Ranking each team’s primary starting running back for the 2022 NFL season

Now that the 2022 NFL regular season is behind us, I have taken the time to rank each team’s primary starting running back for the 2022 season. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s not waste any time.

NOTE: Though in many cases these running backs led their respective teams in carries, that was not my sole criteria for determining which player to choose for each team. Rather, I wanted to focus on the player who would be ranked as the most important running back on the depth chart, even if they didn’t log the most attempts or starts.

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

Despite a disappointing campaign for the Raiders as a whole, Jacobs undoubtedly had the best season of his career. His 1,653 rushing yards earned him this year’s rushing title (feels good, doesn’t it?). He also added career bests in yards receiving, rush yards per game and yards per carry, with his biggest highlight being a walk-off sprint to the house in overtime against Seattle in Week 12. The 2023 free agent would like to stay in Las Vegas — and it’d serve him well, as we saw this season — but only if it “make[s] sense.”

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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

The 49ers are expected to compete for the Super Bowl, and McCaffrey is a huge reason why. He was, no question, one of the best midseason acquisitions of 2022 — but he may go down as one of the best all time if the 49ers come home with the Lombardi. He surpassed 1,200 scrimmage yards in his 11 games with the 49ers alone, while adding another 670 scrimmage yards with Carolina early in the year. McCaffrey gets a chance to strut his stuff in the postseason for the first time since he was a rookie, and he’s a much different and better version of himself this time around. 

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

Ekeler was the most consistent playmaker for his team this season, with his 107 catches setting a Chargers single-season record. He impressed when undertaking a larger role with other offensive playmakers in and out of the lineup. He was catapulted up to No. 3 on this list by his dual-threat skills and scoring abilities — both of which should be on full display against the Jaguars on Super Wild Card Weekend.

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 rushed for 109 yards on 30 totes in the Titans’ last hurrah, a 20-16 loss to Jacksonville with the AFC South title on the line. Henry nearly bulldozed and stiff-armed his team to victory, but in the end, the King’s forces were undermanned. Despite missing out on the playoffs, the seven-year veteran added another productive campaign to his résumé.

2022 stats: 17 games | 302 att | 1,525 rush yds | 5.1 ypc | 12 rush TDs | 27 rec | 239 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

As has often been the case in his career, Chubb was the best part of the Browns’ offense this season. Chubb and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown are the only two players in team history to surpass 1,500 yards on the ground in a season, and his 13 total TDs are a career high. Maybe the most notable thing, though, is he once again rushed for over 5 yards per attempt, something he has done in each of his NFL campaigns. What a season.

2022 stats: 16 games | 295 att | 1,312 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 10 rush TDs | 57 rec | 338 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 0 fumbles lost

Barkley looked like the Penn State product we all fell in love with back in his rookie season, and it’s great to see him turn the corner from his last few injury-riddled campaigns. His effort this season is a huge reason why the Giants returned to the playoffs, and they have a legitimate shot at taking out the Vikings on Sunday if Barkley has a big game. 

2022 stats: 17 games | 264 att | 1,173 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 39 rec | 295 rec yds | 2 rec TDs | 4 fumbles lost

Cook was a major factor in the Vikings’ tremendous regular season, eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing for the fourth straight year and — maybe more importantly — playing in every game this season, a first in his NFL career. The playmaker must bring everything he has left in the tank to the postseason, where Minnesota is looking to prove doubters wrong. It starts Sunday vs. the Giants, who held Cook to 64 rush yards in Week 16. 

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 benefitted from the Packers’ aerial struggles in 2022, putting up a career season on the ground. He averaged more than a half-yard per carry more this season than he did in 2021 and was equally valuable in the pass game in Year 6. If Aaron Rodgers doesn’t end up suiting up with the Packers in 2023, Jones could become the focal point of opposing defenses in this Green Bay.

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

The 6-foot, 227-pound running back was the most consistent part of the Patriots’ offense in 2022, registering his first 1,000-yard rushing campaign and compiling 1,461 scrimmage yards, ninth-most among running backs this season. He made a huge leap in production from his rookie season, especially in the pass game. 

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 and the Eagles ended the season on shakier footing than their supporters would like, but it was still a stellar year for all involved. Sanders finished with career highs in rushing yards and rush TDs. I would think he’s done enough to merit a new contract from the Eagles this offseason.

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

After missing his entire rookie season with a foot injury, Etienne showed he’s capable of being one of the best backs in the league. He has been instrumental in the Jaguars’ turnaround and must be a major factor Saturday in the team’s first playoff game since the 2017 season. Could a big game be on the horizon for the young Jag? I believe.

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

Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott are interchangeable in this spot, but ultimately I chose Pollard to represent the Cowboys. Though he started just four games, he outgained Zeke by 1.4 yards per carry and hit the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He adds a much-needed explosive element to the Cowboys’ run game and is a major asset in the pass game in ways Elliott isn’t. Pollard’s versatility and catch ability make him a mismatch and a headache for defenders at the second level. This offseason should get real interesting, with Pollard set to become a free agent.

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

There hasn’t been a ton to talk about in New Orleans in a post-Drew Brees world, with the organization battling through another season of injuries to high-profile players and still searching for a long-term answer at quarterback. A bright spot yet again was Kamara, who is the only player in NFL history with 700-plus rush yards and 400-plus receiving yards in each of his first six seasons.  

2022 stats: 17 games | 272 att | 1,038 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 41 rec | 229 rec yds | 3 rec TDs | 2 fumbles lost

Harris quietly had another productive campaign during an up-and-down Steelers season, racking up his second straight 1,000-yard effort, thanks to an 84-yard, one-TD line in Sunday’s win over Cleveland. With 2,238 career rush yards, Harris passed Le’Veon Bell (2,221) for the most rush yards in a player’s first two seasons in franchise history. Pittsburgh’s young offensive core — with Harris, QB Kenny Pickett and WR George Pickens — is going to be one to watch next season.

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 played a big role in getting the Seahawks back to the postseason after they missed out last year. He made a good case to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award after leading all first-year players in rush yards and rush TDs this season. Walker is the future in the Seahawks’ backfield, with Rashaad Penny set to hit free agency. 

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

Mixon is often lost in the shuffle behind superstars Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, but he has recorded 1,100-plus scrimmage yards and eight-plus scrimmage TDs in four of the last five seasons. He will be needed in both the run and pass games — an area where he improved this season — moving forward as the Bengals look to get back to the Super Bowl.

2022 stats: 16 games | 210 att | 1,035 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 16 rec | 139 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

In a year where we all expected Cordarrelle Patterson to be under the spotlight in the Falcons’ backfield, it was the fifth-round rookie who stole the show. He finished with the second-most rush yards among all first-year pros, behind only Seattle’s Kenneth Walker III, solidifying his value as Atlanta continues to rebuild. 

2022 stats: 17 games | 262 att | 1,066 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 17 rush TDs | 12 rec | 73 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 2 fumbles lost

With a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs in Sunday’s glorious win over Green Bay at Lambeau, Williams broke Barry Sanders’ franchise record for single-season rushing TDs with 17. It’s noteworthy anytime you can put your name next to Sanders, but Williams slots in at No. 18 because he averaged just 62.7 rush yards per contest this season, and 13 of his 17 TDs came within 3 yards of the end zone, per Next Gen Stats.

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

The fourth-round draft pick was in the conversation for Offensive Rookie of the Year for much of the season before an ankle injury sidelined him for the final month. His toughness and downhill running ability were on display weekly for a Texans offense that was devoid of many highlight-reel plays. Look for Pierce to pick up where he left off in 2023, no matter who’s leading the team or playing quarterback.

2022 stats: 16 games | 189 att | 668 rush yds | 3.5 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 73 rec | 523 rec yds | 3 rec TDs | 0 fumbles lost

Fournette’s per-carry average decreased by an entire yard from last season. He battled a foot injury during the second half, losing some of his explosiveness and the starting job to third-round rookie Rachaad White. Heading into to the playoffs, the Bucs are no doubt hoping Fournette can replicate 2020, when he followed an underwhelming regular season with a huge postseason effort.

2022 stats: 16 games | 201 att | 801 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 34 rec | 316 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 2 fumbles lost

Montgomery has been a solid back for Chicago throughout his career. His decrease in carries from 2021 to 2022 (17 attempts per game in 2021; 13 in 2022) had less to do with him and more to do with the Bears’ dynamic, dual-threat quarterback, Justin Fields, who led the team with 1,143 rush yards. Montgomery is a free agent this offseason; as to whether he stays in Chicago or heads elsewhere, the jury is still out. 

2022 stats: 16 games | 177 att | 819 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 38 rec | 280 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 3 fumbles lost

Singletary logged his second consecutive season with 1,000 scrimmage yards as one of the many weapons in Buffalo’s offense. The run game has improved as a whole with the arrival of rookie James Cook, who’s averaging 5.7 yards per carry, but as long as Josh Allen is slinging it, running backs will take a backseat in this unit.

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

After battling injuries the last two seasons, Mostert was once again a playmaker out of the backfield for coach Mike McDaniel, with whom he reunited in Miami after the pair worked together for several years in San Francisco. Mostert logged 1,000 scrimmage yards in a season for the first time in his career to help the Dolphins reach the playoffs in McDaniel’s first year at the helm. Monday’s report that Mostert broke his thumb during Week 18’s win over the Jets couldn’t have come at a worse time. 

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 quietly had a solid season, posting 1,000 scrimmage yards for the second straight year. Averaging 4.3 yards per carry, Conner provided some consistency to a Cardinals offense that lacked it for a majority of the season.

2022 stats: 17 games | 203 att | 914 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 5 rec | 26 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

The Panthers leaned heavily on Foreman after trading Christian McCaffrey to San Francisco midseason. From Week 8 (Foreman’s first start of the season) to Week 18, he had the sixth-most rush yards (759) in the league and added five scores. His effort helped Sam Darnold take positive steps and boosted Carolina’s push for the division title. A free agent this offseason, Foreman has done enough to earn himself another contract, either in Carolina or with another team. 

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

This season was a far cry from Taylor’s 2021 campaign, in which he led the league in carries (332), rush yards (1,811) and rush TDs (18). The entire offense struggled during Taylor’s third pro season, which ended prematurely due to a high ankle sprain. It feels like a lost season for the Colts and their start running back, but I expect Taylor to bounce back in 2023.

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

The Chiefs underwent an offensive transformation last offseason, with the seventh-round rookie being one of many new faces. Making his first start in Week 7, Pacheco, the team leader in carries, rush yards and rush TDs, has added a physical element to the Chiefs’ ground attack and stands out in a crowded room that also features veterans Ronald Jones II and Jerick McKinnon. 

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

When Dobbins was healthy this season — a period that only covered four games’ worth of action — he was one of the top producing backs in the league. The third-year RB had knee surgery midseason to remove scar tissue from a previous ACL surgery that forced him to miss all of the 2021 season. He tore defenses up in his return in Weeks 14-17, leading the league in both rush yards (397) and yards per carry (7.0) in that span (min. 35 carries). This is the type of player he’s capable of being, and the Ravens need him to be this and more if they don’t want their season to end Sunday.

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

After Hall’s season-ending knee injury in Week 7, the Jets failed to find any consistency in the run game while rotating through running backs Michael Carter, James Robinson, Ty Johnson and Bam Knight — which, in turn, largely affected a pass game that was stuck in the mud for much of the season. Hall, though, was just picking up steam at the time of his injury; he’d posted four scores in his last four games and was regularly ripping off big gains. Though it was short-lived, his rookie season should be encouraging for Jets brass and fans alike.

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

Six weeks after being shot twice during an attempted robbery, Robinson hit the ground running for the Commanders, finishing the season as the team’s leader in carries and rush yards while splitting time with Antonio Gibson. The team will certainly undergo changes at the quarterback position, but we can expect Robinson to remain a big part of the unit next season.

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 was on the trade block in October, but the Rams couldn’t find a partner. Reclaiming the RB1 role from Week 12 to 18, Akers looked strong, averaging 16 attempts per game and 4.9 yards per tote while scoring six times. His best performances came in the final three games of the season: He surpassed 100 rush yards in each game and scored a hat trick of TDs in a blowout victory on Christmas Day.

2022 stats: 13 games | 171 att | 760 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 27 rec | 132 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 0 fumbles lost

The Broncos shuffled through running backs in 2022, with Javonte Williams landing on IR in October, which led to the team acquiring Murray from the Saints’ practice squad. They then waived Melvin Gordon in mid-November, allowing Murray to start the final seven games of the season. Averaging 4.4 yards per carry with the Broncos, the veteran provided the underwhelming offense with some consistency. A free agent this offseason, Murray did enough with this opportunity to likely land a backup role in 2023.

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