Ranking the 5 best NFL RBs for 2023: Christian McCaffrey leads the list of standouts

Still, running backs continue to hold significance, and the role they play is actually quite deep. Keeping that in mind, our writers have put together their top 10 list based on how confident they are in each running back’s ability to perform in a game next week. In our method, a first-place vote was worth 10 points, and the points decreased from there, with the 10th place getting just 1 point. We then added up the points to figure out the rankings.

No. 1: Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers.

Eric D. Williams: McCaffrey really showed off his special ability to catch passes and make explosive plays when he joined the 49ers in the middle of the 2022 season. Now that he’s had a whole offseason to learn the offence even better, he might do even greater things in 2023. However, he has to prove he can stay free from injuries. Plus, he’ll need to share the ball with lots of other talented players on the 49ers, like Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Elijah Mitchell.

Greg Auman: Here’s why I think Christian McCaffrey should be ranked as the top running back. He came in third for total yards gained (1,880), but he was really effective, averaging 5.7 yards each time he carried the ball. Just to compare, Josh Jacobs averaged 5.2 yards and Derrick Henry averaged 5.1. McCaffrey also scored the same number of touchdowns as them (13), and he only fumbled the ball once out of 329 times he touched it, while Henry fumbled six times and Jacobs three times.

No 2: Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

Carmen Vitali: If there’s someone who has a complaint about how running backs are paid these days, it’s definitely Josh Jacobs. He came from Alabama with not much wear and tear on his legs and has been super consistent for the Raiders. Oh, and did I tell you about how well he performs? Last season, Jacobs led the whole league in rushing yards, getting 1,653 yards from carrying the ball 340 times. On average, he covered 4.9 yards with each carry. And if you add up the 400 yards he caught from passes, Jacobs contributed to more than 2,000 yards of offence in 2022. He’s managed to go over 1,000 rushing yards in three of his four seasons, even in his first year playing, and he’s already scored an impressive 40 touchdowns throughout his career. On a team that hasn’t had really great quarterbacks, Jacobs has stood out as one of the most important players for the Raiders, maybe even the most important. That’s why, in my opinion, he’s the most valuable running back in the entire league.

Williams: Jacobs, who’s 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds, has a special mix of being hard to catch and being able to break through tackles. And when he gets past the first group of defenders, he can kick it up a notch and go even faster. Jacobs hasn’t agreed to the contract offer the Raiders gave him as part of the franchise tag. He’s frustrated because he sees that other top NFL players are earning more money, and that’s totally understandable. If the Raiders want to have a shot at making it to the playoffs in the NFC West, they need to find a way to make Jacobs happy with his salary.

No 3: Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

Ben Arthur: Many people who follow the NFL thought Derrick Henry might start to do worse last season. This is because in the 2021 season, he missed nine games because he had a Jones fracture in his right foot. But he showed that he’s still a superstar in 2022. He had the most carries in the league (349) and ran for 1,538 yards (which was the second most) and scored 13 touchdowns (which tied for the second most). He did all of this even though the Titans’ offensive line wasn’t very good. He also did really well catching passes, with 33 receptions for 398 yards. Even though he’s 29 years old and has run a lot in his career, he’s still one of the best runners in the league.

No 4: Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

David Helman: I’m not sure if we truly appreciate how steady Chubb is. Yes, if we only look at how much he runs, he might not get as many yards or touchdowns as some others. But here’s the thing: He’s actually in the top four in the whole NFL for both of those things over the last three years. What I really like about Chubb is that he always manages to do something good. In the past three years, he’s averaged 5.3 yards each time he carries the ball, and that’s the best among all running backs with at least 500 carries. Even last year, his average of 5.0 yards per carry was tied for the fourth best, even though he ran the ball more times than the guys who were ahead of him. Also, he’s had 88 runs of 10 yards or more in the last two seasons, which is the most by far. Other players might be more flashy, but Chubb is like a role model for steady and really good performance.

No 5: Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts.

Geoff Schwartz: Taylor has run for more than 1,100 yards in each of his first two years playing. He did his best in his second year, getting 1,811 yards in 17 games. But last year, he couldn’t do as well because he got hurt and the team around him didn’t do great. So, his average yards each time he carried the ball went down from 5.5 to 4.5. Taylor hasn’t had the chance to play with a really good quarterback like Anthony Richardson, and that should make things better for him. Defences might not put as many players near him, and he could get more yards when the other team focuses on the rookie QB. Since it’s his last year on his contract, I think the 24-year-old player will go back to his really good performance from 2021.


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