Ranking the Best NFL Running Backs 2022

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(AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
Colton Pool @CPoolReporter Aug 18, 2022, 3:26 PM

Most may not move NFL betting lines, but running backs are still vital in the modern-day offense. 

Some squads with the greatest Super Bowl odds can turn to highly-talented ball carriers in the backfield. Here’s a ranking of some of the best running back groups, heavily weighing each team’s starters.

2022 NFL Running Back Rankings


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Running Back Rankings, Team by Team

32. Marlon Mack / Houston Texans (Grade: 44/100)

Mack is slated to start at running back for the Texans. Though he only had 28 carries, he rushed for 101 yards and 3.6 yards per carry with the Colts last season. He was graded as Pro Football Focus’ 137th-best rusher. Rex Burkhead, who’s 32 years old, is slated to be his backup.

31. Cordarrelle Patterson / Atlanta Falcons (46/100)

Patterson was electric during certain parts of last season but not for the whole year. He ended up 36th in DYAR and 34th in DVOA, both metrics from Football Outsiders measuring value. That was while recording 618 yards and six TDs on 153 rushes and 548 yards on 52 catches in 2021, but he appears unlikely to follow up on those numbers without Matt Ryan. The Falcons added Damien Williams for depth.

30. James Conner / Arizona Cardinals (48/100)

While Conner rushed for 752 yards and 15 touchdowns, he was 23rd in DYAR and 28th in DVOA last season. Conner, who also has an injury history, may not even replicate his 2021 production.

If Conner does miss time, the Cardinals would be forced to turn to Darrel Williams and/or Eno Benjamin.

29. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Ronald Jones II / Kansas City Chiefs (50/100)

Four Chiefs rushed for at least 250 yards last year, yet none over 600, and their rushing attempts might be dispersed as evenly in 2022. Edwards-Helaire, who was 25th in DVOA and 30th in DYAR, is the Chiefs’ leading returning rusher with 517 yards last year. But the Chiefs brought in Jones from Tampa Bay and bring back Jerick McKinnon for a more complete position group.

28. D’Andre Swift / Detroit Lions (51/100)

Swift has yet to realize his potential after he was drafted. A year ago, he was outside of the top 45 in DVOA and DYAR. He led the Lions with 617 yards and five touchdowns on 151 attempts, while Jamaal Williams was close behind with 601 yards and three TDs.

27. Josh Jacobs / Las Vegas Raiders (52/100)

Jacobs was outside of the top 32 in DYAR and DVOA last season. He rushed for 955 yards and nine touchdowns on 230 carries in 2021, tying for 30th with 4.2 yards per carry.

However, with a revamped offense and Kenyan Drake as a backup, the Raiders might climb this list by next year.

26. Saquon Barkley / New York Giants (53/100)

Barkley was unquestionably one of the best backs in the league as a rookie. But since then, he’s battled with injuries, and his production has declined. He was 45th in DYAR and DVOA last season with 593 yards. Matt Breida looks to be his backup.

25. Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr / Los Angeles Rams (55/100)

Akers was injured for most of the 2021 season and played just one game. But the Rams believed in the 2020 second-round pick out of Florida State enough to let Sony Michel walk in free agency. 

Henderson was the Rams’ second-leading rusher last year. He was 12th in DVOA and 15th in DYAR with 695 yards.

24. Travis Etienne Jr and James Robinson / Jacksonville Jaguars (56/100)

With Etienne recovering from an injury and Robinson both as backfield options, the Jaguars aren’t in a bad spot. 

Robinson wasn’t as utilized as he could’ve been, but he was still seventh in DYAR and sixth in DVOA last year. Etienne was a 2021 first-round pick out of Clemson with a chance to prove what he’s capable of as a pro.

23. Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel / Miami Dolphins (57/100)

Edmonds, with the Cardinals last season, wasn’t a primary option for the entirety of the 2021 season, but he was effective. He was eighth in DVOA and 17th in DYAR.

However, he’s likely in the same position with the Dolphins. Mostert joins them after moments of greatness with the 49ers, and Michel was 25th in DYAR and 27th in DVOA last season with the Rams.

22. Rashaad Penny and Kenneth Walker III / Seattle Seahawks (59/100)

Penny finally exploded with a successful season. The former first-round pick was second in DVOA and sixth in DYAR last season with 749 yards in 2021.

Walker, a highly-touted second-round pick out of Michigan State, may challenge for carries. Chris Carson is still recovering from neck surgery, but he would add another threat when he becomes healthy.

21. Elijah Mitchell / San Francisco 49ers (62/100)

It seems a great number of running backs could succeed in the 49ers’ offense. Though he was behind three others on the 2021 preseason depth chart, Mitchell capitalized when he was given more opportunities. He was 14th in DYAR and 19th in DVOA with 1,132 rushing yards last season.

Third-round pick Tyrion Davis-Price, Trey Sermon and Jeff Wilson Jr make for a competitive backfield.

20. Miles Sanders / Philadelphia Eagles (63/100)

While quarterback Jalen Hurts led the team in rushing yards and attempts, Sanders made the most of his tries when he had the ball. He tied for fifth in the league with 5.3 yards per attempt, as he totaled 770 for the year.

And while Sanders didn’t score any touchdowns, backups Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell combined for 12.

19. Breece Hall and Michael Carter / New York Jets (66/100)

Hall was regarded by many as the best running back in the 2022 class out of Iowa State. Defenses will have to plan for the many ways he can impact a game.

At his position, he’s joined by Carter, a fourth-round draft pick in 2021. He was 22nd in DYAR and 21st in DVOA last season and may have more chances to shine.

18. Antonio Gibson / Washington Commanders (69/100)

Gibson suffered from being on an offense that was 21st in total DVOA last season. And while he wasn’t personally as effective as he could be either, he was still sixth during the regular season with 1,035 yards. Gibson and backup JD McKissic are also competent pass catchers.

17. David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert / Chicago Bears (71/100)

Montgomery was 43rd in DYAR and DVOA last season on 849 yards, but he still provides a stable presence for the Bears’ offense. Herbert, however, was a pleasant surprise as a sixth-round rookie as he was 13th in DVOA, 27th in DYAR and was graded sixth by PFF.

16. Devin Singletary / Buffalo Bills (72/100)

The Bills were graded the best ground attack by PFF and were ninth in rush DVOA in 2021. Singletary obviously played a key role in that, though he was 16th in DYAR and 20th in DVOA last season.

The Bills also drafted former Georgia running back James Cook in the second round this year, who will either provide depth or challenge Singletary for the lead role.

15. Joe Mixon / Cincinnati Bengals (74/100)

Mixon was one of the top rushers in the league last season, but he wasn’t overly efficient. He was 24th in DYAR and 32nd DVOA, and he was graded 12th by PFF. Still, his career-high 1,205 yards during the regular season was third.

Mixon, with Samaje Perine as his backup, still gives the Bengals an above-average presence at running back.

14. Alvin Kamara / New Orleans Saints (76/100)

For myriad reasons, the Saints’ offense took a step back in 2021. Kamara was no exception, as he ranked 50th in DYAR and 47th in DVOA. And for the first time in his career, he totaled less than 500 yards through the air.

Kamara is still a dynamic weapon out of the backfield, so it’s up to the Saints’ new-look coaching staff to maximize his talent. Mark Ingram II is back as their second-string back.

13. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard / Dallas Cowboys (77/100)

The Cowboys would likely be higher on this list if it weren’t for the usage of their backs. In 2021, Pollard was fourth in DVOA and ninth in DYAR, while Elliott was 23rd and 11th. However, Pollard (134) was given half as many carries as Elliott (249).

The Cowboys, who were 13th in rushing DVOA last season, will still have an above-average rushing attack. But the distribution of carries, possibly because of Elliott’s large contract, sets them back.

12. JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards / Baltimore Ravens (80/100)

Both Dobbins and Edwards were injured before the 2021 season began, which set the offense back. Baltimore, known for his prowess in the ground game, was outside the top 10 in rushing DVOA at 11th last season.

Both Dobbins and Edwards have shown that they can elevate their offense and keep pressure off of Lamar Jackson when they are healthy.

11. Damien Harris / New England Patriots (82/100)

While Harris wasn’t relied on as a workhorse running back, ranking 15th with 211 carries in 2021, he was still one of the most effective when he did have the ball. He was fifth by DYAR and 10th in DVOA. And though he only caught 19 passes on 21 targets for 139 yards, he was graded ninth as a receiving back by PFF.

With Rhamondre Stevenson, James White and newly-drafted Pierre Strong Jr, the Patriots will likely continue mixing up their backfield personnel. 

10. Dalvin Cook / Minnesota Vikings (85/100)

Cook was outside of the top 35 for DYAR and DVOA last season. But this ranking serves as an expectation he’ll bounce back. He was still in the top five with 1,159 yards in 2021.

The fact that Cook has rushed for over 1,000 yards each of the last three seasons, and accumulated over 1,000 receiving yards during that span, should prove how capable he is. Alexander Mattison is also a competent backup.

9. Leonard Fournette / Tampa Bay Buccaneers (86/100)

On a high-powered Buccaneers offense, Fournette was second in the league in DYAR and fifth in DVOA. He was eighth in the league with 1,030 effective rushing yards.

Fournette will benefit individually with Ronald Jones II now on the Chiefs. Rachaad White is slated as a backup with Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard also on the team.

8. Najee Harris / Pittsburgh Steelers (88/100)

Harris wasn’t extremely efficient in his rookie season, but he was still fourth in the NFL with 1,229 rushing yards. He managed to do so despite 944 of those yards occurring after contact.

The Steelers hope a change at quarterback will help spice up the offense. Benny Snell Jr is in line to be the backup.

7. Christian McCaffrey / Carolina Panthers (90/100)

McCaffrey earned this place based on the time he’s been on the field, but he’s only played 10 games in the last two seasons. 

He proved every time he was available, even in 2021, he’s one of the most explosive and versatile running backs in the NFL. When McCaffrey has been sidelined, Chuba Hubbard has filled in.

6. Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III / Denver Broncos (92/100)

In his rookie season out of North Carolina, Williams ended the year with 3.42 yards after contact per attempt, which was ninth in the NFL. Gordon was 20th in that area with 3.12 yards.

PFF also rated Williams in the top 21 among running backs for receiving and pass blocking. Both Williams and Gordon are versatile threats who will boost this offense.

5. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon / Green Bay Packers (93/100)

It’s rare to have not one but two of the most efficient backs in the NFL. 

Last season, Jones was 13th in DYAR and 14th in DVOA, while Dillon was eighth and 15th, respectively. Jones tied for 15th in yards after contact per attempt (3.15), while Dillon was tied for 17th (3.14).

4. Austin Ekeler / Los Angeles Chargers (94/100)

Ekeler is likely the best dual-threat running back in the league. 

In 2021, he was third in DYAR and ninth in DVOA while rushing for a sixth-best 1,098 effective yards to go with 12 touchdowns. He added 647 yards on 70 catches as well. Isaiah Spiller, a rookie out of Texas A&M, provides depth.

3. Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson / Cleveland Browns (95/100)

The Browns are stacked with competent running backs. Chubb was fourth by DYAR and 11th by DVOA last season, while Johnson was 10th and first, respectively. Among backs with less than 100 carries, Hunt was fourth in DYAR.

To show how excellent they are independent of their offensive line, Chubb (4.24 yards, second), Johnson (3.47 yards, fifth) and Hunt (3.45 yards, tied for sixth) are all in the NFL’s top 10 for yards after contact per rush.

2. Derrick Henry / Tennessee Titans (97/100)

Henry is one of the best running backs in the league when he’s healthy, but that’s an important clarification. 

While he played just nine games, he was still ninth in the NFL with 999 rushing yards for the regular season. Hassan Haskins is in line to be his backup.

1. Jonathan Taylor / Indianapolis Colts (98/100)

This selection was fairly easy. With a league-leading 1,811 rushing yards and 2,128 effective yards, Taylor’s blend of speed and power make him the best running back in the league.

In his second year as a pro, Taylor was first in DYAR and third in DVOA. Nyheim Hines and Phillip Lindsay are solid backups as well.

Individual Running Back Rankings

RankingsPlayerRushing title odds
1Jonathan Taylor+500
2Derrick Henry+500
3Austin Ekeler+3000
4Nick Chubb+900
5Christian McCaffrey+4000
6Aaron Jones+4000
7Javonte Williams+2000
8Leonard Fournette+3000
9Najee Harris+1600
10Dalvin Cook+900
11Alvin Kamara+5000
12Damien Harris+2200
13Antonio Gibson+1600
14Tony Pollard+8000
15Ezekiel Elliott+3000
16Joe Mixon+1400
17JK Dobbins+3000
18Breece Hall+5000
19Elijah Mitchell+1400
20David Montgomery+5000

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About the Author

Colton Pool

Read More @CPoolReporter

Colton Pool is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM living in Bozeman, Montana, focusing on the NFL and NBA. Previously, he covered Montana State football at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and worked at newspapers in his home state of North Dakota. He graduated from North Dakota State in 2015.

Colton Pool is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM living in Bozeman, Montana, focusing on the NFL and NBA. Previously, he covered Montana State football at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and worked at newspapers in his home state of North Dakota. He graduated from North Dakota State in 2015.