Analysis

Ranking all 32 RB1s heading into the 2022 NFL season: Christian McCaffrey lands at No. 10

It's finally time to give football fans what they've all been waiting for: the official rankings of every starting running back ahead of the 2022 NFL season.

Unfortunately, injuries derailed my rankings last year. This year feels different, though. This time I've got it right.

Let's not waste any more time. Here is this year's ranking of all 32 RB1s.

NOTE: If a team operates with a running back committee, I simply chose the player who I think will have the most production in 2022.

Rank
1
Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · Year 7

2021 stats: 8 games | 219 att | 937 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 10 rush TDs | 18 rec | 154 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Henry missed nine games last season and still finished ninth in the league with 937 rushing yards. At the time of his midseason foot injury, he was on pace to log 1,991 rushing yards for the season. He's in a league of his own, and after listening to his interview on NFL Network's Inside Training Camp, it's clear to me he has no intention of slowing down in Year 7.

Rank
2
Jonathan Taylor
Indianapolis Colts · Year 3

2021 stats: 17 games | 332 att | 1,811 rush yds | 5.5 ypc | 18 rush TDs | 40 rec | 360 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


Taylor led the NFL in nearly every major rushing category last season, along with scrimmage yards and TDs. He's a major -- MAJOR -- part of the Colts' offense and should continue to be heavily relied upon in 2022, even with former MVP Matt Ryan now under center. The question for Taylor is, can he produce another season like his 2021 campaign? And can he carry his team to the playoffs (like Derrick Henry does)?

Rank
3
Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns · Year 5

2021 stats: 14 games | 228 att | 1,259 rush yds | 5.5 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 20 rec | 174 rec yds | 1 rec TD


Chubb is going to have to do a lot of heavy lifting while Deshaun Watson is out. Cleveland's RB1 has been exceptional through his first four seasons, averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 908 career attempts, so there's a lot of confidence around his ability to carry this team. Expect another monster season from the all-world running back.

Rank
4
Dalvin Cook
Minnesota Vikings · Year 6

2021 stats: 13 games | 249 att | 1,159 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 34 rec | 224 rec yds | 0 rec TD


Cook is one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL. Since 2019, he's averaged the second-most scrimmage yards per game (120.9) in the league. The Vikings are at their best offensively when Cook is carving up defenses, and I expect new head coach Kevin O'Connell to continue feeding the three-time Pro Bowler early and often to open up play-action. 

Rank
5
Ezekiel Elliott
Dallas Cowboys · Year 7

2021 stats: 17 games | 237 att | 1,002 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 10 rush TDs | 47 rec | 287 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


A lot of people are down on Elliott and high on Tony Pollard after the latter out-gained Zeke by 1.3 yards per carry in 2021. But to me, Zeke's still the guy in Dallas. He was a bit banged up last season, but he still does everything the Cowboys need him to do, and he looks to be in good shape heading into 2022. When I look at the top backs on my list, there's a big difference between Elliott and Henry, but Zeke still gets into the top five thanks to his contributions in the aerial attack as a pass catcher and blocker.

Rank
6
Alvin Kamara
New Orleans Saints · Year 6

2021 stats: 13 games | 240 att | 898 rush yds | 3.7 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 47 rec | 439 rec yds | 5 rec TDs


Kamara compiled 24.6 percent of New Orleans' total scrimmage yards in 2021, and the Saints surely expect him to be a big part of the offense from the jump again after his hearing stemming from a February arrest was postponed. The five-time Pro Bowler is one of the most versatile playmakers in any backfield, and Kamara should stay fresh well into the season, with Mark Ingram getting back in the mix for New Orleans last year.

Rank
7
Joe Mixon
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 6

2021 stats: 16 games | 292 att | 1,205 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 13 rush TDs | 42 rec | 314 rec yds | 3 rec TDs


Don't expect quarterback Joe Burrow to be the only player in Cincinnati to benefit from a revamped offensive line. Mixon and a Bengals run game that ranked 23rd in the NFL last season will also gain from the additions of Alex CappaLa'el Collins and Ted Karras. Cincy was at its best last season when Mixon was running the ball 15-20 times per game, so I was a bit surprised when the Bengals turned to Samaje Perine in their final drive of Super Bowl LVI. Perine was then involved in back-to-back failed plays that ended their hopes of winning the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy. I'd expect Mixon to get a slightly bigger role in big games going forward. Overall, the veteran should have another stellar season.

Rank
8
Austin Ekeler
Los Angeles Chargers · Year 6

2021 stats: 16 games | 206 att | 911 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 12 rush TD | 70 rec | 647 rec yds | 8 rec TDs


Ekeler totaled 20 scrimmage touchdowns last season and he still (somehow) seems like a sleeper in an offense that's built to throw the ball with Justin Herbert and high-end receivers. He's a proven dual-threat playmaker and a perfect fit for Joe Lombardi's offense.

Rank
9
Najee Harris
Pittsburgh Steelers · Year 2

2021 stats: 17 games | 307 att | 1,200 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 74 rec | 467 rec yds | 3 rec TDs


With a player not named Ben Roethlisberger under center on a permanent basis for the first time since 2003, the Steelers' offense is primed to go through No. 22. He had an outstanding rookie campaign with zero fumbles on 381 regular-season touches. He's durable and poised to lead the unit in the run game while also providing a big boost in the pass game.

Rank
10
Christian McCaffrey
Carolina Panthers · Year 6

2021 stats: 7 games | 99 att | 442 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 1 rush TD | 37 rec | 343 rec yds | 1 rec TD


CMC sits all the way down at No. 10 because we don't know what we're going to get. He's incredibly talented -- remember, he had 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in 2019 -- but he's missed 23 games over the last two seasons. McCaffrey is so important to the Panthers' success. If he's healthy for an entire season, he's a top-three running back, no question. He just has to be available.

Rank
11
Javonte Williams
Denver Broncos · Year 2

2021 stats: 17 games | 203 att | 903 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 43 rec | 316 rec yds | 3 rec TDs


I understand that the Broncos traded for quarterback Russell Wilson to push the offense back to the upper echelon of the NFL. But the unit's success is predicated on the run game opening up the pass with play-action. Enter Javonte Williams. He was uber-productive as a rookie, with 63 missed tackles forced on runs (second in the NFL) and 694 rushing yards after contact (eighth in the NFL), per Pro Football Focus. Williams and the run game, which also includes veteran back Melvin Gordon, will remain a huge part of what the Broncos do this fall.

Rank
12
Aaron Jones
Green Bay Packers · Year 6

2021 stats: 15 games | 171 att | 799 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 52 rec | 391 rec yds | 6 rec TDs


Jones and AJ Dillon were almost in lockstep with their production last season, with each player compiling over 1,100 scrimmage yards, but I still have Jones in the RB1 spot in Green Bay. Jones is a special player in the run game, but his pass-catching ability will be more important than ever following the departure of receiver Davante Adams.

Rank
13
D'Andre Swift
Detroit Lions · Year 3

2021 stats: 13 games | 151 att | 617 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 62 rec | 452 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


Jamaal Williams was a good addition last year for Detroit, but I believe Swift is the guy if he can stay healthy. A dual-threat running back with explosiveness and long speed, Swift is poised for a breakout year. If he's available for a full season, Detroit has a good chance to be in better position to win games with an improved roster. It's time to get Swift going -- that means looking to him for more than the 10.2 carries per game he's averaged since entering the NFL in 2020.

Rank
14
David Montgomery
Chicago Bears · Year 4

2021 stats: 13 games | 225 att | 849 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 42 rec | 301 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Montgomery has been one of the few bright spots for the Bears' offense of late, generating 1,919 rush yards since 2020 (seventh-most in the NFL in that span). I just hope new Bears coach Matt Eberflus wants to run the ball. Montgomery averages just over 16 attempts per game, which is holding him back from being ranked higher here. He has to be more involved, allowing Justin Fields time and space to develop. 

Rank
15
J.K. Dobbins
Baltimore Ravens · Year 3

2021 stats: Missed the entire season with torn ACL


Dobbins was poised to break out after averaging 82.5 rushing yards per game over the final six regular-season contests of 2020, but a knee injury derailed his 2021 season before it even started. He's currently on the PUP list, with NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reporting last week that it was not a certainty Dobbins would be ready for Week 1. Dobbins disagreed on social media shortly thereafter. Whenever Dobbins is back, he will be the starter once again and should be poised for a bounce-back year.

Rank
16
Elijah Mitchell
San Francisco 49ers · Year 2

2021 stats: 11 games | 207 att | 963 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 19 rec | 137 rec yds | 1 rec TD


He was very good in his rookie season, filling in for an injured Jeff Wilson Jr., but the story every year for the 49ers is health. Mitchell heads into the season as the team's RB1 with an uncanny ability to find the hole and get skinny through it. The next step in his development will be proving he can take hits without getting injured and handle the workload that comes with playing in Kyle Shanahan's offense. 

Rank
17
Damien Harris
New England Patriots · Year 4

2021 stats: 15 games | 202 att | 929 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 15 rush TDs | 18 rec | 132 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Harris proved last year he can be a workhorse for the Patriots while they broke in a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones. Tying for the fourth-fewest carries (202) by a player with 15-plus rush TDs in a season in the Super Bowl era illustrates Harris' efficiency and how instrumental he is to New England's ground game. Harris may get fewer opportunities to run the ball with Jones' development in the pass game and the growth of second-year back Rhamondre Stevenson, which is why Harris sits at No. 17 here.

Rank
18
Saquon Barkley
New York Giants · Year 5

2021 stats: 13 games | 162 att | 593 rush yds | 3.7 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 41 rec | 263 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


I love Saquon as much as the next guy, but he hasn't been available for most of his career. After leading the NFL with 2,028 scrimmage yards in his rookie season (2018), he has compiled 2,391 scrimmage yards in 28 games since 2019. When healthy, he is a playmaker with the ball in his hands and on all three downs, but he must produce more than he has of late and develop as a pass blocker.

Rank
19
Leonard Fournette
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 6

2021 stats: 14 games | 180 att | 812 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 69 rec | 454 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


It's hard to rank Fournette. There are times when he's Lombardi Lenny, running through teams to help the Bucs win the Super Bowl, and other times when he gets very few carries in a Bucs' loss. There were concerns about Fournette's weight early in camp, but he insists he'll get into shape and be ready to spearhead the Bucs' running game for the second straight year.

Rank
20
James Robinson
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 3

2021 stats: 14 games | 164 att | 767 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 31 rec | 222 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


I'm a big fan of both Robinson and second-year pro Travis Etienne, who missed his rookie season with a Lisfranc injury. I've had that injury, and let me tell you, it's not great. I'm happy to see Etienne back in action at training camp, but I'm rolling with Robinson here -- despite what my guy LaDainian Tomlinson thinks. Robinson carried the Jags for two years -- racking up 2,403 scrimmage yards and 18 touchdowns -- before tearing his Achilles in Week 16 last season. Robinson is healthy, back at camp and poised to lead Doug Pederson's creative run game. 

Rank
21
James Conner
Arizona Cardinals · Year 6

2021 stats: 15 games | 202 att | 752 rush yds | 3.7 ypc | 15 rush TDs | 37 rec | 375 rec yds | 3 rec TDs


Conner signed a well-deserved three-year, $21 million contract with the Cardinals this offseason after totaling a career-high 15 rush TDs in 2021. He lands outside of the top 20 in my list due to the Cardinals' scheme and his availability. He has missed multiple games in each of his five NFL seasons, and the offense is centered around Kyler Murray's abilities as a passer and runner. That said, look for Conner to be used more in Arizona's passing attack -- an area where he saw an increase in touches in the second half of last season.

Rank
22
Cam Akers
Los Angeles Rams · Year 3

2021 stats: 1 game | 5 att | 3 rush yds | 0.6 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 3 rec | 10 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Akers did a phenomenal job bouncing back from his Achilles injury for the Rams' Super Bowl run. This year, he's "100 percent" and gets the opportunity to the guy in the Rams' backfield for an entire season. Because of the Rams' weapons in the passing game, Akers might not get a ton of carries, but he has the capability to move the chains when he does get the ball. He'll have to make the most of his touches.

Rank
23
Cordarrelle Patterson
Atlanta Falcons · Year 10

2021 stats: 16 games | 153 att | 618 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 52 rec | 548 rec yds | 5 rec TDs


Patterson is a versatile playmaker who jumped on the running back scene a year ago with 153 carries (the most in a season for him by nearly 90 attempts). The Falcons' offensive line -- and offense as a whole -- benefit from his unique skill set as a 6-foot-2, 220-pound receiver-turned-running back, and getting him out in space against linebackers should be in Arthur Smith's plans this fall. The fact that he ranks above nine actual running backs on this list says a lot about what he brings to the table.

Rank
24
Devin Singletary
Buffalo Bills · Year 4

2021 stats: 17 games | 188 att | 870 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 40 rec | 228 rec yds | 1 rec TD


This ranking has zero to do with skill and everything to do with usage. It feels like Buffalo hates to run the ball with its running backs. I mean, Josh Allen totaled 29 percent of Buffalo's carries last season. Singletary did lead the Bills in carries, rush yards and rush TDs, and will be the go-to back out of the gate again this year. He's one of the most elusive backs in the league, but he's just not used enough. Adding James Cook to a crowded backfield only hurts Singletary's opportunities.

Rank
25
Rashaad Penny
Seattle Seahawks · Year 5

2021 stats: 10 games | 119 att | 749 rush yds | 6.3 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 6 rec | 48 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Penny went on a tear down the stretch last season, compiling more rushing touchdowns in the last five games (six) than in his entire career up to that point (five). With Chris Carson's retirement, Penny must become more consistent and prove he can carry the load -- or rookie Kenneth Walker III will chip away at the vet's opportunities.

Rank
26
Antonio Gibson
Washington Commanders · Year 3

2021 stats: 16 games | 258 att | 1,037 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 42 rec | 294 rec yds | 3 rec TDs


Gibson has quietly produced in Washington, as one of five running backs with 1,000 scrimmage yards and 10-plus TDs in the past two seasons. The issue I have is he'll provide a big performance ... then go away for games at a time. I need more consistency, especially with the addition of rookie Brian Robinson Jr., a solid back out of Alabama, and J.D. McKissic re-signing. I'd also like to see him get used a bit more in the passing game this season. He's averaged 39 receptions per season since 2020, but it's an area where he can be a real asset for this Carson Wentz-led bunch.

Rank
27
Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 3

2021 stats: 10 games | 119 att | 517 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 19 rec | 129 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


CEH has to show up in 2022. It's plain and simple. He averaged 113.7 scrimmage yards per game in his first six career games ... but just 62.6 scrimmage yards per game in his last 17. The Chiefs need to lean more on the run and get efficient carries from their backs to add more balance to their pass-happy offense. Edwards-Helaire needs to take advantage of his opportunities -- especially with hungry newcomer Ronald Jones II joining the unit -- and stay healthy and available for a full season. 

Rank
28
Josh Jacobs
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 4

2021 stats: 15 games | 217 att | 872 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 54 rec | 348 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


After a promising rookie campaign, Jacobs has averaged fewer carries -- and rushing/scrimmage yards -- per game in each ensuing season of his career. He has a lot of miles on his legs after just three seasons and he's been banged up. With Jacobs having never played a full regular-season slate, can he handle being the starter on a legit contender? If he can't, Kenyan Drake will be waiting to capitalize.

Rank
29
Raheem Mostert
Miami Dolphins · Year 8

2021 stats: 1 game | 2 att | 20 rush yds | 10.0 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 0 rec | 0 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


It's boom or bust for the Dolphins' run game, which features a bevy of talented running backs, including Mostert, Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel and Myles Gaskin. Like I wrote back in June, Mostert should lead this group in touches. With a career average of 5.7 yards per carry, the highest by a running back in the Super Bowl era, Mostert was incredible in this system during the 49ers' 2019 Super Bowl run, leading that team with 772 rush yards and 10 TDs. His success is dependent on his health, as he's missed 24 games over the last two seasons. If he's healthy, as he is now, the Dolphins likely make a run. But that's the problem and why he ranks 29th -- he hasn't been healthy. 

Rank
30
Breece Hall
Iowa State · New York Jets · Year 1

After averaging 98.1 rush yards per game last season (27th in the NFL) with Michael Carter in as RB1, the Jets went out and drafted Iowa State's Breece Hall, who led the FBS in rush yards and TDs from 2019 through 2021, early in the second round. I have to believe he's going to be the guy tasked with jump-starting Mike LaFleur's run game. He was my top running back in this year's draft class because he's a playmaker in both the run and pass games. He's the type of three-down back the Jets need to help Zach Wilson develop in Year 2.

Rank
31
Miles Sanders
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 4

2021 stats: 12 games | 137 att | 754 rush yds | 5.5 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 26 rec | 158 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Even with Sanders still in the RB1 role, there are a number of factors working against him. He's been banged up (missing five games in 2021), the Eagles are rotating their backs (Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott are also in the mix) and the run game really goes through dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Rank
32
Marlon Mack
Houston Texans · Year 6

2021 stats: 6 games | 28 att | 101 rush yds | 3.6 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 2 rec | 8 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


A make-or-break campaign is in front of Mack, who joined the Texans on a one-year deal this offseason after losing his job in Indy -- a 2020 torn Achilles and Jonathan Taylor's rise led to Mack's departure. With questions surrounding Texans quarterback Davis Mills, the offensive line and passing game, Mack should get a legitimate opportunity to revive his career. 

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