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Top 10 Running Backs Ahead of 2023 NFL Season: McCaffrey Shining in The Bay

Contract Disputes Thrust RBs Into Spotlight

Running backs have been a hot topic across the NFL. Some of the league’s best tailbacks continue to get into difficult contract disputes. Saquon Barkley was one of the RBs in a holdout during the offseason before inking a one-year, $11 million deal on July 25.

Top 10 Running Backs Ahead of 2023 NFL Season: McCaffrey Shining in The Bay
JANUARY 22: Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers - Henderson/Getty Images/afp

“I could say f*ck you to the #Giants, I could say, f*ck you to my teammates and be like, you want me to show you my worth? You want me to show you how valuable I am to the team?? I won’t show… pic.twitter.com/GNNK6Df37v

— MLFootball (@_MLFootball) July 19, 2023

Most NFL news would suggest running backs have little value in modern-day football. That’s a discussion for another time. But don’t be fooled; the league’s top running backs remain capable of wrecking a game plan by themselves. Having one of the NFL’s top running backs is still a major advantage for offenses.

Who are the top running backs ahead of the 2023 season? These star players will likely impact NFL betting throughout the upcoming season.

1. Christian McCaffrey, 49ers

After earning First-Team All-Pro honors in 2019, Christian McCaffrey could not stay healthy in 2020 and 2021. He played in only 10 games over the two seasons combined. With the richest contract among running backs, the Carolina Panthers looked to move McCaffrey last season, sending him to the San Francisco 49ers.

McCaffrey fit flawlessly in the 49ers’ system and stayed healthy, enjoying another Pro Bowl season with 1,880 scrimmage yards. Due to his use as a receiver and being a part of a split backfield, the sportsbook has McCaffrey at +2000 to lead in the NFL in rushing in the 2023 season.

2. Nick Chubb, Browns

While Nick Chubb did not claim the top spot on our list, we admit he is the top pure runner in the league. McCaffrey’s versatility puts him a step ahead of Chubb. However, when it comes to running between the tackles as a workhorse, Chubb is probably the best in the league (we will get to his competition soon). He could be in store for a monster year after the Cleveland Browns elected to not re-sign Kareem Hunt. Chubb is tied for the shortest odds to lead the league in rushing yards (+550).

3. Derrick Henry, Titans

As you probably guessed, if Chubb is not the best pure runner in football, it’s Derrick Henry. His durability continues to defy logic. Most of the league’s top running backs have seen their health deteriorate. For example, Todd Gurley’s career was cut short by knee arthritis. McCaffrey and Barkley have been up and down with various injuries. Henry missed nine games with a foot injury in 2021. Outside of that, Henry has stayed on the field with a massive workload. That’s pretty good considering his counterparts’ injuries. Alongside Chubb, NFL lines have Henry priced at +550 to lead in rushing yards.

4. Josh Jacobs, Raiders

Josh Jacobs was a formidable running back in his first three seasons, recording at least 1,200 scrimmage yards each year. His career took off with a league-best 2,053 scrimmage yards in 2022. These were not easy yards either, as Jacobs led the NFL with 821 yards after contact. After dominating with a mediocre offensive line, Jacobs decided to hold out for a long-term contract. The Las Vegas Raiders franchise tagged him and failed to agree on an extension. Jacobs is landing in trade rumors amid his holdout.

5. Austin Ekeler, Chargers

Austin Ekeler is another running back that voiced his displeasure with his contract. Get ready to hear that a lot. That’s a theme on this list. Ekeler requested a trade in March, but he rescinded that in May, earning $2 million worth of incentives on his contract. He has been one of the league’s most dynamic backs, recording 1,500 all-purpose yards in back-to-back seasons. Following McCaffrey, Ekeler is the next-best receiving running back in the NFL.

6. Jonathan Taylor, Colts

It’s been difficult to miss the drama surrounding Jonathan Taylor and the Indianapolis Colts this week. After witnessing numerous contract disputes, Taylor decided to join the fun by asking for a long-term extension. After failing to agree to an extension, Taylor requested a trade. Several reports have claimed Taylor is asking for far too much money, which will likely prolong the process.

As of now, we have no idea where Taylor will play in 2023. He enjoyed a breakout season in 2021 with a league-best 1,811 rushing yards and 2,171 all-purpose yards. Taylor was up and down last season and also dealt with injuries.

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7. Saquon Barkley, Giants

As mentioned, Barkley was holding out for an extension. The New York Giants and Barkley did not agree on a long-term extension, but they did agree on a one-year deal that would offer more incentives compared to the franchise tag. The holdout is over, and New York will have one of the best running backs in the league once again. After tearing his ACL in 2020 and dealing with an ankle injury in 2021, Barkley was back to full strength last season. He was the elusive running back with an all-around skillset that most fans have grown to love.

8. Aaron Jones, Packers

Since 2019, Aaron Jones has totaled at least 1,100 all-purpose yards in four consecutive seasons. He also led the league in rushing touchdowns with 19 in 2019. Despite splitting a backfield with AJ Dillon last season, Jones still finished with 1,516 rushing yards. He has built a reputation for breaking tackles. That continued in 2022, as he ranked seventh in yards after contact per carry. According to Vegas NFL odds, Jones is +2500 to lead the league in rushing – likely due to the split backfield.

9. Tony Pollard, Cowboys

Heading into the 2022 season, Tony Pollard was emerging as the Dallas Cowboys’ top running back. He demonstrated that with a career-high 1,007 rushing yards and 1,378 all-purpose yards. Pollard also led the NFL in yards after contact per carry, proving he is a reliable rusher between the tackles. It’s officially Pollard’s show in Dallas, as Ezekiel Elliott will likely sign elsewhere. Elliott visited the New England Patriots over the previous weekend. Pollard should post impressive stats in the 2023 season, potentially earning him a long-term extension.

10. Dalvin Cook, Free Agent

We have a free agent at the No. 10 spot. Dalvin Cook remains unsigned after being released by the Minnesota Vikings on June 9. Per NFL odds, the Jets are the heavy favorite to land Cook (-500). Is the four-time Pro Bowler really that good if he’s been a free agent for nearly two months? This is simply due to the current running back market. Cook is still one of the league’s top tailbacks. In fact, he finished seventh in yards after contact in 2022. Cook was efficient at 4.4 yards per carry and recorded 1,468 all-purpose yards – the third-best mark in his six-year career.

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