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NFL PRR 2022: Running Backs

Welcome back to the Position Ranking Roulette! For those that are new, I take a look at each position in the league and how it's players favored for this past season only. We'll be using PFF grades, advanced metrics, and film to determine where each player ranks. Today, we'll take a look at a position that has transformed throughout the past decade, as running backs are now asked to catch passes, line up out wide and in the slot, and pass protect more than ever before. As long as they recorded 175 or more touches, they'll be eligible to make the cut. Let's take a look at the best running backs this season!

Photo: Cooper Neill/Getty Images

 

12. Isiah Pacheco (Last Season: N/A)

PFF Grade: 74.6 (21st)


Pacheco is the first of three rookies to make this list. Even though the overall production isn't there, there's no denying that he was one of the best backs in the second half of the season. From Week 10 on, when he started to see 25+ snaps on a consistent basis, he ranked 5th with 633 yards on the ground and averaged 5.02 yards per carry, which ranked 2nd in the league out of backs with at least 100 carries. Overall, out of 34 eligible backs, he ranked 1st with 12.6 yards after catch per reception, 7th with 5.25 yards per touch, and 16th with 3 yards after contact per carry. He was a threat on the ground and through the air, and wasn't afraid to run through defenders.


11. Tyler Allgeier (Last Season: N/A)

PFF Grade: 86.7 (5th)


Similar to Pacheco, this rookie had a great season despite not having the most production. Tyler ranked 3rd with an 88.7 elusive rating (how well a runner did independent of blocking), 4th with 3.51 yards after contact per carry, and 11th with 5.19 yards per touch. He also forced 51 forced tackles while only carrying the ball 210 times. Additionally, from Week 10 on, he led the NFL with 5.28 yards per carry.


10. Rhamondre Stevenson (Last Season: N/A)

PFF Grade: 81.3 (12th)


The Patriot Way is more than just a mentality, it also means there will be a new lead back in their offense every season. Rhamondre, being that new lead, ranked 9th with 1,462 total yards and tied for 8th with 5.24 yards per touch. He did exceptionally well in the pass game, ranking 10th with 1.24 yards per route ran and 6th with 421 receiving yards. He had a great year, which most likely means the Pats will feature another RB next season.


9. Kenneth Walker III (Last Season: N/A)

PFF Grade: 76.7 (17th)


The last of three rookies to make this list is the explosive KW3. He did exceptionally well making defenders miss, as he ranked 10th in rushing miss tackles forced and 10+ yard runs with 48 and 29 respectively. He also had the highest breakaway rate at 45.8% (rate of 15+ yards runs). He didn't add much in the pass attack, but that made his running that much more impactful, especially considering he finished 11th in rush yards with 1,050.

Photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images


8. Austin Ekeler (Last Season: #3)

PFF Grade: 81.4 (T-10th)


Ekeler has been the victim of the "Fantasy Merchant" title recently, and that could be further from the truth. He is undoubtedly a top fantasy RB, but his play goes further than that. He ranked 10th with 5.22 yards per touch, 8th with a 22.51% total missed tackle forced rate, and 4th with 1.63 yards per route ran. He also finished 6th with 1,624 total yards and 1st with 18 total touchdowns. He's a threat on the ground and in the air.


7. Travis Etienne (Last Season: N/A)

PFF Grade: 72.1 (27th)


Although he's not a rookie, Etienne's first healthy season was a great telling of a future franchise back. He ranked 3rd with 5.61 yards per touch, 4th with a rushing miss tackle rate of 25.79%, and 3rd with a 40.3% breakaway rate. He also finished 10th with 1,436 total yards, despite touching the ball just north of 15 times per game, which is the 4th lowest of all backs on this list.


6. Saquon Barkley (Last Season: N/A)

PFF Grade: 77.3 (16th)


After a few down years due to injury and poor utilization, Saquon bounced back in a make or break season. He ranked 7th with a 34.2% breakaway rate, 5th with 820 rush yards after contact, and 5th with 1,650 total yards. He also graded out as the 7th most productive RB in terms of volume, as he had the 3rd most touches and ranked in the top 12 for both rushing and receiving yards among RBs. Although his efficiency numbers aren't spectacular, I think he did a stellar job while playing behind the 3rd worst OL in the league per PFF.


5. Tony Pollard (Last Season: N/A)

PFF Grade: 89.5 (3rd)


Tony was easily the most efficient back in the league, and he tallied up yards in a big way. He averaged 5.94 total yards per touch, the highest mark in the league, while scoring 12 total TDs and finishing 12th with 1,378 total yards. This is even more impressive considering he touched the ball just 14.5 times per game, which ranked in the bottom 10 among all eligible RBs. Add in a TD rate of 5.17% and a league leading 3.82 yards after contact per carry, Pollard earned his spot as the Cowboys starting RB.

Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images


4. Christian McCaffrey (Last Season: N/A)

PFF Grade: 88.9 (4th)


It's not often an RB gets traded midseason and is still incredibly productive, but CMC did just that. After he was dealt to the 49ers in Week 7, he ranked 1st among RBs with 440 receiving yards, 7th with 4.69 yards per carry, and had the 6th highest breakaway rate at 33.5%. Throughout the season, he ranked 3rd with 1,880 total yards, 2nd with 5.71 yards per touch, and 2nd with 1.83 yards per route ran. He did it all, and the only reason he isn't ranked higher is due to how loaded the 49ers offense was this past season.


3. Nick Chubb (Last Season: #2)

PFF Grade: 90.3 (2nd)


Nick Chubb makes the top 3 for a second year straight, as one of my top backs overall in the NFL had a terrific year once again. He ranked 6th with 3.48 yards after contact per rush, while posting the second highest elusive rating at a 97.2 grade. He also ranked 6th with a 34.6% breakaway rate, 2nd with a 27.48% missed tackle forced rate, and 1st with 47 runs of 10+ yards. Although he didn't add much in the receiving game, I think this makes his rushing attack that much more impactful.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire


2. Derrick Henry (Last Season: #9)

PFF Grade: 85.9 (7th)


After missing half of last season en route to breaking the rushing record, Henry responded with another stellar year. He led the NFL with 1,257 yards after contact (which would've ranked 6th in overall rushing), tied for 2nd with 13 rushing TDs, and ranked 3rd with 37 runs of 10+ yards. He also was efficient as a receiver, ranking 1st with 2.08 yards per route ran, tallying nearly 400 receiving yards. He was back to his dominant self, all while playing behind the worst OL in the league per PFF, and should have a great year next season as well.


1. Josh Jacobs (Last Season: #11)

PFF Grade: 91.6 (1st)


Not only did Jacobs have the best rushing season, he did so while being completely doubted. His fifth-year option was denied by the new coaching regime, and the Raiders added Brandon Bolden and Zamir White as potential replacements. How did Jacobs respond? By leading the NFL with 2,053 total yards, 95 total missed tackles forced, 1,653 rushing yards, and 392 total touches. The volume was massive, and the production matched it. He also ranked 9th with 5.24 yards per touch, 7th with 3.40 yards after contact per rush, 3rd with a 26.55% missed tackle forced rate, and 2nd with 41 rushes of 10+ yards. Pair all of that with 12 total TDs, and Jacobs outshined the rest.

Photo: Michael Clemens/Las Vegas Raiders

 

Final Notes:


Some backs that missed the cut were Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, and Miles Sanders. Although all had great volume and production, and even better than some that made the list, their play-to-play tape wasn't that impressive. Cook lost his footing on wide open runs a lot, Kamara would often miss open gaps, Jones would cough up the ball in crucial situations, and Sanders benefited from the Eagles RPO offense that had to account for Jalen Hurts' rushing and passing attack.


Tune in next time as we cover the top 12 interior defensive linemen!

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