With the NFL pre-draft process nearly wrapped up, the 2022 NFL Draft will make dreams come true once again from April 28-30. This year’s class has solid depth at running back and decent top talent.
Let’s take a look at the best running backs in every NFL Draft since 2010. How could the 2022 halfback class compare to recent draft classes?
2010 NFL Draft – LeGarrette Blount
The running back class of the 2010 NFL Draft was underwhelming. Several tailbacks went in the first round, like C.J. Spiller and Ryan Mathews. But none pieced together consistent careers.
After going undrafted, LeGarrette Blount was in contention for the 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year after totaling more than 1,000 rushing yards with the Buccaneers. Blount would reach 1,000 yards one more time in his career in the 2016 season with the Patriots.
The Oregon product was in the league until 2018. Blount had the longest career among running backs from the 2010 class.
2011 NFL Draft – DeMarco Murray
Two backs stand out in the 2011 draft. DeMarco Murray was taken in the third round by the Cowboys and had five 1,000+ yard seasons. The lone first-round RB in 2011 was Mark Ingram. Ingram has posted four 1,000+ yard seasons.
Murray retired early after the 2017 season, while Ingram is still a contributor in the NFL. Throughout their careers, Murray reached greater heights. For example, he had over 2,000 rushing yards in 2014 and was an MVP contender. For a couple of seasons, Murray was one of the NFL’s best backs.
2012 NFL Draft – Alfred Morris
The 2012 NFL Draft was another poor running back class. Trent Richardson was supposed to be the gem of the class, but become one of the biggest RB busts of all time after being selected third overall. Even with three backs going in the first round, the 2012 halfback class did not turn out well.
Alfred Morris became one of the biggest sleepers in the entire 2012 NFL Draft after being selected in the sixth round by Washington. Morris looked like the next star running back of the NFL after three straight 1,000-yard seasons to kick off his career.
His career went downhill after leaving Washington. Morris was out of the NFL after the 2020 season. Still, Morris strung together the most success among halfbacks in the 2012 NFL Draft.
2013 NFL Draft – Le’Veon Bell
After three straight drafts with mediocre running backs, the 2013 NFL Draft finally produced a good RB class. This is one of the more underrated RB classes since 2010 with the likes of Le’Veon Bell, Giovani Bernard, Eddie Lacy, Latavius Murray, and Rex Burkhead.
Bell is easily the best tailback from this class. He was one of the NFL’s elite skill position players from 2014-2017.
During this stretch, the former Michigan State Spartan appeared in three Pro Bowls and made All-Pro twice.
After contract disputes, Bell missed the entire 2018 season. He then signed a lucrative contract with the Jets headed into the 2019 season. Since then, Bell has struggled to stay rostered as he bounces from team to team.
2014 NFL Draft – Devonta Freeman
The 2014 NFL Draft did not produce running backs like the 2013 draft. This RB class was mediocre. Devonta Freeman is the only running back from the class to come close to star status in the NFL.
In Atlanta, Freeman made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2015 & 2016. Plus, he was a vital piece in their run to the Super Bowl in 2017. After missing most of the 2018 season, Freeman began to decline. Since leaving the Falcons, Freeman has struggled to find a solid role with a squad.
2015 NFL Draft – Todd Gurley
Similar to many halfbacks since 2010, Todd Gurley reached astronomical heights but fell quickly. Gurley made All-Pro teams in 2017 and 2018, making him of the NFL’s best running backs. Arthritis then flared up in Gurley’s knee, taking him off his road to greatness.
Only two seasons after making an All-Pro team, Gurley is not rostered in the NFL. Most running backs in the 2015 NFL Draft had a similar road to Gurley. For example, Jay Ajayi quickly caught on in Miami just to be out of the league by 2019.
The 2015 NFL Draft is a prime example of how short a running back’s career can be in the NFL.
2016 NFL Draft – Derrick Henry
The 2016 NFL Draft produced two star running backs: Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry. While Elliott has declined, Henry has only improved.
Henry recorded 1,700+ rushing yard seasons in 2019 & 2020. The former Heisman trophy back dealt with a foot injury last season. In only eight games, Henry still managed to reach over 1,000 scrimmage yards. They call him “King Henry” for a reason…
2017 NFL Draft – Christian McCaffrey
Take your pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. This is easily the best RB class since 2010 and could go down as the best running back class of all time. The first six tailbacks taken have been stars at one point in their career.
This stacked class includes Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Alvin Kamara, and Kareem Hunt. Aaron Jones, another star RB, went in the fifth round. If that wasn’t enough, Austin Ekeler went undrafted in 2017.
Selecting only one running back in the 2017 class is difficult. Christian McCaffrey has produced the best stretch in 2018 & 2019. However, he has dealt with nagging injuries ever since. In the coming years, the best RB from the 2017 NFL Draft will become more apparent.
2018 NFL Draft – Nick Chubb
Saquon Barkley and Nick Chubb have shown stretches of brilliance. Barkley had one of the best rookie RB seasons with more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage. He was elite in his second season as well but has struggled with injuries since 2020.
Chubb has been the more sustainable halfback with four 1,000+ rushing yard seasons thus far. The Cleveland back has been sustainable and has averaged over five yards per touch in every season. Barkley has the higher potential of the two, but staying healthy has been a problem.
Plenty could change as both star running backs age, but for now, Chubb has been the better of the two.
2019 NFL Draft – David Montgomery
This draft class has quickly shaped into a great running back class. Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery, Miles Sanders, Darrell Henderson, Devin Singletary, and Damien Harris have all produced after three seasons in the league. Plus, Alexander Mattison and Tony Pollard have flashed immense potential as second-string backs.
Thus far, Jacobs and Montgomery have been the most successful backs. Both tailbacks have posted over 1,000 scrimmage yards in every season. Montgomery had the best season in 2020 with more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage. Going forward, Montgomery in Chicago seems like the best bet due to his sustainability and better health when compared to Jacobs in Vegas.
2020 NFL Draft – Jonathan Taylor
The 2020 NFL Draft has the potential to be another elite running back class. After only two years in the NFL, Jonathan Taylor, James Robinson, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, D’Andre Swift, Cam Akers, AJ Dillon, Antonio Gibson, and J.K. Dobbins have all experienced success.
Taylor already looks the part of one of the NFL’s best pure rushers.
He will be a cornerpiece for the Colts going forward. Taylor’s trajectory should continue to rise in the upcoming season after leading the NFL in rushing yards by a wide margin in 2021.
2021 NFL Draft – Najee Harris
With over 1,600 scrimmage yards in his rookie season, of course, Najee Harris is the best running back in the 2021 NFL Draft so far. This class looks promising with Harris, Travis Etienne (which missed last season), Javonte Williams, Elijah Mitchell, and Michael Carter.
It is far too early to know for sure who ends up the best running back in the 2021 class. Harris had the best rookie season of the class and is with a great franchise in Pittsburgh. By default, Harris is the best RB at this point.
Short-term success is a running theme for tailbacks drafted since 2010. Every season, running backs look more replaceable in the modern NFL. Getting a handful of great seasons from an RB is considered a success at this point.
Running backs are only becoming more talented as they become gifted receivers combined with elite athleticism. The 2022 NFL Draft could provide several respectable replacements for teams searching for a new skilled player in the backfield.
Do you think you know which running backs go first in the 2022 NFL Draft? Place your bets at BetUS Sportsbook.
Check back in for the best wide receivers in each NFL Draft since 2010.