Ranking the NFL’s 10 best RBs for 2022: Christian McCaffrey collapses with injury issues, Jonathan Taylor soars

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Rumor has it that running backs in the NFL don’t matter, but I guess the logic depends on which ones you’re talking about because not all of them are created equal. Because when it comes to rating the best in the NFL at this position, you have a hard time sustaining that argument, knowing full well that not everyone can do what they do, when/if they’re told. give it a chance. It’s why the Dallas Cowboys gave Ezekiel Elliott a historic contract not too long ago, and why you then saw Christian McCaffrey financially blow through the roof – Derrick Henry presumably resetting the market in a near future.

A myriad of variables determine a running back’s success at the NFL level, and the bottom line isn’t that they’re all created equal, with some forced to produce with far less of a supporting cast for a large part of their career so far. point, for example, Joe Mixon. All of this, and more, becomes overwhelmingly clear when trying to identify the best in all of football in this position.

The following 10 players have proven to be in a league of their own in one or more ways.

Translation: They matter, and in a big way.

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It looks like Montgomery isn’t getting the accolades he should nationally, and that’s very strange. With so much disappointment in the QB and coaching ranks in Chicago, Montgomery was the beacon of hope and regularly gave Bears fans something to cheer about when they had nothing else. He’s now amassed more than 3,700 scrimmage yards and 24 touchdowns in his three years with the team, and he’s done so despite abysmal quarterbacking play that led to the Bears using a top pick round on Justin Fields. And now, as Fields and Co. acclimate to a new coaching staff, Montgomery will have to serve as a safety cover for the Bears offense — a role he’s not entirely unfamiliar with — providing a impact as both a runner and receiver. .

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So you probably think there are one or two honorable mentions (listed below) that deserve that spot on Jones, but if I agreed with you, they would be in that spot. The thing is, while Jones took a step back in production in 2021, he’s still the dominant back he was when he delivered over 3,000 scrimmage yards and 30 touchdowns for the Packers over the two seasons. previous ones. His consecutive 1,000-yard rushing streak ended at two, but 1,190 total yards with 10 touchdowns in 15 starts was unshaken. Plus, when it comes to who’s in the top 10, there’s also something to be said for having skins on the wall, and while some of the promising newcomers – one in particular notwithstanding (scroll down) – have a lot to look forward to, they just don’t have too produced as long as Jones.

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The Chargers let Melvin Gordon walk because of their belief in Ekeler, and it was well-founded. Elevating Ekeler to the starting role has paid off as gangbusters in tandem with draft Justin Herbert, and his dual-threat ability that also allows him to be an effective receiver out of the backfield really takes the defensive pressure off the wide receiver. Mike Williams. It’s a powerful aesthetic that translates very well on the pitch, and it feels like Ekeler is just getting started. Because while he hasn’t made his way into the 1,000-yard rush club yet, he’s produced more than 1,500 scrimmage yards in two of his last three seasons, and all he has all you have to do now is stay healthy to see if the powder blue skies in Los Angeles really are the limit.

7. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

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Despite all the hubbub surrounding Tony Pollard, a justifiable nod to the Cowboys’ backup potential, it’s still Elliott’s throne in Dallas and for good reason. The former two-time NFL running champion had a stellar start to the 2021 season which saw him as quick, quick and decisive as he’s ever been, but he was slowed by an injury in the second half of the season that made many forget what he was doing before that point. And, although the Cowboys should have shut him down for a few games to rest what was later revealed to be a torn PCL in his knee, he was still able to play through the disease en route to another 1,000-yard season. (1,289 scrimmage yards) with 12 total touchdowns. If he can do all of that on a bum knee, imagine what he can do on two good ones, like he did at the start of last season.

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Sometimes running backs have to do more with less, and no one knows that better than Mixon. It’s easy to look at the Bengals’ success in 2021 and forget what it took for them to get there, which is what Mixon had to fight to keep the team relevant and ultimately still be. there in Cincinnati for that. Before the drafting of Joe Burrow and then Ja’Marr Chase, it was Mixon who literally carried the load of the Bengals’ offense, and he was still able to be a key reason for their special 2021 season despite his transformation into Burrow Chase. To display. To say the least, by the way, because Mixon crossed 1,500 yards from the scrimmage mark for the first time in a career dominated by consistency, and his needle continues to point due north. .

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It felt like an eternity ago when everyone wondered if Cook would live up to his potential. Having struggled with injury at the start of his promising career, he has since overcome that – mostly – dark cloud and become everything the Vikings could have hoped for. He was able to not only produce at a high level, but do so in an offense featuring Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, which is a nod to his productivity when his number is called. And though his numbers were down slightly from his 1,900 yard season (from scrimmage) in 2020, he was still able to mount a third consecutive 1,000 rushing yard season and average less than 11 yards per game from less than 100 yards per game average.

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Kamara is one of the halfbacks on this list who recently picked up his bag, but that hasn’t changed his approach to the game. The former volunteer continually volunteers to hit defenses in the mouth, but with this which can only be described as electric finesse. It was Kamara who helped keep the Saints offense relevant in 2021 — Michael Thomas absent from the All-Pro and any sort of consistent production at QB following a torn ACL suffered by Jameis Winston — and it’s not is neither the first nor the last time that he’ll be tasked with being the bulk of the production. Kamara is truly lightning in a bottle and without him, the Saints’ attack wouldn’t have been worth talking about in 2021.

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Sharing duties with Kareem Hunt did absolutely nothing to slow or hinder Chubb’s production. If anything, it just makes you wonder how much more destructive he would be if he was the only option out of the Browns’ backfield. The Dawg-turned-Dawg has been a powerhouse since landing in Cleveland via Georgia, being the steady hand for the one-turn roller coaster with former first overall pick Baker Mayfield and, in Mayfield’s absence due of an injury, whoever else took the QB reins in the moment. It’s nearly impossible to put Chubb down on first contact, or second, and if he steps into open ground, goodnight, Nancy. And he does all his damage in the most buttoned-up way possible, reminiscent of how Barry Sanders operated.

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Like a bat at the gates of hell, Taylor flies over this 2022 list with flames dripping from her wings. That the Colts laid an egg in a win-and-go over the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars last season was much more attributable to the abysmal play of now-traded (again) Carson Wentz and not Taylor, who was the heart and soul of the team’s offense all season. Taylor was so powerful in his destruction of opposing defenses that he remained in the MVP conversation throughout and picked up Offensive Player of the Year honors, having racked up 1,811 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns while adding 360 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns to his stat line. . And with Matt Ryan now replacing Wentz, Taylor is likely to terrorize the NFL again in 2022.

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Don’t let the fact that he battled injury in 2021 distract you from what’s glaring: Henry remains atop the mountain of the NFL’s top running backs. Henry is a cyborg, plain and simple, and can do anything – from running around and through defenders with ease, to passing them with a speed unnatural to his size, to catching the ball out of the backfield to throw it. As Ryan Tannehill’s future begins to come into question in Nashville, and with Pro Bowl receiver AJ Brown traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Titans will depend on Henry more than ever, this which is not exactly a stretch. when you consider that’s mostly what they’ve done so far in his career anyway; as evidenced by his 2,141 yard (!!) season in 2020.

At the end of the line ? The king still reigns.

Honorable Mention:

Christian McCaffrey, Najee Harris, Damien Harris, James Conner, Josh Jacobs

My my, how the mighty have fallen.

The most notable deletion from this list entirely is Saquon Barkley, who recently saw an injury derail his generational talent potential, and McCaffrey is getting dangerously close to falling victim to the same dark entity. McCaffrey lands in the honorable mention category purely for the sheer scale of his talent, which is arguably unrivaled when healthy, but he’s only played 10 games since signing his mega contract in 2020.

As such, it’s cascading from the top of this mountain to the valley below and needs to prove itself in a major way in 2022. But as it works to do so, up-and-coming upstarts like the Harris Bros. (spoiler: they’re not really brothers) threaten to challenge the incumbents for supremacy going forward, as veterans like Conner and Jacobs threaten to find other gear to achieve this coming season. For Barkley and McCaffrey, however, it’s time to become who they once were, or be cast aside altogether.

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