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- iHaveNet.com: NFL Football
Last season was the most prolific rushing season in NFL history, as teams combined for 65,894 rushing yards and averaged 4.46 yards per rushing attempt, both the highest single-season marks in NFL history.
Running backs play a critical role in NFL offenses, and the position continues to evolve with the increasing emphasis on passing and versatility. Each running back brings a unique skill set to their team and contributes to its offensive strategy.
Running backs are responsible for carrying the ball, gaining yards, and scoring touchdowns on the ground. They are versatile players who can also catch passes and block for the quarterback. NFL running backs come in various styles, from power runners to elusive speedsters. Here are some key aspects of NFL running backs:
The primary role of an NFL running back is to carry the football and advance it down the field. They must read blocking schemes, follow their offensive line, and find running lanes to gain yards.
Many running backs are valuable receivers out of the backfield. They run pass routes, catch short and intermediate passes, and can be effective in screen plays and check-downs.
Running backs are also tasked with pass protection, helping to block blitzing defenders and protect the quarterback from sacks or hits.
Power backs are known for their strength and ability to break tackles. They excel in short-yardage situations and are often used in goal-line carries.
Speed backs rely on their agility and breakaway speed to outrun defenders. They are often used for big-play potential and are effective in the open field.
Dual-threat running backs excel both as runners and receivers. They are versatile and can be used in various offensive schemes.
Third-down backs are specialized in pass-catching and pass protection. They are valuable in passing situations and on screen plays.
Critical NFL Running Backs
Tennessee's DERRICK HENRY has been one of the most relied upon running backs in the NFL over the past seven seasons, leading all active players in rushing yards (8,335) and rushing touchdowns (78) since entering the league in 2016. Last season, he registered his third career season with at least 1,500 rushing yards (1,538) and became the fifth player in NFL history with at least 10 rushing touchdowns in five consecutive seasons, joining LaDainian Tomlinson (nine consecutive seasons from 2001-09), Adrian Peterson (seven from 2007-13), Shaun Alexander (five from 2001-05) and Michael Turner (five from 2008-12).
In 2023, Henry needs at least 1,500 rushing yards to become the fifth player in NFL history to reach the mark in at least four career seasons, joining Barry Sanders (five seasons), Eric Dickerson (four), Edgerrin James (four) and Walter Payton (four).
Among Henry's other notable accomplishments across his first seven NFL seasons with Tennessee:
Has six career games with at least 200 rushing yards, tied with Adrian Peterson (six) and O.J. Simpson (six) for the most such games in NFL history.
Has six career games with at least 200 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, the most such games alltime. The next closest players – Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and LaDainian Tomlinson – each had three such career games.
Had 77 rushing touchdowns in his first 100 career games, the sixth-most rushing touchdowns by a player in his first 100 career games in the Super Bowl era.
Since entering the NFL in 2018, Cleveland's NICK CHUBB has ranked in the top-three in the league in rushing yards three times and eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards four times, including a career-high 1,525 rushing yards last season. He has recorded 29 games with at least 100 rushing yards over the past five seasons, second-most in the NFL. Chubb tied his career high with 12 rushing touchdowns last season and became the fifth player ever to record at least eight rushing touchdowns in each of his first five seasons, joining Jim Brown, Adrian Peterson, Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson.
This season, Chubb can become the fifth player in NFL history with at least 1,100 scrimmage yards and eight scrimmage touchdowns in each of his first six career seasons, joining Ezekiel Elliott, Adrian Peterson, Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson.
Last Season's Leaders
The NFL's leading rusher in 2022, Las Vegas' JOSH JACOBS recorded 2,053 scrimmage yards (1,653 rushing, 400 receiving), joining Marcus Allen (2,314 in 1985) as the only players in Raiders franchise history with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards in a season. In 2023, Jacobs can become the sixth player since 2000 to reach 2,000 scrimmage yards in consecutive seasons.
Needs seven rushing touchdowns to become the seventh player ever with at least seven rushing touchdowns in each of his first five seasons, joining Jim Brown, Nick Chubb, Walter Payton, Adrian Peterson, Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson.
Needs 1,200 scrimmage yards and seven scrimmage touchdowns to become the fifth player ever to reach those marks in each of his first five seasons, joining Ezekiel Elliott, Randy Moss, LaDainian Tomlinson and Ricky Watters.
Needs six games with at least two rushing touchdowns to tie Emmitt Smith (17) for the most such games by a player in his first five season in NFL history.
SAQUON BARKLEY ranked fourth in the NFL with a career-high 1,312 rushing yards in 2022 and had 10 games with a rushing touchdown, tied for the most in the league. He has 16 career games with at least 100 rushing yards, the fifth-most such games among all players since he entered the league in 2018. Among players who have appeared in at least 50 games over the past five seasons, Barkley is one of five to average at least 100 scrimmage yards per game (101.2).
Over the past six seasons, the running back class that entered the league in 2017 have been key contributors to teams looking to generate offense.
Among the running backs entering their seventh season are Los Angeles Chargers' AUSTIN EKELER, New Orleans' ALVIN KAMARA and San Francisco's CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY. This trio leads all running backs in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns since 2017.
Last season, CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY ranked third in the NFL with 1,880 scrimmage yards (1,139 rushing, 741 receiving), ranked second among running backs with 85 receptions and ranked tied for fourth among all players with 13 scrimmage touchdowns (eight rushing, five receiving). He has 8,482 scrimmage yards in 75 career games and his career average of 113.1 scrimmage yards per game is the fourth highest in NFL history among players who have appeared in at least 75 games.
Additional records and milestones from McCaffrey's first six NFL seasons with Carolina and San Francisco:
Has 442 receptions and surpassed Roger Craig (434) for the most receptions by a running back in his first six seasons in NFL history.
Is one of three running backs in NFL history with four career seasons of at least 80 receptions, along with Marshall Faulk and Alvin Kamara.
In Week 8 of the 2022 season, became the fourth player with a touchdown pass, rushing touchdown and touchdown reception in a single game since 1970, joining David Patten (October 21, 2001), Walter Payton (October 21, 1979) and LaDainian Tomlinson (October 16, 2005). This season, McCaffrey can continue to etch his name in the record books with:
42 receptions to surpass Roger Craig (483 receptions) for the most by a running back in his first seven career seasons in NFL history.
At least 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards to become the fourth running back in NFL history with at least four such career seasons, joining Marshall Faulk (five), Tiki Barber (four) and Thurman Thomas (four).
Two games with both a rushing and receiving touchdown to surpass Lenny Moore (12) and Brian Westbrook (12) for the second-most such games in NFL history, trailing only Marshall Faulk (15).
In 2022, AUSTIN EKELER led the NFL with 18 scrimmage touchdowns (13 rushing, five receiving) and joined Todd Gurley (2017-18) as the only players since 2006 to lead the league in scrimmage touchdowns in consecutive seasons.
Additional notable accomplishments by Ekeler over his first six NFL seasons:
Joined Priest Holmes (2002-03) as the only undrafted players with at least 1,500 scrimmage yards and 15 touchdowns in consecutive seasons in the common-draft era.
Became the fourth undrafted player in the common-draft era to have at least 10 touchdowns in three-or-more different seasons, joining Arian Foster (four seasons), Antonio Gates (four) and Priest Holmes (four).
Led all running backs with a career-high 107 receptions in 2022, tied for the second-most receptions by a running back in a season in NFL history, trailing only McCaffrey (116 receptions in 2019).
In 2023, Ekeler can join Arian Foster as the only undrafted players in the common-draft era to record at least 1,500 scrimmage yards in four career seasons. He also needs one touchdown reception to become the sixth running back in the Super Bowl era with 30 career touchdown receptions, joining Marshall Faulk (36 touchdown receptions), Darren Sproles (32), Keith Byars (31), James Brooks (30) and Brian Westbrook (30).
Last season, ALVIN KAMARA totaled 57 receptions, 1,387 scrimmage yards (897 rushing, 490 receiving) and four touchdowns (two rushing, two receiving) and became the fourth player since 2000 with at least 1,300 scrimmage yards in each of his first six seasons, joining Matt Forte, Chris Johnson and LaDainian Tomlinson. He has 430 career receptions and is one of three running backs with at least 400 receptions in his first six NFL seasons, along with McCaffrey (442) and Roger Craig (434).
This season, Kamara needs...
1,300 scrimmage yards to become the sixth player ever to reach the mark in each of his first seven seasons, joining Eric Dickerson, Matt Forte, Curtis Martin, Barry Sanders and LaDainian Tomlinson.
50 receptions to become the fourth running back ever to record at least 50 receptions in six-or-more of his first seven seasons, joining LaDainian Tomlinson (seven seasons), Marshall Faulk (six) and Matt Forte (six).
Other notable running backs who began their NFL career in 2017:
DALVIN COOK, who joins the New York Jets tis season, is one of two players to record at least 1,300 scrimmage yards in each of the past four seasons. With at least 1,300 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns, Cook will become the sixth running back since 2000 to reach those marks at least five consecutive seasons.
Arizona's JAMES CONNER is one of five running backs with at least six scrimmage touchdowns in each of past five seasons. He ranks tied for third among all players with 11 games of at least two rushing touchdowns since entering the league in 2017.
Chicago's D'ONTA FOREMAN, a new addition to Chicago's roster, had career highs in rushing yards (914) and rushing touchdowns (five) last season with Carolina. He had five games with at least 100 rushing yards in 2022, tied for the most among NFC running backs. Green Bay's AARON JONES ranks sixth in rushing yards (5,284) since entering the league in 2017. He is also the only player with at least 30 rushing touchdowns (31) and 15 receiving touchdowns (16) over the past four seasons.
Cincinnati's JOE MIXON is one of three running backs with at least 1,200 scrimmage yards and eight scrimmage touchdowns in four of the past five seasons. Last season in Week 9, he became the third player in the Super Bowl era with at least four rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown in a single game, joining Shaun Alexander (September 29, 2002) and Jonathan Taylor (November 21, 2021).
New Orleans' JAMAAL WILLIAMS, who joined New Orleans this offseason, led the NFL with a career-high and Detroit franchiserecord 17 rushing touchdowns last season and became the first Lions player to lead the league in rushing touchdowns since Barry Sanders in 1991.
Running Backs Heading East
This offseason, three of the top six active running backs in scrimmage yards signed with teams in the Eastern time zone:
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, who signed with New England, leads all active running backs in scrimmage yards (10,598) and ranks second with 8,262 rushing yards and 68 rushing touchdowns. In 2023, he can join Jim Brown and LaDainian Tomlinson as the only players in NFL history with at least eight scrimmage touchdowns in each of their first eight career seasons.
DALVIN COOK, who signed with the New York Jets, ranks sixth among active running backs with 7,787 scrimmage yards and is the only player with at least 1,100 rushing yards in each of the past four seasons.
LATAVIUS MURRAY, who joined Buffalo, ranks seventh among active running backs in scrimmage yards (7,753) and is the only player with at least 500 rushing yards in each of the past eight seasons.
Class of 2021 Running Backs
Among the running backs selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, three have established themselves as versatile pieces of their team's offensive attacks:
Pittsburgh's NAJEE HARRIS had 1,263 scrimmage yards (1,034 rushing, 229 receiving) and 10 scrimmage touchdowns (seven rushing, three receiving) in 2022 and is one of two running backs with at least 1,200 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, along with Austin Ekeler. This season, he can become the fourth player since 2000 with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 10 scrimmage touchdowns in each of his first three career seasons, joining Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson and LaDainian Tomlinson.
After missing his rookie season due to injury, Jacksonville's TRAVIS ETIENNE had 1,441 scrimmage yards (1,125 rushing, 316 receiving) and five rushing touchdowns last season and became fourth Jaguars running back ever with at least 1,100 rushing yards in a season, joining Leonard Fournette, Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor.
New England's RHAMONDRE STEVENSON had a career-high 1,461 scrimmage yards (1,040 rushing, 421 receiving) and six touchdowns (five rushing, one receiving) in 2022 and became the fifth Patriot in the Super Bowl era with at least five rushing touchdowns in each of his first two seasons. He ranked fourth among running backs with a career-high 69 receptions last season, the fourth-most ever by a New England running back in a single season.
First to 1,000 Running Backs
Last season, seven of the 15 running backs to reach 1,000 rushing yards did so for the first time in their careers, including Travis Etienne, Rhamondre Stevenson and Jamaal Williams:
MILES SANDERS, who signed with Carolina this offseason, had career highs in rushing yards (1,269) and rushing touchdowns (11) in 2022 with Philadelphia.
Dallas' TONY POLLARD set career highs with 1,378 scrimmage yards (1,007 rushing, 371 receiving) and 12 scrimmage touchdowns (nine rushing, three receiving). He was one of three running backs (Austin Ekeler and Jamaal Williams) with at least four games (four) with two-or-more scrimmage touchdowns.
Seattle's KENNETH WALKER III led all rookies with 1,215 scrimmage yards, 1,050 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. With at least 1,000 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns this season, he will become the third player since 2010 to complete those marks in each of his first two seasons, joining Eddie Lacy (2013-14) and Jonathan Taylor (2020-21).
TYLER ALLGEIER had an Atlanta franchise rookie-record 1,035 rushing yards, the second-most among rookies in 2022.
Early Impact Running Backs
For six consecutive seasons, at least three rookie running backs have recorded 1,000-or-more scrimmage yards. In addition to Kenneth Walker and Tyler Allgeier, three additional running backs made instant impacts during their rookie campaigns last season:
Houston's DAMEON PIERCE ranked fourth among rookies with 1,104 scrimmage yards (939 rushing, 165 receiving) and had five scrimmage touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving). He recorded nine games with at least 75 scrimmage yards last season, the most among all rookies.
The New York Jets' BREECE HALL recorded 681 scrimmage yards (463 rushing, 218 receiving) and five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) in seven games during his rookie season. In Week 5, he recorded 197 scrimmage yards (100 receiving, 97 rushing) and became the first rookie since 2007 (Pierre Thomas) with at least 100 receiving yards and 95 rushing yards in the same game.
Kansas City's ISIAH PACHECO ranked fourth among rookie running backs with 830 rushing yards and second with five rushing touchdowns, both the third-most ever by a Kansas City rookie. He also became the fourth rookie with at least 75 rushing yards (76) and a rushing touchdown in the Super Bowl.
Two teams used a first-round selection on a running back in the 2023 NFL Draft: Atlanta selected BIJAN ROBINSON with the No. 8 overall selection and Detroit chose JAHMYR GIBBS with the No. 12 pick. It marked the first Draft since 2017 [Leonard Fournette (No. 4 overall) and Christian McCaffrey (No. 8)] in which two running backs were chosen among the top 12 selections.
NFL 2023 - NFL Teams Leading With The Run this Season