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NFL running back rankings Week 17: Soon-to-be free agents doing their thing

Here’s our NFL running back rankings for Week 17. Some top contenders are being powered by dual-threats out of the backfield. Other teams are finding the exact right mix on offense as the remainder of the regular season plays out.

Christian McCaffrey has changed the San Francisco 49ers’ fortunes on offense in a big way and played a huge role in the team’s division-clinching win over the Seattle Seahawks back in Week 15.

Despite his Raiders struggling big time, Josh Jacobs has earned a ton of cash due to his performance in a contract year. Meanwhile, a few NFC East running backs continue to make their mark.

It’s in this that we provide you our NFL running back rankings heading into Week 17 of the 2022 season.

Related: Sportsnaut’s NFL wide receiver rankings for Week 17

10. Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars

nfl running back rankings: travis etienne
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
  • Travis Etienne stats: 204 attempts, 1,000 rushing yards, 4.9 average, 30 receptions, 267 yards, 1,267 total yards, 4 TD

After missing his rookie season to injury, Etienne has stepped up big time to help Jacksonville battle for the AFC South division title as a sophomore. After struggling through a three-game stretch, he’s picked it up recently for an upstart Jags team.

The former first-round pick from Clemson has tallied 239 total yards on 46 touches over the past two weeks. While Trevor Lawrence is getting most of the play in Duval, Etienne provides the balance necessary on offense.

9. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

nfl running back rankings: aaron jones
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
  • Aaron Jones stats: 187 attempts, 962 rushing yards, 5.1 average, 54 receptions, 373 yards, 1,335 total yards, 7 TD

Despite Matt LaFleur’s uneven use of Jones on the ground, this running back continues to make a difference. Jones is currently on pace to put up north of 1,400 total yards for the third time in the past four seasons. He’s proven vital in the passing game with Aaron Rodgers missing consistent wide receivers.

With all of that said, the Packers must get Jones more involved over the final two games of the season if they want to make a surprise playoff appearance. He ran the ball just six times and played 25 snaps in last week’s win over the Miami Dolphins. That’s not going to cut it.

Related: Sportsnaut’s Week 17 NFL offense rankings

8. Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

nfl running back rankings: miles sanders
Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Miles Sanders: 236 attempts, 1,175 rushing yards, 5.0 average, 20 receptions, 78 yards, 1,253 total yards, 11 TD

Sanders has been in and out of our NFL running back rankings pretty much all season. He rejoined the cast after a stellar 144-yard, two-touchdown outing in a blowout Week 14 win over the New York Giants before struggling a tad in Philadelphia’s win over the Chicago Bears in Week 15 and averaging 3.1 yards per rush this past Saturday.

The primary thing holding Sanders back is a lack of consistent touches in an offense led by potential NFL MVP Jalen Hurts. Sanders has attempted 15 or fewer rushes eight times through 15 games. He also adds very little value in the passing game, which impacts the Penn State product’s stock heading into free agency.

7. Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys

nfl running back rankings: tony pollard, dallas cowboys
Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports
  • Tony Pollard stats: 186 attempts, 988 rushing yards, 5.3 average, 39 receptions, 371 yards, 1,359 total yards, 12 TD

An impending free agent, Pollard has upped his stock big time with his performance in 2022. During a four-game span earlier this season, the former mid-round pick from Memphis gained 573 total yards and six touchdowns. That helped keep Dallas afloat as Ezekiel Elliott was dealing with injuries.

Despite putting up just 19 rushing yards in last week’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Pollard remains in our NFL running back rankings. That’s primarily due to the six passes he caught in helping Dak Prescott dominate through the air.

Related: Sportsnaut’s Week 17 NFL QB rankings

6. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

nfl running back rankings week 17; dalvin cook
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
  • Dalvin Cook stats: 244 attempts, 1,109 rushing yards, 4.5 average, 36 receptions, 278 yards, 1,387 total yards, 10 TD

Consistently good. That’s been the name of the game for Cook since Minnesota made him a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Florida State product tallied north of 1,300 total yards in each of the past three seasons. He’s already hit that mark in 2022 with two games remaining.

During Minnesota’s historic Week 15 comeback against the Indianapolis Colts, Cook was able to overcome some recent struggles by going for 190 total yards on 21 touches. The only issue here is the fact that Cook is averaging a mere 1.9 yards after contact. Some of his performance has to do with an elite-level run-blocking offensive line.

Related: Week 17 NFL power rankings

NFL running back rankings: The elite five

5. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

nfl running back rankings week 17: nick chubb
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
  • Nick Chubb stats: 276 attempts, 1,344 rushing yards, 4.9 average, 21 receptions, 182 yards, 1,526 total yards, 12 TD

Speaking of our NFL running back rankings, Chubb could very well be higher if it weren’t for the others listed below. After all, we’re talking about a dude who has put up north of 100 rushing yards six times in 15 games this season. That’s no small thing.

After averaging nearly 1,400 total yards in each of his first four seasons, Chubb is in the midst of a career-best performance. He’s among the leaders in rushing touchdowns with 12 and is averaging 2.3 yards after contact. That’s some elite-level stuff.

4. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

nfl running back rankings week 16: saquon barkley
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
  • Saquon Barkley stats: 283 attempts, 1,254 rushing yards, 4.4 average, 55 receptions, 343 yards, 1,597 total yards, 10 TD

After some brilliant performances earlier in the season highlighted Barkley’s return to pre-injury form, the pending free agent had struggled prior to a solid 120-yard outing in a big win over the Commanders in Week 15. He followed that up by tallying 133 total yards this past Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings.

Barkley’s entire body of work this season can’t go unnoticed and it has New York in playoff positioning heading into Week 17. It also has him in the top-five of our NFL running back rankings as the Penn State product prepares for free agency.

Related: Top 100 NFL players of 2022

3. Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers

nfl running back rankings week 16: christian mccaffrey
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Christian McCaffrey stats: 215 attempts, 973 rushing yards, 4.5 average, 76 receptions, 635 yards, 1,608 total yards, 11 TD

After playing in all of 10 games over the past two seasons, McCaffrey has returned to form as one of the top NFL running backs in the game. That’s now been taken to a whole new level since he was acquired by San Francisco in a blockbuster trade with the Carolina Panthers.

CMC made his initial impact with the 49ers in a Week 8 outing in which he threw a touchdown, ran for another score and caught a touchdown from Jimmy Garoppolo. In nine games with the 49ers, CMC has tallied 938 total yards and eight touchdowns. McCaffrey will have to continue putting in this work with rookie Brock Purdy under center in San Francisco. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason to believe this won’t happen.

2. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

nfl running back rankings: week 16, derrick henry
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
  • Derrick Henry stats: 319 attempts, 1,429 rushing yards, 4.5 average, 32 receptions, 379 yards, 1,808 total yards, 13 TD

We still marvel at what King Henry is able to do despite the Titans’ struggles on offense. Without much of a threat in the passing game, the two-time rushing champion continues to do his thing.

After some struggles in November and early December, Henry is back to being one of the most dominating offensive players in the league. Over the course of the past three games, he’s gained 444 total yards and has topped the 100-yard rushing plateau each outing. Unfortunately, Henry has also lost three fumbles during that span. Wear and tear seems to be impacting him.

1. Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

nfl running back rankings: josh jacobs
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • Josh Jacobs stats: 306 attempts, 1,539 rushing yards, 5.0 average, 47 receptions, 369 yards, 1,908 total yards, 11 TD

Yet another impending free agent, Jacobs also couldn’t have picked a better time to enjoy a career-best performance. He’s also one of the only feel-good stories for a disappointing Raiders team this season. That includes six 100-yard rushing performances through 15 games.

Jacobs, 24, is averaging a resounding 3.1 yards after contact, up from 2.0 a season ago. He’s also coming off an absolutely insane 303 total-yard outing in a Week 12 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks that included a walk-off touchdown. Over the course of his past seven games, Jacobs has tallied an absurd 993 total yards and five touchdowns. That seems pretty good.