10 best running backs of 2023: Bijan Robinson joins Christian McCaffrey atop the list

Some of the best running backs of 2023 are sidelined to injury. The season-ending knee injury Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb suffered in Week 2 is the most-recent example of this.

Saquon Barkley, Jonathan Taylor, Aaron Jones and Austin Ekeler all join Chubb in currently being on the shelf.

Even then, we’ve seen some great running back performances thus far. That includes Christian McCaffrey being on a record pace and rookie Bijan Robinson dominating. Below, we take a look at the 10 best running backs of 2023 with week-by-week updates below.

Related: Unlock Fantasy Sports Success! Get FREE Insights & Tips From Dr. Roto and His Team Of Big-Money Fantasy Winners!

10. D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions

best running backs: dandre swift
  • D’Andre Swift stats (2023): 29 attempts, 178 yards, 6.1 average, 4 receptions, 6 yards, 184 total yards, 1 TD

Swift was explosive during his three-year run with the Detroit Lions, scoring 26 touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per touch. The former Georgia standout just couldn’t stay healthy. After being acquired by Philadelphia during the 2023 NFL Draft, Swift saw just two touches in his debut with the team. That changed last week with RB1 Kenneth Gainwell injured. Swift took over that job and is not looking back. The youngster gained 175 rushing yards on 28 attempts en route to help putting the Minnesota Vikings away. He looked like one of the best running backs in the NFL in said game.

9. James Cook, Buffalo Bills

best running backs: james cook
  • James Cook stats (2023): 29 attempts, 169 yards, 5.8 average, 8 receptions, 53 yards, 222 total yards, 0 TD

Cook was exceptional as the Bills RB2 during his rookie season of 2022, averaging 5.7 yards per touch. He’s now taken that to a whole new level in replacing Devin Singletary in the starting role. Last week saw the sophomore tally 159 total yards on 21 touches against the Las Vegas Raiders. It represented his best single-game performance thus far. Through two games, Cook is also averaging a resounding 3.7 yards after contact per run.

8. Kenneth Walker, Seattle Seahawks

best running backs: kenneth walker
  • Kenneth Walker stats (2023): 29 attempts, 107 yards, 3.7 average, 5 receptions, 14 yards, 121 total yards, 2 TD

It’s been a struggle for Walker through two games. After averaging 4.6 yards as a rookie in 2022, he’s down to 3.7 yards per this season. Week 2 against the Detroit Lions didn’t go swell, either. The former Heisman finalist put up just 43 yards on 17 attempts. He’s also averaging a mere 0.9 yards after contact per run. We’re expecting a breakout at some point soon.

Related: Top 20 remaining free agents and ideal landing spots

7. Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys

best nfl running backs: tony pollard
  • Tony Pollard stats (2023): 39 attempts, 142 yards, 3.5 average, 9 receptions, 49 yards, 191 total yards, 2 TD

Pollard, 26, continues to prove himself as one of the best running backs in the NFL. After being handed the franchise tag by Dallas this past offseason, the former mid-round pick from Memphis recorded two touchdowns in a 40-0 season-opening drubbing of the New York Giants. While he did struggle on the ground in Week 2 (2.9 yards per attempt), Pollard caught 7-of-8 targets from Dak Prescott. He’s a dual-threat back, too.

Related: Top 100 NFL players of 2023

6. Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars

best nfl running backs: travis etienne
  • Travis Etienne stats (2023): 30 attempts, 117 yards, 3.9 average, 7 receptions, 29 yards, 146 total yards, 1 TD

After missing his entire rookie season to injury, Etienne played a major role in Jacksonville’s playoff run last season. The team knew it had a dynamic playmaker in Trevor Lawrence’s former Clemson teammate. That continued in Week 1 with Etienne gaining over 100 total yards in a win over the Indianapolis Colts. His 26-yard run touchdown run with 4:08 remaining in the fourth quarter also put the game on ice.

Related: Sportsnaut’s 2023 NFL power rankings

Best running backs of 2023: The top five

5. Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos
  • Josh Jacobs stats (2023): 28 attempts, 46 yards, 1.6 average, 7 receptions, 74 yards, 120 total yards, 0 TD

Speaking of the devaluation of the running back position in today’s NFL, Jacobs couldn’t even get a long-term extension from the Raiders after leading the league in rushing a season ago. He was able to sign a restructured deal with the Raiders after holding out all of training camp. The impact was felt in Week 1 with Jacobs not being anywhere near the same player that led the NFL in rushing last season. He then struggled even more in Week 2, going for minus-2 yards against the Buffalo Bills. Something has to give here.

4. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

best running backs in the nfl: saquon barkley
  • Saquon Barkley stats (2023): 29 attempts, 114 yards, 3.9 average, 9 receptions, 41 yards, 155 total yards, 2 TD

Sidelined once again to injury, Barkley could miss a couple weeks of action after tweaking his ankle in Week 2. He did respond from a disastrous Week 1 outing to put up 92 total yards on 23 touches in a comeback win over the Arizona Cardinals. We just can’t have him as one of the three best running backs in the NFL given the injury history.

3. Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons (Best rookie running back)

best running backs bijan robinson
  • Bijan Robinsons stats (2023): 29 attempts, 180 yards, 6.2 average, 10 receptions, 75 yards, 235 total yards, 1 TD

Through two games, Robinson is on pace for 1,530 rushing yards to go with 85 receptions for 640 yards through the air. Forget about being one of the best running backs to enter the NFL in some time, Robinson is about as dynamic as it gets. His 172-yard performance against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2 was a prime example of this.

Related: Bijan Robinson and the top 2023 NFL Rookie of the Year candidates

2. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

best running backs in the nfl: derrick henry
  • Derrick Henry stats (2023): 40 attempts, 143 yards, 3.6 average, 5 receptions, 71 yards, 214 total yards, 1 TD

Imagine if King Henry actually had a passing game and wasn’t facing stacked boxes. This was the case in Tennessee’s Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions and just couldn’t get anything going down the field. Despite this, Henry still managed to gain 119 yards on 17 touches. The question here is whether the two-time rushing champion and one of the best running backs of the modern era will be on the Titans for the entire season. He’s slated to hit free agency in March, and the team is going nowhere fast.

Related: 2023 NFL offense rankings

1. Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers (Best running back in the NFL)

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Christian McCaffrey stats (2023): 42 attempts, 268 yards, 6.4 average, 6 receptions, 36 yards, 304 total yards, 2 TD

The numbers speak for themselves. McCaffrey isn’t only the best running back in the NFL, but he’s also an historically good dual-threat back. That came out in droves as San Francisco destroyed the Pittsburgh Steelers by the score of 30-7 in Week 1. McCaffrey then followed that up by tallying 116 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. He’s now on pace for 2,278 rushing yards. That would shatter Eric Dickerson’s single-season NFL record. Just some food for thought.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: