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Ranking each team's primary starting running back for the 2023 NFL season

The 2023 NFL regular season is now in the rearview, making this the perfect time to rank each team's primary starting running back for the 2023 season.

You'll notice that many of the running backs below led their respective teams in carries. But that was not my sole criteria for determining which player to choose for each team. Rather, I wanted to focus on the player who would be ranked as the most important running back on the depth chart, even if they didn't log the most attempts or starts.

Let's jump right in.

Christian McCaffrey
San Francisco 49ers · Year 7

2023 stats: 16 games | 272 att | 1,459 rush yds | 5.4 ypc | 14 rush TDs | 67 rec | 564 rec yds | 7 rec TDs | 2 fumbles lost

Christian McCaffrey missed his first game in two years, thanks to a calf injury, but getting healthy to help lead the 49ers to a Lombardi Trophy is priority No. 1. Despite not playing in Sunday’s loss to the Rams, McCaffrey earned his first league rushing title and the first for the 49ers since Joe “The Jet” Perry in 1954. There’s no question in my mind that McCaffrey is the gold standard at the running back position. The three-time Pro Bowler is a sure-fire Offensive Player of the Year candidate and could pull in a few MVP votes, too. 

Kyren Williams
Los Angeles Rams · Year 2

2023 stats: 12 games | 228 att | 1,144 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 12 rush TDs | 32 rec | 206 rec yds | 3 rec TDs | 2 fumbles lost


Kyren Williams has been the biggest surprise of the 2023 season at the running back position. He finished third in the league in rush yards despite playing 12 games. He also finished atop the RB ranks in rush yards per game (95.3), thanks to his six 100-yard outings. With Williams in the backfield, the Rams have one of the most balanced offenses and looked poised to make some noise in the postseason. 

Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · Year 8

2023 stats: 17 games | 380 att | 1,167 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 12 rush TDs | 28 rec | 214 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 0 fumbles lost

If Sunday was Derrick Henry’s final home game at Nissan Stadium, he made the most of every carry for himself, his team and the fans in attendance. Logging 19 carries for a season-high 153 yards, including a 69-yard sprint out of halftime and an 18-yard touchdown run, Henry became the ninth player in NFL history to score at least 90 rush TDs for a single franchise, per Elias. Like the rest of the Titans' offense, the 30-year-old veteran was quite inconsistent in 2023. Still, Henry surpassed 1,000 rush yards for the fifth time in his last six seasons, proving he has the juice when getting running lanes from the offensive line. He should still play a big role for a team next season, even if that team isn’t Tennessee.

Raheem Mostert
Miami Dolphins · Year 9

2023 stats: 15 games | 209 att | 1,012 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 18 rush TDs | 25 rec | 175 rec yds | 3 rec TDs | 1 fumble lost

For several years, we waited for Raheem Mostert to show up in a big way on the stat sheet -- and that's just what he finally did in 2023 as the centerpiece of Mike McDaniel’s offense. The veteran, who didn’t play in the final two games of the regular season due to injury, led the NFL with 18 rush TDs and tied with Christian McCaffrey for the lead in scrimmage TDs (21) after having 19 career scrimmage scores in his first eight seasons combined. It’s great to see just what he can do when healthy and in the perfect situation. 

James Cook
Buffalo Bills · Year 2

2023 stats: 17 games | 237 att | 1,122 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 44 rec | 445 rec yds | 4 rec TD | 2 fumbles lost

James Cook posted his first 1,000-yard rushing campaign, thanks to a stellar stretch from Week 10 to Week 15, when he averaged 136.8 scrimmage yards per game and 7.0 yards per touch. His production decreased in recent weeks, but I love that the Bills are finally getting their running back involved. Buffalo went 6-1 when Cook had at least 17 touches in the regular season, compared to a 5-5 mark in all other games. The Bills should lean on the young rusher in the postseason -- especially in the colder weather.

Breece Hall
New York Jets · Year 2

2023 stats: 17 games | 223 att | 994 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 76 rec | 591 rec yds | 2 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

I was shocked to see that Breece Hall finished fourth in the NFL in scrimmage yards (1,585) this season, behind Christian McCaffrey (2,023), CeeDee Lamb (1,862) and Tyreek Hill (1,814). Though he didn’t register 1,000 yards on the ground, he was used heavily as a pass catcher out of the backfield -- often in checkdown situations for the Jets’ struggling quarterbacks. Hall’s first season back from a serious knee injury was promising.

James Conner
Arizona Cardinals · Year 7

2023 stats: 13 games | 208 att | 1,040 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 27 rec | 165 rec yds | 2 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

James Conner’s 150-yard rushing performance against the Seahawks was highlighted by the 29-yard TD run that helped the Cardinals tie the contest early in the third quarter. He was great this December and January, recording three 100-yard rushing games and seven scrimmage TDs, ultimately clinching his first 1,000-yard rushing campaign -- despite missing four games with a knee injury. This “true warrior,” as Jonathan Gannon called him, will be back in 2024 as a big part of offense. 

David Montgomery
Detroit Lions · Year 5

2023 stats: 14 games | 219 att | 1,015 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 13 rush TDs | 16 rec | 117 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 1 fumble lost

The Lions paired thunder (David Montgomery) with lightning (Jahmyr Gibbs) in their backfield, and they found a tremendous amount of success as a result. Leading the way, though not necessarily getting a ton of credit, was the veteran back, who routinely set the tone for the offense and hit pay dirt when his number was called in the red zone. He added his 13th rush TD of the season in Sunday's win over Minnesota; by comparison, he had 12 rush TDs in his final two seasons in Chicago combined. 

D'Andre Swift
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 4

2023 stats: 16 games | 229 att | 1,049 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 39 rec | 214 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

D’Andre Swift missed the Eagles' regular-season finale due to illness, but he had what was far and away the best season of his four-year career, eclipsing 1,000 rush yards for the first time and finishing with the fifth-most rush yards in the NFL. Swift has routinely set the tone for the Eagles’ eighth-ranked rushing attack, which the team must lean on in the playoffs, given how the pass game underwhelmed over the last month or so. The only downside to Swift's 2023 campaign was his lack of touchdowns. But that's also the cost of playing for a team that has perfected the Brotherly Shove.

Rachaad White
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 2

2023 stats: 17 games | 272 att | 990 rush yds | 3.6 ypc | 6 rush TD | 64 rec | 549 rec yds | 3 rec TDs | 2 fumbles lost

Scoring didn’t come easy for the Bucs on Sunday, with the Rachaad White-led rushing attack netting just two fewer yards (113) than the pass game (115). White finished the day with 75 rush yards to help Tampa clinch its third straight NFC South title. The second-year pro must at the very least maintain the level we’ve seen the last month in the Bucs’ home playoff game next week.

Najee Harris
Pittsburgh Steelers · Year 3

2023 stats: 17 games | 255 att | 1,035 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 29 rec | 170 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 1 fumble lost

While cycling through quarterbacks, the Steelers leaned heavily on their backfield duo of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. Harris received the bulk of the carries and had his most efficient campaign to date, posting over 4.0 yards per tote in a season for the first time in his career. The third-year pro isn’t flashy, but his consistency and physical presence are exactly what this year’s Steelers need. 

Travis Etienne
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 3

2023 stats: 17 games | 267 att | 1,008 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 11 rush TDs | 58 rec | 476 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Travis Etienne went on a hot streak back in October, putting up six rush TDs in three games, but like the rest of the Jaguars offense, he was relatively quiet over the final half of the season -- with the exception of his 100-yard rushing outing in the Week 17 win over Carolina. Etienne had a better campaign as a pass-catcher than he did in 2022, with more receptions and receiving yards. But overall, it was a disappointing season for this group, considering Jacksonville began 8-3 and missed the playoffs.

Joe Mixon
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 7

2023 stats: 17 games | 257 att | 1,034 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 52 rec | 376 rec yds | 3 rec TDs | 0 fumbles lost

The 2023 campaign was an up-and-down one for both Joe Mixon and the Bengals offense, which lost Joe Burrow midway through the year. While Mixon didn't post a 100-yard rushing game until Week 18 and finished with his lowest yards-per-carry mark since 2020, he did compile the fourth 1,000-yard season of his career. 

Bijan Robinson
Atlanta Falcons · Rookie

2023 stats: 17 games | 214 att | 976 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 58 rec | 487 rec yds | 4 rec TDs | 3 fumbles lost

Regardless of who coaches (and quarterbacks for) the Falcons next, Bijan Robinson will undoubtedly be a main component of the offensive game plan. With 1,463 scrimmage yards in 2023, Robinson broke the franchise record for scrimmage yards in a season by a rookie -- which had stood for 44 years (Williams Andrews racked up 1,332 in 1979).

Saquon Barkley
New York Giants · Year 6

2023 stats: 14 games | 247 att | 962 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 41 rec | 280 rec yds | 4 rec TDs | 2 fumbles lost

Saquon Barkley found success in 2023 despite poor play on the offensive line and at quarterback in New York. Finishing just shy of 1,000 rush yards, Barkley was a definite bright spot in this offense, recording two scrimmage touchdowns in four separate games this season. Barkley should be a guy the Giants want to keep around in 2024. We know Barkley wants that.

Isiah Pacheco
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 2

2023 stats: 14 games | 205 att | 935 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 44 rec | 244 rec yds | 2 rec TDs | 1 fumble lost

We’ve seen Kansas City’s offense transition from a passing juggernaut to a more run-centric unit this season. Isiah Pacheco has benefitted, amassing career highs in most rushing categories. He also played a much bigger role in the pass game than he did as a rookie in 2022, with the Chiefs unable to rely on their wide receivers for good chunks of the season. Pacheco’s last outing -- he put up 130 rush yards in a Week 17 win over the Bengals – was his best of the regular season. With a week to rest that quad, he should continue to show his dependability in Saturday night's wild-card game against Miami, a team that limited him in Week 9

Tony Pollard
Dallas Cowboys · Year 5

2023 stats: 17 games | 252 att | 1,005 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 55 rec | 311 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 1 fumble lost

The Cowboys had their best rushing performance in a month in their Week 18 win over Washington, racking up 131 yards thanks to a steady performance from Tony Pollard and a big gain from Rico Dowdle. Pollard, who scored his first touchdown since November in that game, has underwhelmed, despite reaching the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season. If there was ever a time for him to prove his worth before he hits free agency, it’s in the playoffs.

Jonathan Taylor
Indianapolis Colts · Year 4

2023 stats: 10 games | 169 att | 741 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 19 rec | 153 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Zack Moss (barely) outpaced Jonathan Taylor in starts, carries and rush yards, and he will undoubtedly sign somewhere as a free agent, but this offense is built around Taylor, who will return to wreck shop with a healthy Anthony Richardson in 2024. This season, Taylor was hampered by injuries but picked up major steam down the stretch, with six rush TDs in his last five games.

Gus Edwards
Baltimore Ravens · Year 5

2023 stats: 17 games | 178 att | 810 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 13 rush TDs | 12 rec | 180 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 2 fumbles lost

Gus Edwards was again thrust into the starting role early in the season after J.K. Dobbins sustained yet another season-ending injury. Edwards played an important role as the physical downhill runner in a transitioning Ravens offense, with guys like Keaton Mitchell and Justice Hill operating as change-of-pace home-run hitters. Edwards was also instrumental in the red zone, with his 13 rushing TDs matching his combined total from his first four pro campaigns.

Kenneth Walker III
Seattle Seahawks · Year 2

2023 stats: 15 games | 219 att | 905 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 29 rec | 259 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

The Seahawks offense took a step back in 2023, and everyone played a role in the regression. Still, Kenneth Walker III showed how explosive he can be, even while sharing the backfield with rookie Zach Charbonnet, averaging over 4.0 yards per carry for the second straight season. It is a slight concern that he hasn’t played more than 15 games in each of his two seasons. But I think Walker can be a bigger focal point of the offense, given his natural talent and ability.

Devin Singletary
Houston Texans · Year 5

2023 stats: 17 games | 216 att | 898 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 30 rec | 193 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Devin Singletary took advantage of Dameon Pierce’s sophomore slump and had his best career campaign as a result. The fifth-year back posted career highs in carries and rush yards to help the Texans reclaim the AFC South for the first time since 2019. 

Jerome Ford
Cleveland Browns · Year 2

2023 stats: 17 games | 204 att | 813 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 44 rec | 319 rec yds | 5 rec TDs | 1 fumble lost

Losing Nick Chubb in Week 2 was a major blow to the Browns offense, but I have to give credit to Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt for leading this 12th-ranked rushing attack the rest of the way. Ford started 12 of the 15 games after Chubb’s injury and has been a steady playmaker as a runner and pass catcher, with some splash plays sprinkled in (SEE: his 50-yard catch-and-run for a TD against the Jets in Week 17).

Chuba Hubbard
Carolina Panthers · Year 3

2023 stats: 17 games | 238 att | 902 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 39 rec | 233 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 1 fumble lost

After signing a four-year, $25.4 million deal, Miles Sanders lost his starting job in the Panthers’ backfield in October to Chuba Hubbard. The third-year pro led the team in carries and rush yards, and he had five of the team’s seven rushing touchdowns on the season. The offense royally struggled with a rookie quarterback in 2023, but Hubbard was a bright spot. 

Josh Jacobs
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 5

2023 stats: 13 games | 233 att | 805 rush yds | 3.5 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 37 rec | 296 rec yds | 0 rec TDs | 1 fumble lost

Playing on the one-year deal he signed in August to end a contract dispute, Josh Jacobs looked nothing like the player who led the NFL in rushing yards in 2022. He was hampered by injuries/illness over the final month, leaving the door open for second-year running back Zamir White, who all but proved he could be the future at the position for this team. Jacobs had a lot of success with the Raiders, but perhaps logging over 1,300 carries in five seasons finally caught up to him. We'll see what happens in free agency. 

Aaron Jones
Green Bay Packers · Year 7

2023 stats: 11 games | 142 att | 656 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 30 rec | 233 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

Even though AJ Dillon led the team in carries in 2023, Aaron Jones has always been the guy in the backfield. He’s more explosive when healthy, evidenced by his three straight games with at least 100 scrimmage yards to close out the regular season. It’s not a coincidence that the Packers won all three of those contests, clinching a spot in the postseason as a result. While Dillon is headed to free agency, Jones should be back --presuming something can be done about his problematic 2024 cap figure of $17.2 million -- to help lead this young offense.

Alvin Kamara
New Orleans Saints · Year 7

2023 stats: 13 games | 180 att | 694 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 75 rec | 466 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Alvin Kamara had one of his worst statistical seasons in 2023, in part due to his early-season suspension, and because he missed the final week with an ankle injury. Even when he was on the field, he wasn’t all that efficient in the run game, posting his second sub-4.0 yard-per-carry mark for a season in his career. Another factor: The offense spent a lot of 2023 out of sync and struggled to sustain drives.

Ezekiel Elliott
New England Patriots · Year 8

2023 stats: 17 games | 184 att | 642 rush yds | 3.5 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 51 rec | 313 rec yds | 2 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

While Rhamondre Stevenson made 12 starts, it was Ezekiel Elliott who received a majority of the touches out of the backfield. While he certainly wasn’t the player we saw in Dallas, Zeke provided the Patriots with some consistency in the run game and was used extensively as a checkdown option in the pass game. He’ll hit free agency for a second consecutive offseason and should find a home in 2024.

Brian Robinson
Washington Commanders · Year 2

2023 stats: 15 games | 178 att | 733 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 36 rec | 368 rec yds | 4 rec TDs | 2 fumbles lost

The Commanders’ run game took a step back in 2023, ranking 27th in the NFL after finishing 12th in 2022. Washington also had the fewest rushing attempts in the league this season, due in part to how often the team played from behind. Even amid all of the offensive struggles, Brian Robinson was efficient in his first full season as the team’s RB1 and racked up 1,000 scrimmage yards. 

Austin Ekeler
Los Angeles Chargers · Year 7

2023 stats: 14 games | 179 att | 628 rush yds | 3.5 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 51 rec | 436 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 4 fumbles lost

Austin Ekeler had his least productive season since 2020, when he first took over as the Chargers’ featured back. He did make several highlight-reel plays, thanks to his elusiveness in open space and tackle-breaking ability, but as was true of everyone in Kellen Moore’s offense, he had a mostly forgettable campaign. Ekeler has undoubtedly played his last snap for Los Angeles.

Javonte Williams
Denver Broncos · Year 3

2023 stats: 16 games | 217 att | 774 rush yds | 3.6 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 47 rec | 228 rec yds | 2 rec TDs | 1 fumble lost

Coming off a knee injury that limited his 2022 campaign to four games, Javonte Williams did nothing spectacular in 2023. Going without a 100-yard rushing performance all year, he finished with his lowest career marks in rush yards per game (48.4) and yards per carry (3.6) in a season. Some of that can be attributed to Denver’s offensive struggles as a whole, but I expected more production from the young back. 

Khalil Herbert
Chicago Bears · Year 3

2023 stats: 12 games | 132 att | 611 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 20 rec | 134 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

The Bears’ rushing attack was always going to run through Justin Fields, but Khalil Herbert was efficient when he played. After battling injury this season, missing five games, Herbert finished on a strong note, with a pair of 100-yard rushing performances in his last three games. That should give him some momentum to build off heading into a contract year in 2024.

Alexander Mattison
Minnesota Vikings · Year 5

2023 stats: 16 games | 180 att | 700 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 0 rush TDs | 30 rec | 192 rec yds | 3 rec TD | 2 fumbles lost

Minnesota handed the backfield keys to Alexander Mattison last offseason after parting ways with Dalvin Cook. That move didn’t pan out, though, as Mattison rarely provided a spark. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an RB1 play in 16 games (and start 13) without recording at least one rush touchdown. Several factors hindered Minnesota’s offense in 2023, and the rushing attack was definitely one of them. 

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