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RB Index: Eagles' Miles Sanders among four running backs I was wrong about in 2022

We are less than a fortnight away from the end of the 2022 NFL campaign, with Super Bowl LVII pitting the Kansas City Chiefs against the Philadelphia Eagles in Glendale, Arizona. But before the season wraps, I am once again swallowing my pride and acknowledging my mistakes.

Back in August, I ranked all 32 RB1s heading into the regular season. Reviewing that pecking order six months later, for the most part, I feel pretty good about my assessment. However, there are a few GLARING whiffs, including Philadelphia's Miles Sanders, who's currently preparing to play a major role in the Super Bowl. I had Sanders ranked No. 31 in that preseason hierarchy. That seems preposterous with the benefit of hindsight, but when you look at my reasoning for the ranking, I think you'll change your tune. First, Sanders had not yet surpassed 900 rushing yards in a season, and he'd played in just 12 games in each of the previous two campaigns. Second, the Eagles came into this season with a crowded backfield that also included Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott, who are each shining in their own right this postseason. And finally, this year's ground attack was always set to go through quarterback Jalen Hurts, who's acquitted himself quite well in Year 3, becoming an MVP finalist.

To Sanders' credit, he made the most of every opportunity for the NFC's top team, carrying the ball 259 times for 1,269 yards (4.9 per attempt) and 11 touchdowns, with each of those three counting statistics representing a career high by a comfortable margin. Set to become a free agent in March, Sanders finished the season as a top-10 running back in my year-end rankings, helping the Eagles make it to Super Bowl Sunday with 132 rush yards and a pair of touchdowns in two postseason games.

Below are three more running backs I was wrong about in 2022, excluding guys who missed much of the season due to injury.

Ezekiel Elliott
Dallas Cowboys · Year 7

Preseason RB ranking: No. 5

I was high on Zeke coming into the 2022 campaign despite Tony Pollard outgaining him by 1.3 yards per carry in 2021. And though the veteran did start 14 of his 15 games played this season, he averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry -- the first time his season mark finished below 4.0 -- while Pollard made the Cowboys' offense more potent, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and logging nearly 400 yards in the pass game. By the end of the season, Pollard was the clear production leader in the backfield, with his absence in the second half of the Divisional Round having a significant impact on the Dallas offense in that seven-point loss to San Francisco. Elliott, who finished the season with a career-low 876 rush yards yet had 12 ground TDs, has become a goal-line and short-yardage specialist at this point in his career, which is why my preseason ranking proved much too high.

Saquon Barkley
New York Giants · Year 5

Preseason RB ranking: No. 18

Barkley faced a pressure-packed 2022 campaign after battling injuries the previous three seasons -- compiling 1,630 rushing yards in 28 games between 2019 and 2021 -- and he came through in a big way for Big Blue. Barkley finished fourth in the NFL this season with a career-high 1,312 rushing yards and 10 ground touchdowns en route to becoming a Comeback Player of the Year finalist and helping New York reach the postseason for the first time since the 2016 campaign. The 2022 version of Barkley is the player we hoped he'd be when healthy, and he proved he's still one of the league's best when that is indeed the case. With his rookie contract expiring, the Giants are tasked with finding a way to keep the dynamic playmaker on the roster.

Josh Jacobs
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 4

Preseason RB ranking: No. 28

Heading into the 2022 season, Jacobs had yet to play a full regular-season slate in his career and he was coming off his least-productive campaign in the NFL. In addition, Jacobs and the run game seemed to take a back seat to the passing attack when the Raiders traded for Davante Adams, one of the league's top receivers. My ranking made sense. It did! But it only took a month for Josh McDaniels to see Jacobs as a key cog in his offensive system, which enabled the fourth-year pro to produce a career-best campaign. His 1,653 rush yards over 17 games -- that's an average of 97.2 rush yards per game -- earned him the NFL rushing title. It's safe to say Jacobs put himself in a great position ahead of free agency in March.

Follow Maurice Jones-Drew on Twitter.

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