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2022 NFL season's top 10 most explosive rushers: Bears QB Justin Fields leads group

Each week of the 2022 NFL season, the Next Gen Stats analytics team will present a different Position Power Ranking meant to spotlight the top performances among a specific group of players. This week, we've assembled a list of the top 10 explosive rushers heading into Week 10.

Before we dive in, though, a note on our methodology: To help create quantifiable rankings, we have devised a formula that yields a Next Gen Stats percentile score, which measures how a player is performing relative to his peers. The formula uses each individual's percentile score across a series of key metrics to create one composite score, indicating which players at that position performed best. We will lean on this formula to inform our rankings when applicable.

NOTE: The composite score for each player is based on factors that include each player's top speed, average speed, number of big plays and more.Scores are based on each player's performance in Weeks 1 through 9.

Justin Fields
Chicago Bears · Year 2

The second-year quarterback has been on a tear of late, breaking the record for most rushing yards (178) by a quarterback in a single regular-season game. Fields flashed his ludicrous speed against the Dolphins last Sunday, reaching 20+ mph on three separate carries. The former Ohio State star reached a top speed of 21.23 mph on his 41-yard run in Week 8. Unfortunately, the play was negated by a penalty, but no quarterback has reached a higher speed since Fields was drafted in 2021. Fields has put the Bears’ offense on his back (or better yet, his legs) over the last few weeks, keeping them competitive in matchups against some of the league’s best offenses. He gained a whopping eight first downs on scrambles in Week 9 (including five on third down), two more than any quarterback in a game since the start of the NGS era (2016). It’s hard to overstate how important Fields’ scrambles have been for the team’s offense this season. The Bears have gained a league-high 46.6 expected points added when Fields tucks the ball and scrambles. For reference, only three quarterbacks have generated more than 46.6 EPA on pass plays this season (Patrick Mahomes, Tua Tagovailoa and Josh Allen).

Travis Etienne
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 2

After missing his rookie season due to a Lisfranc injury, Etienne has moved into a workhorse role for the Jaguars. There were questions about whether Etienne could handle a full workload heading into the season, and the Jaguars employed a backfield committee for the beginning of the season. But after seeing how much more explosive Etienne was with the ball in his hands, the Jaguars were comfortable shipping James Robinson off to the Jets prior to the trade deadline. The Clemson product has been a revelation for the Jaguars over the last few games -- he leads all running backs in rushing yards over expected (+160) and carries reaching 15-plus mph (21) and 20-plus mph (five) since Week 6. Etienne’s acceleration helps him hit the line hard, as he averages 11.05 mph when crossing the line of scrimmage this season (second fastest among RB, min. 60 carries). With a wide receiving corps that doesn’t offer much in the way of creating big plays after the catch, the Jaguars’ offense will be relying on Etienne’s top gear to generate explosive plays.

Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens · Year 5

Jackson is well on his way to his third season with 1,000-plus rush yards -- something that all other QBs in NFL history have combined to do once (Michael Vick, 2006) -- and the advanced metrics back up Jackson’s historic rushing prowess. Jackson comfortably leads the NFL in both volume (+337) and efficiency (+4.7 per carry) when it comes to gaining more rushing yards than expected this season. He has gained at least 10 yards on a remarkable 30.2 percent of his carries, a full six percentage points higher than the next-closest player with at least 50 carries (Justin Fields, 24.2). This dominance on the ground is nothing new for Jackson, who has gained a league-high +1,917 rushing yards over expected since being drafted in 2018 (more than 500 yards ahead of second-place Nick Chubb’s +1,379). Jackson has continued to defy all previously conceived notions of what a quarterback can do on the ground, and his awe-inspiring play shows no signs of slowing down.

Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · Year 7

Henry had a slow start to the 2022 season coming off a foot injury that forced him to miss more than half of last year, but he has turned a corner since Week 4, reminding the football world why he's still referred to as the King. Henry has had at least 100 rushing yards in each of his past five games, racking up 678 yards (135.6 per game) and seven TDs over that span. Henry has also had at least 89 rushing yards after contact in each of those five games, demonstrating that he's still nearly impossible to take to the ground, and he leads the NFL with 740 rushing yards after contact for the season. As always, Henry has paired his physicality with his speed, as one of four players to have at least three carries with a top speed of 20-plus mph this season (Justin Fields, Travis Etienne, Saquon Barkley). Henry is rounding into peak form as the second half of the season approaches, which is a great sign for a Titans team seeking its fourth straight playoff appearance.

Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns · Year 5

Chubb is the only player in NFL history to have four consecutive seasons with 900-plus rushing yards and five-plus yards per carry, and he is well on his way to having his fifth straight such season this year. Quite simply, good things happen whenever he gets the ball. In 2022, Chubb leads the NFL with 27 rushes of at least 10 yards. His +276 rushing yards over expected lead all running backs and trail only Lamar Jackson's +337 among all NFL players. Chubb has been particularly lethal outside the tackles, where he has over 200 rushing yards more than any other player this season (744). Chubb's consistency has led him to be anointed by contemporary star Derrick Henry as the NFL's top running back. Game recognizes game, and Chubb has shown plenty of it as the Browns' workhorse this season.

Kyler Murray
Arizona Cardinals · Year 4

Murray hasn't run the ball particularly often this season, as his 59 carries are fewest among the 10 players on this list. But when he has carried the ball, his trademark speed has been on full display. Murray has reached a top speed of 15-plus mph on a staggering 72.9 percent of his carries this season. For context, Justin Fields ranks second in the NFL at 51.6 percent (min. 50 carries) and is the only other player to reach that speed on at least 50 percent of his rushes. Murray's speed has led to some big gains as well, as he ranks fourth in the NFL with +2.8 rushing yards over expected per carry (min. 50 carries). Though the Cardinals' offense has struggled relative to last season, Murray has proven to be as fast and elusive as ever.

Kenneth Walker III
Seattle Seahawks · Rookie

At one point this summer, it looked like Walker would be spending a lot of his rookie season on the bench. But after Chris Carson retired in July, and Rashaad Penny went down with a fractured fibula in October, Walker got his chance to be “the guy” in Seattle. He hasn’t looked back. Walker’s vision and explosiveness have been evident on the field, as he leads all running backs with 2.3 yards before contact per carry this season (min. 50 carries). He also is the NFL’s only player to reach 22-plus mph as a ball-carrier this season, hitting 22.09 on his 74-yard TD run against the Chargers. Walker has averaged 106.0 rushing yards per game and 1.5 rushing touchdowns per game in his four career starts -- all Seahawks wins -- helping Seattle unexpectedly vault to the top of the NFC West.

Marcus Mariota
Atlanta Falcons · Year 8

Mariota has reunited with his former Titans offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith, in his first season with the Falcons, and the familiarity has led to a potent rushing attack. Mariota has excelled on designed QB runs, where he ranks third in the NFL in both rushing yards (161) and rushing yards over expected (+88). At age 29 in his eighth NFL season, the wheels are working just fine for the former Heisman Trophy winner, as he is one of two quarterbacks to have multiple rushes that reached a top speed of at least 20 mph this season (Justin Fields). With the Falcons in the hunt for the NFC South title, Mariota has a chance to reach the playoffs as a starter for the second time in his career.

Saquon Barkley
New York Giants · Year 5

After two consecutive injury-marred seasons, it’s become clear in 2022 that Barkley is back. Barkley’s burst from his legendary rookie year has returned, as he has reached a top speed of at least 20 mph on three carries this season (tied for fifth most in the NFL). Barkley’s resurgence has been most prominent outside the tackles. On such rush attempts, Barkley has +164 rushing yards over expected (third most among running backs) and is averaging a career-high 6.0 yards per carry. Defense and a strong running game have been the core ingredients to the Giants’ surprising 6-2 start, and Barkley will continue to play a pivotal role in the team's hunt for its first playoff appearance since 2016.

Breece Hall
New York Jets · Rookie

Unfortunately, Hall’s season came to an end with an ACL tear in Week 7, but the 21-year-old showed what he was capable of prior to the injury. Hall had at least 65 rushing yards and a TD in each of his last four games -- including his final game, in which he had only four carries. He gained at least 10 yards on 18.8 percent of his carries, which still stands as the highest mark among all running backs with at least 50 carries this season. In Hall’s final game, he reached a top speed of 21.87 mph on a 62-yard TD run, the second-fastest speed as a ball-carrier this season behind draft classmate Kenneth Walker III. While Hall will be sidelined as the Jets pursue their first playoff berth since 2010, he and fellow rookies Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson appear set to be part of a group that could change the culture in New York.

HONORABLE MENTION: Josh Allen, Bills; Dalvin Cook, Vikings; D'Andre Swift, Lions.

-- Mike Band, Keegan Abdoo and Cole Jacobson contributed to this piece.

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