2022 Best NFL Running Backs, Rankings by Team

As a new feature in the 2022 Sharp Football Preview Book, the Sharp Football Analysis team ranked positional units across the league for the 2022 season.

The ranking guidelines were up to the specific voter with the only requirement that the focus is on the upcoming season only, not the future outlook.

With a combination of numbers, film, and projections, the rankings were averaged for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers/tight ends, defensive front seven, defensive secondary, and head coach.

Next up: 2022 NFL running back rankings. The entire unit was considered, not just the starters.

Which team will have the worst running backs in 2022? Which team will have the best RBs  in 2022? We’ve got all your answers covered.

Quarterbacks | Wide Receivers/Tight Ends | Running Backs | Offensive Line | Front 7 | Secondary

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2022 NFL Running Back Rankings, by Unit

RankTeamScore
1Cleveland Browns96
2Indianapolis Colts95
3Green Bay Packers89
4Tennessee Titans80
5Denver Broncos79
6Minnesota Vikings78
6Dallas Cowboys78
8New Orleans Saints75
9Los Angeles Chargers72
10Carolina Panthers67
11Cincinnati Bengals66
12Tampa Bay Buccaneers58
13Pittsburgh Steelers56
13New York Giants56
15Washington Commanders49
16Detroit Lions48
17Las Vegas Raiders45
18Philadelphia Eagles43
19New England Patriots39
20Balitmore Ravens36
21Jacksonville Jaguars35
22New York Jets34
23Los Angeles Rams33
24Seattle Seahawks32
25Buffalo Bills25
26San Francisco 49ers20
27Kansas City Chiefs18
27Chicago Bears18
29Miami Dolphnis11
30Arizona Cardinals9
30Atlanta Falcons9
32Houston Texans0

Score based off average ranks of positional unit (on a 100 point scale) for all 32 teams, from Sharp Football staff voters. If all voters had a team at #1, that score would be 100. 

What team has the best running backs in the NFL?

32. Houston Texans

Houston was a unanimous choice as our 32nd-ranked backfield. We’ve barely seen Marlon Mack since his torn Achilles at the beginning of the 2020 season. Rookie Dameon Pierce posted mediocre numbers in college as part of a backfield committee. There just isn’t enough proven production among this group to trust them.

31. Atlanta Falcons

Cordarrelle Patterson is a big-play threat in the backfield, but he’s also indecisive as a ball carrier 一 22% of Patterson’s attempts went for zero or negative yards, the league’s fourth-worst rate. Journeyman Damien Williams and rookie Tyler Allgeier provide limited depth behind him as Atlanta’s more traditional downhill runners.

30. Arizona Cardinals

Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme puts the Arizona backfield in favorable situations and covers up a lack of talent 一 Cardinals running backs faced a box with six or fewer defenders at the second highest rate. The loss of Chase Edmunds hurts this unit. In 2021, he averaged 2.4 yards per attempt when contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage, the third best rate in the league 一 James Conner ranked 35th.

29. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins overhauled their backfield and still only improved one spot in our rankings. The additions of Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel, and Raheem Mostert give Miami depth at the position, if nothing else.

28. Chicago Bears

David Montgomery is a known commodity at this point, for better or worse. He’ll take what’s given, but not much more. When contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage, Montgomery ranked 38th out of 44 ball carriers in yards per attempt. Khalil Herbert looked like the more explosive runner when given opportunities last season.

27. Kansas City Chiefs

Clyde Edwards-Helaire and company are capable of taking what’s given, but not much more. When Chiefs running backs were provided one or fewer yards before contact, they averaged just 1.76 yards per attempt, which ranked 30th overall.

26. San Francisco 49ers

Kyle Shanahan’s system produces a quality run game. But we’re ranking these units based on the available talent, not the system. With that in mind, it’s hard to get excited about San Francisco’s backfield. The revolving door keeps churning with another rookie, Tyrion Davis-Price, joining the competition this season.

25. Buffalo Bills

Votes for the Bills’ backfield ranged from 17th to 29th. With the addition of rookie James Cook, Buffalo has quality depth and some potential for growth in this area.

24. Seattle Seahawks

Votes for the Seahawks backfield ranged from 14th to 30th. The low end of that spectrum may be rooted in skepticism about Rashaad Penny, given his history of injuries and ineffectiveness, despite last year’s improvement. The high end of the spectrum is likely optimistic about Penny and the improved depth with the addition of rookie Kenneth Walker III.

23. Los Angeles Rams

The Rams’ backfield was their only unit that did not receive a single vote in the top half of the league. Obviously, there’s talent in the backfield, but there’s been no consistency over the past two seasons in terms of production or health.

22. New York Jets

The Jets’ backfield ranked dead last a season ago, so 22nd doesn’t look so bad by comparison. Breece Hall should, at worst, be a competent starting running back, and Michael Carter will likely offer more value in a complementary role.

21. Jacksonville Jaguars

There was far from a consensus on the Jaguars backfield, with votes ranging from eighth to 27th. Prior to Travis Etienne’s injury last season, we ranked this unit 13th overall 一 so, if healthy, it is fair to say there’s plenty of talent for Jacksonville’s run game to succeed.

20. Baltimore Ravens

Opinions varied on Baltimore’s backfield with votes ranging from 16th to 24th. If J.K. Dobbins returns to full strength and carries the unit, the high end of that spectrum is realistic. However, if he’s unable to regain his form, Gus Edwards and Mike Davis may not provide enough quality depth for the unit to succeed.

19. New England Patriots

Damien Harris has been a productive early-down back and the Patriots have strong depth in the backfield. The only question is: who plays on third downs? Brandon Bolden (lost in free agency) accounted for 62% of the team’s third-down snaps at running back. Fourth-round rookie Pierre Strong is a candidate for that role.

18. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles’ backfield is nothing special, but it won’t matter if the offensive line stays healthy. Between Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Kenneth Gainwell, there’s plenty of depth and versatility to produce behind one of the league’s best run-blocking units.

17. Las Vegas Raiders

There was no consensus on the Raiders backfield, with votes ranging from 12th to 22nd. When Josh Jacobs was provided at least one yard before contact, he ran for 10 or more yards at the seventh best rate. That’s decent evidence that the backfield’s issues are not related to talent, but rather the offensive line play.

16. Detroit Lions

Votes for the Lions backfield ranged from 12th to 22nd. If D’Andre Swift can stay healthy, perhaps the high end of that spectrum is deserved, but he’s dealt with both groin and shoulders injuries in college and the pros and has earned a reputation for being banged up.

15. Washington Commanders

Washington’s backfield lacks a star, but makes up for it with nice depth and an array of skill sets. When running between the tackles, Antonio Gibson averaged just 3.2 yards per carry last year. The addition of the more physical Brian Robinson should help in that area, as he complements Gibson and J.D. McKissic well.

14. New York Giants

Saquan Barkley is explosive, but his inability to create for himself has become a problem. Barkley averaged 0.99 yards per carry when contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage, which ranked 42nd out of 47 qualified running backs. He is not the elite threat he was once believed to be after his breakout rookie season.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers

Najee Harris lived up to expectations and did as well as could be expected behind Pittsburgh’s offensive line. If there were any trustworthy depth behind him, this could be a top-10 unit. Benny Snell Jr. has picked up 10 or more yards on just 6.7% of his career carries 一 the third worst rate over the last three seasons. If Harris were to get injured, this unit would plummet to the bottom.

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa climbed 10 spots in our backfield rankings from a season ago, as Leonard Fournette has re-established himself as a legitimate workhorse. The unit is held back slightly due to a lack of explosive ability. Tampa ball carriers ranked 23rd last year in the percentage of attempts gaining 10 or more yards.

11. Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon remains one of the league’s top ball carriers and is still just 26 years old. Though Samaje Perine and Chris Evans provide decent depth, Mixon averaged over 40 snaps per game and likely remains the workhorse in the backfield.

10. Carolina Panthers

Carolina’s backfield ranked fourth a season ago, but fell six spots despite no meaningful changes to the depth chart. The reason is continued questions surrounding Christian McCaffrey’s health. Carolina running backs ranked 28th in yards per carry last season (3.8 yards per attempt) and non-McCaffrey running backs averaged 3.5 yards per attempt. This is a top-tier unit when McCaffrey is on the field, but arguably the league’s worst without him.

9. Los Angeles Chargers

Few running backs impact both the run game and passing attack as much as Austin Ekeler. This unit would likely rank higher if the depth were more reliable. Rookie Isaiah Spiller could potentially emerge as a complementary piece this unit has been lacking.

8. New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara is still among the league’s best when healthy, but the Saints dropped five spots in our backfield rankings from a season ago. This was partially due to the 27-year-old Kamara returning from a knee injury, but also due to the lack of quality depth.

7. Dallas Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott has shown signs of slowing down, but the Dallas backfield remains a top-tier unit. Few teams can rival the one-two punch provided by Elliott and Tony Pollard.

6. Minnesota Vikings

We’re still high on Dalvin Cook, but there were some signs he may be slowing down. When Cook was contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage, he averaged 0.6 yards per carry, which ranked dead last. Additionally, 82% of his yardage came on attempts where he was provided at least two untouched yards, the league’s highest rate. Elite ball carriers don’t rely on that offensive line to such a high degree.

5. Denver Broncos

It’s time for Javonte Williams to take over the Denver backfield, but Melvin Gordon’s presence is still a key factor in this being a top-tier unit. Williams averaged 2.2 yards per carry when contacted in the backfield, the league’s sixth-highest mark. His ability to create something out of nothing sets a high ceiling for his production in a larger role.

4. Tennessee Titans

Although Derrick Henry is 28 years old and dealt with an injury last year, Tennessee climbs two spots in our backfield rankings. Even if the Titans need to lighten Henry’s workload, this unit should remain effective thanks to the addition of rookie Hassan Haskins, who runs with a similar style and should excel in Tennessee.

3. Green Bay Packers

The Packers’ backfield ranked in the top five on every ballot. This is one of the few rosters with a top-tier starter (Aaron Jones) and a reliable backup (A.J. Dillon). This unit could still improve, however, if Jones and Dillon can be more explosive. Only the Texans’ running backs produced a lower percentage of 10-yard gains last season.

2. Indianapolis Colts

The Colts’ backfield ranked first or second on every ballot. Jonathan Taylor is still just 23 years old and this unit will remain near the top as long as he’s healthy. With improved depth, Indy could make a better case to overtake Cleveland for the top spot.

1. Cleveland Browns

Cleveland tops our backfield rankings for the second consecutive season, although it was not a unanimous choice this year. Nick Chubb is simply special. When contacted behind the line of scrimmage, Chubb still churned out 10 or more yards on a league-best 12% of his carries (average was 3%). Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson also provide exceptional depth.

Ranking each NFL Unit for 2022:

Quarterbacks | Wide Receivers/Tight Ends | Running Backs | Offensive Line | Front 7 | Secondary

For all of the team-by-team unit rankings and full team chapters, including a dozen more visuals & info-graphics, defensive breakdown, and detailed Fantasy football implications — plus the other 31 team chapters — pick up a copy of Warren Sharp’s new ‘2022 Football Preview’ book

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