It’s Year 5 of the RB Index! What a ride it’s been. To kick off the 2022 edition, I’ve decided to project the top 10 rushing leaders for this season — just as I did last year.
You won’t find the talented trio of Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler and Alvin Kamara on this list. That’s simply because of the dual-threat nature of their games — they make much of their hay in the pass game. If I was ranking all-purpose yards leaders, things would be different.
Before we jump into my projection, I want to remind you that I’ll start my weekly ranking of the top 15 running backs next week, following the opening slate of games. I realize some of you want them now, but you’ve patiently waited all offseason. What’s one more week?
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There was no hesitation in placing Henry here. He’s proven to be the best at the position for several years running. I’d even make the case that he deserved that title last season, when he finished in the top 10 in rushing yards despite missing more than half the season due to a foot injury. Now healthy, Henry should regain his spot at the top of the rushing ranks.
Indy’s passing game should be better with Matt Ryan, but adding a former MVP at the quarterback position shouldn’t take away from Taylor getting 20 carries a game. The 2021 rushing champion should continue to be the focal point of the offense with Ryan making plays in critical moments.
Chubb has been at the center of the Browns’ offense and will continue to be for the vast majority of the season with Deshaun Watson suspended for the first 11 games. Kevin Stefanski knows his offense must lean on Chubb, who’s averaged 5.3 yards per carry in his career, if Cleveland wants to get back to the postseason. The fifth-year pro should have no problem logging his fourth consecutive season with 1,000 yards rushing.
On the heels of a career-best campaign, Mixon and the rest of the offense should benefit from an overhauled offensive line. While the Bengals’ splashy passing game caught the attention of the football world during the team’s run to Super Bowl LVI, Mixon was a big reason why they got there. If Zac Taylor knows what’s good for his team, he won’t shy away from the run game this fall.
Just like they did last year in Ben Roethlisberger’s final season, the Steelers will again gladly hand the ball off to their bell cow. Mitchell Trubisky will start the year as QB1 and I expect Harris to get 25-30 touches per game.
Barkley has put in the work to get back to being one of the best in the league and has said all the right things to convince us that he really is back. And you know what, I believe him. Barkley is in a contract year, and the Giants must make life easier on Daniel Jones. That means leaning on Barkley and the run game.
While Cook has posted 1,100-plus rushing yards in three straight seasons, he slides down my list a bit this year due to the Vikings’ new offensive system. Cook will still be an all-purpose yards monster but more of those yards might come via the pass game this time around.
There’s a big question mark surrounding the Packers’ wide receivers following the departure of Davante Adams this offseason. And while Aaron Rodgers comes in as the back-to-back MVP, he might be better off handing the ball to his friends in the backfield. Even with fellow RB AJ Dillon playing a significant role in the offense, I like Jones to have a bounce-back season on the ground after compiling just shy of 800 yards in 2021.
I actually think Zeke should be listed higher in this ranking, but I’m really concerned with the Cowboys’ offensive line, which is without All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith until at least December. With a lot of shuffling up front, I do expect Dallas to lean on the run game. I’m just not sure how successful it will be.
Mitchell nearly cracked 1,000 yards in 11 games as a rookie in 2021, finishing eighth in the league in rushing yards. On track to play in Week 1 after being hampered by a hamstring injury during the preseason, Mitchell should build on last year’s performance by playing a full slate of games and taking pressure off of Trey Lance in his first season as a starter.
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