The 2023 NFL offseason has brought about a lot of discussions regarding running back salaries and the value of this position in today’s game. While the market’s top end is influenced by supply and demand, most teams still highly prize a versatile and durable workhorse, as long as they come at the right price.
The days of running backs consistently receiving 25 or more touches per game are now a thing of the past. Teams are cautious not to overwork their players as runners and receivers to prevent wear-related injuries and manage their workload throughout the season.
Nonetheless, there are still several game-changing running backs in the league who excel in various aspects of the game, whether it’s through their contributions in the short passing game, their power-rushing abilities, or a combination of both. Here, we present Sporting News’ rankings of the top 30 running backs in the NFL for the year 2023:
1. Christian McCaffrey, 49ers (age: 27)
McCaffrey has regained his position at the top of the rankings after returning to full fitness and making a move to the 49ers. He was enjoying a stellar season with the Panthers before his relocation to San Francisco. With a change of scenery and a newfound energy, he appears poised to deliver three more explosive seasons.
2022 stats (including Panthers): 320 touches, 1,883 scrimmage yards, 13 TDs
2. Josh Jacobs, Raiders (age: 25)
Jacobs secured the franchise tag after leading the NFL in rushing and scrimmage yards. Although he’s not thrilled about not getting a long-term contract, he’ll continue to be a crucial part of the Raiders’ run-heavy offense for at least one more season, maintaining his high value for 2024.
2022 stats: 393 touches, 2,053 scrimmage yards, 12 TDs
3. Austin Ekeler, Chargers (age: 28)
Ekeler has been setting the pace with his scoring ability and high-volume receiving in the past two seasons. He’s an athletic dynamo with versatility, making him a valuable asset in the red zone. Despite the Chargers’ array of offensive weapons, he remains the linchpin of their passing game under Kellen Moore.
2022 stats: 311 touches, 1,637 scrimmage yards, 18 TDs
4. Nick Chubb, Browns (age: 27)
Chubb had a remarkable rushing season while carrying a struggling Cleveland offense, especially after the suspension of Deshaun Watson. He’s entrusted with maintaining his explosiveness through heavy work, with Jerome Ford as the primary backup following the departures of Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson.
2022 stats: 329 touches, 1,764 scrimmage yards, 13 TDs
5. Jonathan Taylor, Colts (age: 24)
Taylor experienced his first injury-plagued season in 2022 after leading the league in rushing and scrimmage yards in 2021. Now seeking a long-term contract, he might need to explore other options if the Colts find a suitable trade partner. Whether in Indy or elsewhere, he’s poised for a big comeback season in a rushing offense tailored to his strengths.
2022 stats: 220 touches, 1,004 scrimmage yards, 4 TDs
6. Derrick Henry, Titans (age: 29)
Henry continues to defy the odds as a workhorse back, rebounding from foot issues to regain his dominant and explosive form. His size, speed, and physical prowess are reminiscent of Adrian Peterson, and he’s closing in on a Hall of Fame career.
2022 stats: 382 touches, 1,936 scrimmage yards, 13 TDs
7. Tony Pollard, Cowboys (age: 26)
Pollard made a significant impact last season, showcasing his speed and agility, outshining Ezekiel Elliott. With an average of 5.9 yards per carry, Pollard earned a more prominent role in the offense under new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, even with Elliott on the roster.
2022 stats: 232 touches, 1,378 scrimmage yards, 12 TDs
8. Bijan Robinson, Falcons (age: 21)
Robinson is a special talent and a high first-round pick who can immediately elevate the already effective Falcons rushing attack. He’ll also be a crucial outlet receiver for second-year QB Desmond Ridder.
2022 stats (at Texas): 277 touches, 1,894 scrimmage yards, 20 TDs
9. Aaron Jones, Packers (age: 28)
Jones remains a reliable runner and receiver for the Packers, and he’ll be leaned on heavily in Matt LaFleur’s run-friendly offense to support first-time starting QB Jordan Love.
2022 stats: 272 touches, 1,516 scrimmage yards, 7 TDs
10. Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots (age: 25)
Stevenson has emerged as the primary back in the run-heavy Patriots offense, surpassing the oft-injured Damien Harris. He plays a critical role in New England’s ground game.
2022 stats: 279 touches, 1,461 scrimmage yards, 6 TDs
11. Jahmyr Gibbs, Lions (age: 21)
Gibbs was drafted quickly after Robinson landed with the Falcons. The Lions were seeking a higher ceiling and more explosiveness in their backfield, and Gibbs fits the bill. He’s a dynamic receiver and can add an element of scoring pop that was previously provided by veteran David Montgomery.
2022 stats (at Alabama): 195 touches, 1,370 scrimmage yards, 10 TDs
12. Saquon Barkley, Giants (age: 26)
Barkley enjoyed his first healthy season since his rookie year in 2018, earning his second Pro Bowl nod. While productive overall, he relies somewhat on big runs, and New York officials are cautious not to overcommit to him.
2022 stats: 352 touches, 1,650 scrimmage yards, 10 TDs
13. Joe Mixon, Bengals (age: 27)
Mixon has been a consistent contributor since entering the league in 2017, with three significant scrimmage seasons under his belt. While he showed slightly less explosiveness per touch in 2022, the Bengals need him to remain a reliable three-down option in their pass-first offense.
2022 stats: 270 touches, 1,255 scrimmage yards, 9 TDs
14. Najee Harris, Steelers (age: 25)
Harris led the league in touches as a rookie but faced challenges due to Pittsburgh’s offensive line and his own foot injury in 2022. With improvements expected on both fronts, Harris should provide better support to second-year QB Kenny Pickett in 2023.
2022 stats: 313 touches, 1,263 scrimmage yards, 10 TDs
15. Cam Akers, Rams (age: 24)
Akers has had difficulty staying healthy but possesses a dynamic talent that has been somewhat limited by the Rams’ offensive system. Expect him to take on a more prominent role in the offense in the upcoming season.
2022 stats: 201 touches, 903 scrimmage yards, 7 TDs
16. Kenneth Walker, Seahawks (age: 22)
Walker, the former Michigan State star, stepped up in a significant rookie role, taking over for Rashaad Penny. While competing with Zach Charbonnet for touches, the Seahawks will aim to maximize his efficiency and explosiveness behind an improving offensive line.
2022 stats: 255 touches, 1,215 scrimmage yards, 9 TDs
17. Travis Etienne Jr., Jaguars (age: 24)
Etienne missed his rookie season due to injury but made a strong impact in his first year, contributing to the resurgence of Jacksonville’s offense. He’s expected to play a significant role in the passing game with additional support for power running.
2022 stats: 255 touches, 1,441 scrimmage yards, 5 TDs
18. A.J. Dillon, Packers (age: 25)
Dillon has been a powerful complement to Aaron Jones and has improved his receiving abilities. He may see an increased workload to relieve some pressure on QB Jordan Love.
2022 stats: 214 touches, 976 scrimmage yards, 7 TDs
19. Miles Sanders, Panthers (age: 26)
Sanders had a breakout season in Philadelphia, earning his first Pro Bowl nod with 1,269 rushing yards. Now with the Panthers, he is expected to have an even larger role and contribute as a receiving threat.
2022 stats (with Eagles): 279 touches, 1,347 scrimmage yards, 11 TDs
20. Alvin Kamara, Saints (age: 28)
Kamara has consistently received a high volume of touches throughout his career. While he slowed down in 2022, he’ll need to manage a three-game suspension and combat wear and tear to remain effective. The Saints invested in Jamaal Williams and Kendre Miller to provide support.
2022 stats: 280 touches, 1,387 scrimmage yards, 4 TDs
21. Breece Hall, Jets (age: 22)
Hall had the potential for a standout rookie season, but a major knee injury derailed his progress. His return to form in 2023 will be closely watched as he aims to pick up where he left off.
2022 stats: 99 touches, 681 scrimmage yards, 5 TDs
22. Javonte Williams, Broncos (age: 23)
Williams also faced a significant knee injury but is expected to make a strong recovery and contribute to Sean Payton’s offense. Denver added insurance in Samaje Perine to ensure their backfield remains productive.
2022 stats: 63 touches, 280 scrimmage yards
23. Dalvin Cook, Jets (age: 27)
Cook’s contract-related cut by the Vikings sparked discussions about running back value. While he’s been a four-time Pro Bowler, he’s had injury issues, and his role is now shared with Breece Hall.
2022 stats (with Vikings): 303 touches, 1,468 scrimmage yards, 10 TDs
24. James Conner, Cardinals (age: 28)
Conner has had a solid career but has struggled with injuries. Nevertheless, he has consistently delivered when needed as a receiver and scorer.
2022 stats: 229 touches, 1,082 scrimmage yards, 8 TDs
25. Dameon Pierce, Texans (age: 23)
Pierce was a rookie sensation for the Texans, earning around 20 touches per game. He’ll aim to demonstrate durability in a favorable zone-blocking scheme in the upcoming season.
2022 stats: 250 touches, 1,104 scrimmage yards, 5 TDs
26. D’Andre Swift, Eagles (age: 24)
Swift joined the Eagles after Miles Sanders departed and has shown promise as a receiver. Philadelphia’s coaching staff will need to manage his workload carefully to ensure his durability.
2022 stats (with Lions): 147 touches, 931 scrimmage yards, 8 TDs
27. Isiah Pacheco, Chiefs (age: 24)
Pacheco emerged as a power back for the Chiefs, displaying promise as a receiver and burst in key moments, especially during the playoffs and Super Bowl.
2022 stats: 183 touches, 960 scrimmage yards, 5 TDs
28. Antonio Gibson, Commanders (age: 25)
Gibson, a converted wide receiver, is expected to excel in the passing game. With Eric Bieniemy as offensive coordinator, he should play to his strengths as a pass-catching back.
2022 stats: 195 touches, 895 scrimmage yards, 5 TDs
29. Rachaad White, Buccaneers (age: 24)
White has the opportunity to lead the Buccaneers’ backfield following Leonard Fournette’s departure. He’ll be relied upon to complement the defense due to uncertainties in the quarterback position.
2022 stats: 179 touches, 777 scrimmage yards, 3 TDs
30. Alexander Mattison, Vikings (age: 25)
Mattison has been the understudy to Dalvin Cook for four seasons. He has the potential to grow as a receiver and
offers red-zone finishing power.
2022 stats: 89 touches, 374 scrimmage yards, 6 TDs
These rankings reflect the dynamic landscape of the NFL running back position, with a mix of seasoned veterans, emerging talents, and rookies looking to make their mark in the league. The value of a running back in today’s game extends beyond traditional statistics, with versatility and durability playing significant roles in their rankings. As the 2023 season unfolds, these running backs will continue to be key contributors to their respective teams’ success.