Photo: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Running back is one of the most important roles on an NFL team. There are three key aspects to the position, and they are catching passes from out of the backfield, receiving handoffs from the quarterback, and blocking. In terms of physical characteristics, a running back can be small, agile, and fast or big and strong, with both having their benefits on the field. With that in mind, let us look at who will be the leading running back in the NFL next season.
Having burst onto the scene for the Indianapolis Colts in 2020, Jonathan Taylor started all 17 of their games last season. Taylor accumulated a total of 2,171 yards during the season, which is the fourth most by any running back over the past decade. In the NFL last season, Taylor led the way in rushing yards, attempts, and rushing touchdowns (18), the latter of which was 3 clear of James Connor and Damien Harris, who tied for second. At 23 years of age, the 2022 season is going to be huge for Taylor, who plays the game with the perfect blend of speed and power. Taylor is an explosive player and is the top tip to be the number one running back next season.
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For those who love to watch an elusive runner, Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns is your man. Since he was drafted in 2018, there has not been a better natural runner with the ball in the NFL. From 2019 onwards Chubb has reached the 1,000-yard mark, including a total of 1,259 yards and 8 touchdowns on the ground last season. It is worth noting Chubb has missed several games over the past two seasons but when fit, he will be the focal point for Cleveland Browns next season, especially when Jacoby Brissett is playing quarterback. The Browns have plenty of depth in the running back position, but Chubb is the pick of the group and is definitely one to watch in 2022.
The Tennessee Titans have asked a lot of Derrick Henry over the years and the workload proved too much last season. Henry missed the second half of the regular season for the Titans having suffered a broken foot. Henry returned for the Divisional Round defeat at the hands of Cincinnati Bengals and that means he will be back and eager to go for the 2022 NFL season. Having played 8 games in 2021, Henry had amassed 237 touches and but for injury, could easily have totalled more than 470 touches last season. Due to the absence of A.J. Brown, Henry is likely to be the focal point of the Titans offense next season, making him a contender to finish as the leading running back.
There is no doubting the ability of Dalvin Cook and he has been exceptional when fit. Throughout his career, Cook has averaged 4.5 yards per carry but has always struggled with injury. In fact, Cook has yet to complete a season and that is something Minnesota Vikings hope will change in 2022. Despite only scoring 6 times last season, Cook totalled more than 1,000 yards having missed three games due to injury. Cook is expected to play a more varied role in the Vikings offense this season and it will be interesting to see how he performs under new head coach Kevin O’Connell.
Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers, Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints are three additional running backs who could compete to be number one in that position next season in the NFL. However, the favorite to finish the season as the #1 running back must be Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts.