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Top 10 running backs entering the 2023 NFL season

"The Top 100 Players of 2023" -- voted on by the players themselves -- is underway on NFL+! The series concludes with a two-hour live show -- "The Top 100 Players of 2023: The Top 10" -- on Monday, Aug. 7, on NFL+.

Five running backs are among the players ranked between Nos. 40-21. With that in mind, NFL Network analyst and former NFL quarterback David Carr provides his own ranking of the top 10 running backs heading into the 2023 NFL season.

Breece Hall
New York Jets

Hall exploded onto the scene as a rookie, helping the Jets to a 5-2 start as he averaged 5.8 yards per carry, highest among running backs (min. 80 carries), before his season was cut short by a torn ACL. In just seven games, he displayed elite explosiveness and the skill set to become a star in this league. It felt like he was on his way to claiming the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, which his teammate Garrett Wilson ultimately won. Now, he's focused on getting the knee "as strong as possible" -- and despite being placed on the active/PUP list last week, he plans to be ready to go for the Jets in Week 1. If that knee is healthy, Hall should enjoy a big sophomore season on a talented Jets team.

Travis Etienne
Jacksonville Jaguars

Etienne strung together an impressive sophomore campaign -- amassing 1,441 scrimmage yards, including 1,125 on the ground -- after missing his entire rookie season with a foot injury. One of the league's most explosive runners in 2022, he excelled in Doug Pederson's offense, prompting a midseason trade of onetime starter James Robinson. Etienne had five games with at least 100 rushing yards, finishing the season with a robust average of 5.1 yards per tote. Etienne has the versatile skill set to build off that breakout campaign if he focuses more consistently on the details. It's just like Jags running back coach Bernie Parmalee said earlier this week: "You have to understand the combination blocks of the linemen, who's working with whom to block whom, and you have to anticipate where the play may hit. You can hit the home run if you get it, but you want to be consistent."

Jonathan Taylor
Indianapolis Colts

After winning the rushing triple crown in 2021, Taylor's production dropped off in 2022 as he missed six games in a tumultuous season for the Colts. Currently on the PUP list after having ankle surgery in January, Taylor possesses a powerful, dynamic running style and home-run ability that can change games. He's eligible for a new contract, and the fact that he has accounted for 26.8 percent of the Colts' scrimmage yards since 2021 (highest among RBs and second-highest in the NFL behind only Minnesota WR Justin Jefferson) should help his case in a brutal RB market. 

Austin Ekeler
Los Angeles Chargers

After seeking a trade this offseason, Ekeler is back in Los Angeles with a revised contract. It's a tough time for running backs right now, and I'd be upset if I were in this guy's shoes, being clearly underpaid despite having led the league in scrimmage touchdowns in back-to-back seasons. (He followed his 20-TD 2021 campaign with another 18 scores in 2022.) As solid as he is running the football, averaging 4.6 yards per carry for his career, Ekeler really earns his keep in the passing game as an elusive playmaker out of the backfield. This year should be no different.

Alvin Kamara
New Orleans Saints

We're still waiting for more clarity on Kamara's availability this season in regard to his off-field issues, but I'm here to discuss what he can do on the field. The explosive, tackle-breaking playmaker is clearly a vital part of New Orleans' offense, with the Saints going 3-7 in games without him since he was drafted in 2017 (including 0-4 in 2021 and 0-2 in '22). I've talked to my brother -- new Saints quarterback Derek Carr -- a lot this offseason about this new chapter, and he's told me numerous times that Kamara is uncoverable one-on-one out of the backfield. Kamara's rare agility and athleticism make him so dynamic with the ball in his hands that it's not at all surprising that he's had 1,300-plus scrimmage yards in each of his six seasons, the longest streak of any active player. 

Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns

A perfect fit in a zone run scheme, Chubb is coming off his best season to date. In 2022, he had 302 carries (third in the NFL) for 1,525 yards (third) and 12 touchdowns (tied for fifth). He's a one-cut runner who constantly finds ways to get positive gains even if the play is dead in the water. In fact, Chubb is the only player in NFL history to average at least 5.0 yards per carry in each of his first five seasons. From a play-calling standpoint, Kevin Stefanski has to love that his RB1 maximizes each play. 

Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans

Henry has the build of an edge rusher with the speed of a running back. He's the perfect throwback back who wears down defenses by running through them. The two-time rushing champion has ranked in the top two in ground yards per game in each of the last four seasons: 96.1 in 2022 (second), 117.1 in 2021 (first), 126.7 in 2020 (first) and 102.7 in 2019 (first). King Henry turns the dreaded age for a running back (30) in January, but until his production dramatically drops off, I don't care how old he is. He's still one of the very best at his position.

Josh Jacobs
Las Vegas Raiders

Jacobs is one of the hardest backs to tackle in the NFL, recording a league-high 97 forced missed tackles on runs last season, per PFF. He rarely wows you with power, speed or catching ability, but does everything quite well, making him a complete player at the position. Coming off a career-best campaign, Jacobs is awaiting a new contract and won't return to Las Vegas until he and the team see eye-to-eye on the numbers. The Raiders need his talent if they want to improve on last year's results, and his teammates know it

Saquon Barkley
New York Giants

All Giants fans can now exhale after the team and Barkley agreed to terms earlier this week on a one-year contract worth up to $11 million. Coming off one of his best campaigns -- Saquon was one of just three RBs to rack up at least 1,300 rush yards and 300 receiving yards last season -- Barkley possesses a rare combination of power and speed. He regularly runs through defenders at the first and second levels with impressive strength, but also has that home-run ability as a true burner. The two-time Pro Bowler can catch balls out of the backfield, but isn't quite the route runner of the back who holds the top spot on this list. That was the slim margin for me between these two elite running backs. 

Christian McCaffrey
San Francisco 49ers

McCaffrey is a triple-threat running back with a combination of dynamic rushing inside the tackles, exceptional route-running skills and impeccable pass-catching ability. There are other backs on this list who have one or two of those attributes, but very few boast all three. In addition to finishing eighth in rushing yards in 2022 with 1,139, McCaffrey ranked in the top three among running backs in receptions (85, second), receiving yards (741) and scrimmage TDs (13, tied for third). McCaffrey's versatility helped the Niners win 10 straight games to close out the regular season following his midseason arrival via trade, with the star back recording 1,000-plus scrimmage yards and 10-plus scrimmage TDs in Weeks 8-18, the only player in the league to hit such marks in that span. On some teams, McCaffrey could be the starting running back and slot receiver. He's that good in both areas.

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