As we continue to tier out the best NFL players at every position, here the NFL Insiders of The 33rd Team tier out each team’s running back room into separate tiers from Tier 1 to Tier 7.
Tier 1 consists of teams with an elite running back paired with a backup who perfectly complements their skill set, or teams with two RBs who could be RB1s on another team. Often, for these teams, even if the RB1 were to go down with an injury, the rest of the running back room would still produce at a high level.
“Hands down the Browns are No. 1. Not just because of the players they have, but also the play calling of their head coach,” said Former Chargers Special Teams Coordinator Derius Swinton II. “I just don’t see how they won’t be elite again this year if they both stay healthy. D’Ernest Johnson is an above average third back and they even have the kid from UCLA (Felton) who is multifaceted.”
Cleveland Browns: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson
Denver Broncos: Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon, Mike Boone
Minnesota Vikings: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon, Kylin Hill
Indianapolis Colts: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Phillip Lindsay
“My sleeper is Denver,” Swinton added. “Javonte Williams is the real deal and is special, but if he doesn’t have to carry the load and Melvin Gordon can be healthy and be 75% of his old self, then those guys will be a problem. Russell Wilson being the quarterback will also soften up the box at times.”
Tier 2 consists of teams with two great options at RB1 and RB2. Each team on this list has a few lingering questions that keep them from the top tier, however.
McCaffrey has dealt with injury and Chuba Hubbard does not appear quite ready to be an ideal RB1 if McCaffrey misses more time. Baltimore has two very strong starting-caliber players in Dobbins and Edwards, but both are coming off injury. For the Saints, Ingram is back to complement Kamara, but will he still have the burst necessary to be effective at age 32? Kamara will surely contribute at an elite rate as a pass catcher, but how will they fare on the ground?
Baltimore Ravens: JK Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Mike Davis
New Orleans Saints: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram II, Dwayne Washington
Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, Chuba Hubbard, D’Onta Foreman
Tier 3 has really solid pairings at RB1 and RB2, but none of these teams currently have an elite, multifaceted back present as the starter. Austin Ekeler and Chase Edmonds are top tier pass catching backs while Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris are both excellent on the ground but lack an elite presence through the air.
When asked about a sleeper team that could push Tier 1 or 2, Swinton pointed to the Raiders:
“Las Vegas could sneak up if Kenyan Drake is healthy, but he has ankle problems,” he said. “I don’t know if he ever will be himself again, but if he is then that (Josh) McDaniels offense will be dynamic for those two backs. Then (Ameer) Abdullah and (Brandon) Bolden are solid four-core teamers who can contribute on offense as well… They are really deep.”
Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle
Las Vegas Raiders: Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, Brandon Bolden
Miami Dolphins: Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel
Los Angeles Rams: Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson Jr., Kyren Williams
New England Patriots: Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Pierre Strong Jr.
Los Angeles Chargers: Austin Ekeler, Isaiah Spiller, Joshua Kelly
Tier 4 starts to incorporate some of the unknowns, mostly regarding the depth of these groups. While there are teams with elite RB1s in this group (including arguably the best RB in the league, Derrick Henry), if any of these top backs were hurt, each RB room in Tier 4 would feel light. If these RB rooms are able to stay healthy (which is a big if when it comes to the RB position), and some of the depth steps up, each could easily push into a higher tier.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Travis Etienne Jr., James Robinson, Snoop Conner
Chicago Bears: David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert, Darrynton Evans
Detroit Lions: D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds
New York Jets: Breece Hall, Michael Carter, Tevin Coleman
Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr.
Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans
Tennessee Titans: Derrick Henry, Dontrell Hilliard, Hassan Haskins
Tier 5 teams are those that have a player who currently ranks as a low-end starter surrounded by complementary depth. Each of these teams has opted to add good depth in the running back room, and they will rotate all of their top three backs in and out of the game. These running back rooms may not have the talent of some of their other counterparts, but they may produce more than the sum of their parts.
Philadelphia Eagles: Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott
Seattle Seahawks: Rashaad Penny, Kenneth Walker III, Chris Carson
Washington Commanders: Antonio Gibson, JD McKissic, Brian Robinson Jr.
San Francisco 49ers: Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson Jr., Tyrion Davis-Price
Tier 6 could be categorized as the group with the most question marks heading into the season. Some of these teams have the potential to boom, but they all could also flounder into remaining in the basement of the RB tiers. With a lot of new additions in this section, questions will be answered sooner rather than later as the season gets underway.
Buffalo Bills: Devin Singletary, James Cook, Zack Moss
Kansas City Chiefs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ronald Jones, Jerrick McKinnon
New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Leonard Fournette, Rachaad White, Ke’Shawn Vaughn
Tier 7 consists of teams that currently have a lack of high-end talent and depth at the position. These are the groups that could end up at the bottom of the league in yards per carry and may create a one-dimensional offense for their teams. Barring unforeseen circumstances, these teams do not have the potential that the teams in Tier 6 do.