Derrick Henry is probably the best running back in the NFL when healthy.
Last season was the first ever that Henry had injury issues in his six seasons so far in the league as he played less than half the regular season games.
He won’t be as dangerous in a PPR format as he has a career high of just 19 catches in a season, but he could very well lead the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns again like in 2019 and 2020.
Jonathan Taylor (IND)
Taylor is probably the most complete and talented running back in the league.
He has the ideal size, speed, athleticism, and catching ability that make him an every down back and true workhorse for the Colts.
Taylor led the NFL in total rush attempts, yards, and touchdowns last year, and he also caught the ball effectively out of the backfield with 40 catches for 360 yards.
Another big year is in store for him in 2022.
Christian McCaffrey (CAR)
Injuries have plagued McCaffrey’s career so far but he will look to stay healthy this upcoming season.
Even though the Panthers haven’t been very good recently, they still feature their running back just about every week.
In his last healthy season in 2019, he totalled close to 2,400 yards from scrimmage with 116 catches and 19 touchdowns.
That is one of the best seasons ever for a running back, especially in a PPR league.
Austin Ekeler (LAC)
Ekeler went from a third down change of pace and receiving back to a full-time starter and workhorse the past couple of seasons.
He won’t get a ton of carries compared to some of the other top running backs in the league but he more than makes up for it with his pass-catching ability and knack for finding the end zone.
20 touchdowns last year was tied for the most with Jonathan Taylor.
Dalvin Cook (MIN)
Cook is a bit of a wildcard because he has never played more than 14 games in his five-year NFL career so far.
You can almost guarantee that he will miss at least a few games every year and possibly be banged up for some games as well.
When he is healthy he is one of the best backs in the league. Last year he struggled to find the end zone compared to other years which is a bit concerning for 2022 though.
James Conner (ARI)
James Conner has had a career resurgence in Arizona in his first season with the team.
After somewhat fizzling out in Pittsburgh, Conner had a career-high 18 total touchdowns with 15 of them coming on the ground in 2021.
He also now won’t have to share as many carries with Chase Edmonds as he is in Miami.
Another big year could be in store for Conner as the Cardinals will likely feature him heavily this year.
D’Andre Swift (DET)
Year three is expected to be a breakout season for Swift.
After working in a split situation for the Lions his first two years, it is anticipated that Swift will be the workhorse.
Swift is dynamic as both a runner and pass catcher. He has break away speed and can turn most situations into positive plays.
The only thing that could hold him back is Detroit losing in a lot of games to where he doesn’t play as many snaps or get as many carries.
Nick Chubb (CLE)
The Browns have had Chubb as their main running back along with Kareem Hunt for a few years now.
Chubb will see more carries than Hunt but when healthy Hunt will get his fair share of work as well, which cuts into Chubb’s production a little bit.
In 2020, Hunt had 198 carries compared to 190 from Chubb, who only played in 12 of 16 games.
There have been rumors of Hunt being traded which is something to look out for.
Joe Mixon (CIN)
Mixon finally broke out last season as one of the best running backs in the league.
He was a big reason why Cincinnati was able to get to the Super Bowl last year.
Mixon had career highs almost around the board with over 1,200 yards rushing, 314 yards receiving, and 16 total touchdowns.
He is a do it all kind of running back who will have solid production again this season for the Bengals.
Najee Harris (PIT)
Harris was featured heavily in rookie season with the Steelers. They handed him the ball off the second most times in the entire NFL behind just Jonathan Taylor.
Harris wasn’t able to do much with those touches though as he had one of the worst yards per carry out of any of the top 10 ball carriers last season.
He made up for it though as he had the most catches from a running back in the league last year.
Aaron Jones (GB)
Aaron Jones is another one of those star running backs who shares a workload with the other top back on the team, AJ Dillon.
Dillon is the younger running back of the future for Green Bay, but Jones still will hold on to the main role for at least this upcoming 2022 NFL season.
It is still highly anticipated that Jones is still the lead back for this team.
Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)
A slow decline in production has been happening for Elliott over the past few seasons.
This is due to the emergence of his backup, Tony Pollard, and Elliott not being able to sustain a full workload.
It will be interesting to see how the split in touches goes between Elliott and Pollard this season. Elliott may still have something left in the tank for this year, but it is unknown how productive he will be.
Javonte Williams (DEN)
Last year Williams was one of the best rookie running backs in the NFL.
This year he is expected to take on more of the carry share from the running back position in Denver. It could be a breakout year for Williams if he can stay healthy.
He is one of the running backs with the highest upside heading into the season as he can do it all and is in line for a ton of work.
Leonard Fournette (TB)
It seems like Leonard Fournette has been around forever, but he is still just 27-years-old.
The Buccaneers just gave him a three-year contract as well to be their three-down running back.
He has turned into a more diverse running back as well over the past couple of seasons and Tampa Bay has gotten rid of his main competition for touches at running back, Ronald Jones.
It could be a big year for Fournette.
Alvin Kamara (NO)
It is being reported that Kamara likely won’t serve his six-game suspension to start the year or at all in the 2022 season.
This is great news for Kamara who struggled a bit running the ball last year as teams were keying on him as the only offensive weapon in New Orleans.
This year should be different with better quarterback play and better wide receivers to take eyes off of him a bit.
Cam Akers (LAR)
Cam Akers has had serious injury issues so far in his young career.
When healthy he has been a solid producer, but we have yet to see him in a true three-down position yet.
It remains to be seen if Los Angeles will continue to not overwork him due to his injury history. If he is a full go next year he should be one of the top running backs in the league in 2022.
David Montgomery (CHI)
Montgomery has a lot of talent and gets a ton of carries but the thing that is holding him back has been a bad offensive line and no other weapons around him.
Next year might be more of the same for the Bears and Montgomery.
That is not all bad for him as he will still produce based on the sheer number of carries and targets he will get in this offense with the Bears.
Breece Hall (NYJ)
Hall was the first running back drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft.
While the Jets struggled last year, they actually got good production out of their running backs last season and utilized them a lot in the passing game as well.
Hall averaged three catches per game in college. Jets running backs combined for almost 800 receiving yards and Hall should expect to get a ton of work carrying and catching the ball in 2022.
JK Dobbins (BAL)
Dobbins is a young running back who has had some serious injury issues in the NFL already.
Heading into the season it is unknown if he will be available for the first few weeks. If he is out there and is fully ready to go, he could be in for a massive year in Baltimore.
The Ravens love to run the ball and can use Lamar Jackson as a way to take some eyes off of Dobbins on run plays.
Kenneth Walker III (SEA)
The Seattle backfield is one of the most unknown positions in the NFL this offseason.
Walker is the highly drafted rookie, but they also have Rashaad Penny who broke out in a big way at the end of last season, and DeeJay Dallas who has been impressive in the preseason.
Penny may have the edge on the starting job right now but all three of these running backs should be in line for carries in week one.
Saquon Barkley (NYG)
Barkley came back from a serious injury last year and struggled pretty much the whole season.
It is rumored that he could be almost fully back this year to at least close to what he used to be when he was arguably the best running back in the league.
The stock on Barkely has been going up recently but it would be risky to put too much stock into him as it is unknown how consistent he will be.
Antonio Gibson (WAS)
There are questions about the Commanders’ commitment to Gibson as their starting running back.
He has been really good in his two years in the NFL so far with 10 total touchdowns in each season as well as catching 36 and 42 balls.
After a 1,000 yard-rushing season Gibson could be in more of a timeshare situation as Washngton has liked to spread the wealth at the running back spot and just drafted Brian Robinson Jr. in the third round.
Tony Pollard (DAL)
Pollard could take Ezekiel Elliott’s spot as the rushing leader for the Cowboys in the 2022 NFL season that Elliott has held every year since the 2016 season.
Last year Pollard averaged over a yard more per carry than Elliott did and also had more receiving yards.
Pollard is arguably the more talented running back at this point and if Dallas struggles a little bit, Pollard may get his chance to be the lead back.
Kareem Hunt (CLE)
There is speculation that the Browns will trade Hunt before the season starts.
This could potentially open up Hunt for a lead running back spot on another team.
If that happens, Hunt could be in for his biggest season in a while. Still, on the Browns, Hunt has been productive pretty much every year.
Hunt will probably see a similar season to the one he had last year if he remains in Cleveland though.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC)
We hopefully haven’t seen the totality of what Clyde Edwards-Helaire can do in the NFL.
In his first two years he has never gotten more than 181 carries, which is mostly due to only playing 23 total games over those two years.
When he is out there he is one of the best pass-catching running backs and also has a career 4.4 yard per carry average, which is solid for any running back.
Elijah Mitchell (SF)
His rookie season last year he nearly got 1,000 yards rushing in just 11 games played.
It might seem that San Francisco would be willing to try him as the lead back for the full season now, but he mostly got that chance due to injury.
Five other players on the 49ers got at least 38 carries last year. That includes wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who got 59 carries and had a 6.2 yard per carry average.
Cordarrelle Patterson (ATL)
Patterson is a wide receiver who turned running back in 2020 when he got 64 carries.
Then in 2021, he got 153 carries as he began starting as the running back in week five for Atlanta.
He can be extremely dangerous as a playmaker in this offense next season.
While he likely won’t get that many touches compared to other star running backs, he is utilized a lot out in space and makes big plays.
Devin Singletary (BUF)
The Bills’ running back committee has been a mess for years now.
This year, it probably won’t be any more clear as to who is going to get the majority of the touches in Buffalo.
Singletary will likely be the starting running back to begin the year, but it wouldn’t be surprising if their rookie James Cook takes that role by the end of the year.
In week one we may see Singletary, Cook, Zack Moss, and Duke Johnson all get more than a few touches.
Josh Jacobs (LV)
Jacobs is in line to be the lead back for the Raiders yet again.
He has been the leading rusher for the Raiders since 2019.
Jacobs hasn’t been the most productive running back as he sees an average amount of carries and yards per carry every year.
This year the Raiders expect to have a better offensive line, which could really help Jacobs improve that yard per carry average and overall production in 2022.
Travis Etienne Jr. (JAC)
Etienne was the second running back selected in the 2021 NFL Draft right behind Najee Harris.
However, Etienne never saw the field as he suffered a season-ending injury before the year even started.
He could be the lead running back and pretty good for the Jaguars this upcoming season.
That makes Etienne one of the most underrated running backs heading into the year. Look for him to surprise a lot of people across the league.