There is going to be a lot of competition among the NFL’s best running backs in 2023.
Among all of the football positions, running back may not be valued as highly as it has in the past. But the top running backs in the NFL are just as good as they’ve ever been. In fact, the best running backs in 2023 are surely going to make a huge impact on the season.
Ranking the best running backs 2023
Who are the best NFL running backs currently? Well, with most teams trying to give consistent touches to at least two backs, there are tons of candidates.
We decided to generate a list of the 20 top running backs in the NFL ahead of the upcoming season. Here is our ranking of the NFL’s best running backs in 2023.
20. Dameon Pierce
Nobody expected much from Dameon Pierce last year, but he proved people wrong as a rookie. While he fell short of 1,000 yards and only had three rushing touchdowns, keep in mind he was playing on a terrible team.
Obviously, Pierce still has a lot to prove after just one season in the league, but the Texans appear confident that they’ve found their starting running back for the foreseeable future.
19. Breece Hall
A season-ending injury limited Breece Hall to just seven games in his rookie season. But he averaged 5.8 yards per carry in those seven games, giving the Jets hope that they’ve found a keeper in their backfield.
Obviously, he has a lot to prove, but the first impression he made last year makes us think Hall can be one of the top running backs in the NFL this year.
18. Javonte Williams
A promising rookie season for Javonte Williams was followed by a lost season in 2022 thanks to a season-ending knee injury in Week 4.
The silver lining is the injury was early enough in the season that Williams should be fully recovered for the start of the 2023 campaign. Williams is still projected to be Denver’s starter and should get plenty of opportunities to live up to his promise for an offense that desperately needs a spark.
17. Joe Mixon
It’s certainly been an up-and-down career for Joe Mixon. Last year was a down season for him with Mixon gaining just 814 rushing yards on 3.9 yards per carry. But there’s no doubt that he’s still the lead back in Cincinnati and should get plenty of chances to touch the ball.
The Bengals know what he can do and so does the rest of the league, so it’s too soon to write off Mixon heading into 2023.
16. Najee Harris
After making the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2021, Najee Harris didn’t quite match that production in 2022. However, he still had over 1,000 rushing yards and did some damage as a pass-catcher.
The only concern is that he’s averaging less than four yards per carry for his career. But Harris is still a tough runner who’s going to get his yards and contribute in multiple ways, making him a valuable commodity in the Pittsburgh offense.
15. Kenneth Walker
Being a unanimous All-American in 2021 turned out to be no fluke for Kenneth Walker, who had a brilliant rookie season for the Seahawks last year.
He rushed for over 1,000 yards in 15 games and played a key role in Seattle reaching the playoffs. Walker has a chance to do even more damage this season since he’ll begin the season as the starter for the Seahawks.
14. Travis Etienne
Even though he’s only played one season in the NFL, Travis Etienne looks like he could be someone to watch closely over the next handful of years. He rushed for over 1,100 yards and averaged over five yards per carry for the upstart Jaguars last season after missing his entire rookie year due to injury.
Etienne also figures to do more in the passing game than catch 31 passes as he did in 2022, so we’ve yet to see the best from him.
13. Rhamondre Stevenson
With the way the Patriots rotate running backs, it’s hard for anyone to reach 1,000 yards in a season. But Rhamondre Stevenson did that last season while also catching 69 passes out of the backfield.
Those are no small feats for a guy with just two years of experience under his belt. If he can take another step forward in 2023, Stevenson could transition from being underrated to being a top-10 back.
12. Miles Sanders
Fresh off his first Pro Bowl selection and a trip to the Super Bowl, Miles Sanders is embarking on a new part of his career with the Panthers. Last year, he showed what he’s capable of doing as a feature back, amassing over 1,200 rushing yards.
Oddly enough, he didn’t do much as a pass-catcher last season. But with a rookie quarterback in Carolina, that should change, allowing Sanders to show how versatile and productive he can be.
11. Dalvin Cook
Despite the Vikings cutting him loose, Dalvin Cook will surely have a job by the start of the season. Also, despite turning 28 before the season, Cook should have plenty left in the tank.
He may not be an elite back anymore, but he’s still rushed for over 1,000 yards in four straight seasons. Cook is also averaging over 40 receptions over those four seasons. To be fair, injuries remain a question with him. However, when he’s healthy, Cook is always productive, making him more reliable than most of the NFL’s running backs.
10. Tony Pollard
However, he should be more than ready for the challenge. Pollard has averaged more than five yards per carry in back-to-back seasons and gained over 1,000 yards on the ground last year despite garnering fewer than 200 carries. His volume should increase significantly this season, causing Pollard’s production to increase dramatically as well.
9. Alvin Kamara
For the first time in his career, Alvin Kamara didn’t make the Pro Bowl in 2022. Oddly enough, his numbers weren’t all that different from previous seasons.
He certainly hasn’t found the end zone enough over the past two seasons. But Kamara is still a productive pass-catcher out of the backfield and a viable rusher. He figures to amass at least 1,200 all-purpose yards yet again, so he’s not someone who should be written off heading into 2023.
8. Aaron Jones
Even though he’s likely to share carries with AJ Dillon, Jones should have no problem racking up the yards after raining over 1,000 yards on the ground in three of the last four years. He’s also had over 50 receptions in back-to-back years and over 40 receptions in four straight seasons. Jones is truly a do-it-all running back, making him an invaluable part of the Green Bay offense this season.
7. Austin Ekeler
Despite not getting the contract extension he wants, Austin Ekeler is still with the Chargers and looking to make a statement in 2023. As an undersized back, he’s not going to get as many carries as some other backs.
But he’s also taken tough carries to rush for over 900 yards in consecutive seasons. Ekeler also amassed over 100 receptions and 700 receiving yards in 2022. He’s become the NFL’s premier back in terms of catching the ball and has 38 total touchdowns over the last two seasons. Not too many running backs can claim to have done the same.
6. Josh Jacobs
A year ago, Josh Jacobs had something to prove after the Raiders declined his fifth-year option. All he did was lead the league in rushing with over 1,600 yards, forcing Las Vegas to use the franchise tag on him.
Keep in mind that Jacobs also rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons in the league. He’s also caught over 50 passes in consecutive years, so he’s starting to become a versatile back. Even if he doesn’t replicate his production from last year, Jacobs still belongs in the second tier of running backs heading into 2023.
5. Jonathan Taylor
In the first three years of his career, we’ve already seen two different versions of Jonathan Taylor. There was the version that led the league in rushing with over 1,800 yards in 2021 and the version that couldn’t get anything going in 2022 when he was held to 861 rushing yards in 11 games. But with injuries and a bad team around him last season, it’s easy to forgive one subpar season from Taylor.
Surely, he’s still the same guy he was in 2021 and is still only 24. The caveat is the Colts have some uncertainty at the quarterback position. But that should just mean more touches and another productive season for Taylor.
4. Saquon Barkley
A year ago, Saquon Barkley thought free agency was ahead of him, and he responded with a Pro Bowl campaign that saw him rush for over 1,300 yards and rack up another 300-plus yards receiving.
Of course, after he helped lead the Giants to the playoffs, they used the franchise tag on him. In a way, staying in a familiar setting in the same offensive system should help Barkley have another outstanding season. He knows he’s going to get plenty of touches and serve as a safety net for Daniel Jones. Barkley also knows he’ll be a free agent next year, giving him plenty of motivation to have a great 2023 campaign.
3. Christian McCaffrey
Injuries have gotten the better of him in recent years, but Christian McCaffrey was able to stay healthy in 2022. If he can stay healthy again this year, he’ll surely be among the best running backs in 2023. His numbers weren’t quite at the same level they’ve been in the past, although going to a new team after a midseason trade slowed him down a little.
By the end of the season, he got back on track, going over 100 yards rushing in three of San Francisco’s last five games of the regular season and then averaging 5.9 yards per carry across three playoff games. McCaffrey looks comfortable with the 49ers and should have a good supporting cast around him, so we’re expecting his form from December and January last season to carry over into this season.
2. Nick Chubb
At age 27, Nick Chubb might be right around the peak of his career. He’s coming off a career-high last season, rushing for over 1,500 yards. But what separates Chubb from other running backs is the fact that he’s averaged over five yards per carry every season since coming into the league.
For his career, he’s averaging over five yards per carry and over 1,200 yards per season. Chubb has also proven to be incredibly durable thus far with no reason to believe that will change. The Browns are going to lean on him a lot this season and Chubb is poised to deliver yet again.
1. Derrick Henry
He may not be the youngest or most well-rounded running back in the NFL, but Derrick Henry is still the best the league has to offer. Henry has gotten to a point where he could end up being considered among the greatest running backs in NFL history.
He finished second in the league in rushing last season and has led the NFL in carries three times in the last four seasons. He’s a true workhorse back, which has become rare in today’s game. Keep in mind that Henry has surpassed 1,500 yards three times in the last four years. If he’s able to stay healthy, it’s a safe bet that he’ll be able to reach that plateau once again. There just aren’t many running backs in the league you can say that about.