should probably be higher on this list, but to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what this offense looks like with Frank Reich calling plays for Bryce Young. Sanders had career highs in all major rushing categories in 2022 with the Eagles, but prior to last year, he had never rushed for 900 yards in a season. 

James Cook
Buffalo Bills · Year 2

2022 stats: 16 games | 89 att | 507 rush yds | 5.7 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 21 rec | 180 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

Cook showed promise in his rookie season as Buffalo’s RB2. He hit his stride down the stretch when averaging eight carries per game and 6 yards per carry from Weeks 11 through 18. Furthermore, Cook led the Bills with 17 carries in the postseason. He now takes over as the lead back following the departure of Devin Singletary but is ranked this low on my list because of two reasons: 

  1. The Bills don’t run much outside of quarterback Josh Allen, who has had at least 100 carries in four straight seasons. Last season, Allen led the team with seven rushing TDs, while Bills running backs combined for seven rush TDs. 
  2. Cook will also likely share the load with Damien Harris, who has upside if he can stay healthy. 

The Bills are set to use more 12 personnel with tight ends Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid, which could aid the run game. I’m just not convinced Cook will always be the one benefitting from those opportunities.

James Conner
Arizona Cardinals · Year 7

2022 stats: 13 games | 183 att | 782 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 46 rec | 300 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

Conner was perhaps the most consistent part of the Cardinals’ offense last season, posting 1,000 scrimmage yards for the second consecutive year. He sits in the final spot heading into Week 1 simply because the Cardinals’ offense is the biggest wild card of them all (to put it kindly). 

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