It’s apparent that the NFL has shifted away from the belief of bell cow running backs. Obviously, there are still backs in the league that dominant touches out of the back field; Derrick Henry, Austin Ekeler, Najee Harris and Jonathan Taylor are just a few. Other top tier running backs such as Christian McCaffrey, Nick Chubb and Dalvin Cook have recently seen their counterparts incorporated into the game plan more and more.
Now, heading into the 2023 season, teams are going out of their way to make sure there are two capable running backs in the room. For example, after the Seattle Seahawks drafted Kenneth Walker in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, they spent the same capital on another in this year’s draft. Keep in my that Walker was an offensive rookie of the year finalist, so it had nothing to do with his play. The Seahawks simply wanted to split the carries. That’s why they drafted Zach Charbonett in the second round this year.
NFL offenses are seemingly continuing to take the multi-back approach. Here are the top 10 running back duos to look out for next season.
This duo is the definition of thunder and lighting. Dillon brings the thunder, Jones brings the lighting. Dillon, 6 feet, 247 pounds, is a ground and pound type of back. He takes majority of the snaps in short-yardage situations, including goal line snaps. Jones posses elite quickness with the ability to see holes before they’re formed He also excels at catching the football.
McCaffrey is undoubtedly one of—if not—the best backs in football. He is the most complete at the position, though injuries have limited his playing time the past couple seasons. However, McCaffrey seemed to string together a complete season in 2022. The other half of the backfield is comprise of 2021 un-drafted free agent Mitchell. Mitchell burst onto the scene in 2021 as a rookie, quickly claiming the rights to the backfield ahead of third round pick Trey Sermon.
The acquisition of Swift sent Philadelphia fans into hysteria, and rightfully so. Philly aced draft weekend, and capped it off with the reunion of the city native. Swift, when healthy, showed he is electric with the ball in his hands. The same goes for the team’s free agency signing, Penny. The former Seahawk, when healthy, was one of the most efficient runners in the NFL. Though injuries limited him, as he only played in 40 out of 82 possible games. For the Eagles, it’s a matter of if they can stay healthy.
Atlanta shocked the NFL when it took Robinson with the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft. It was a luxury pick, apparently, as Robinson and Allgeier now rank as my fourth best duo. The pick needs no explanation: the former Texas Longhorn is a unique talent that projects to become a top-10 back in his rookie season. Allgeier, who was a rookie last year, showed promise. The fifth round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft rushed for over 1,000 yards while splitting carries with Cordarelle Patterson. It’s easy to see why the youngsters are this high.
It’s hard to put a rookie in this category because it’s unknown if his productivity will translate. But the pairing of Gibbs and Montgomery, both acquired this offseason, is similar to the tandem of Jones and Dillon.
After a career year with the Lions, Williams now finds himself paired with another electric back in Kamara. Though there is a suspension looming for the Saints’ running back, Kamara and Williams should see a similar split like we saw in Detroit last year. Last season, Williams led the league in touchdowns with 17 and eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career.
Walker exploded onto the scene last season after Penny went down with a season-ending injury. The second-round rookie showed burst, vision, and home run hitting ability. That’s why I was confused when the Seahawks expended another second-round pick on a running back two years in a row. Nonetheless, Charbonnet, who was the consensus third-ranked running back in this year’s draft, should see the field early and often.
Mostert’s key to success is staying healthy, something that has proved difficult for the speedy running back. When he is healthy, he is explosive as soon as he takes the handoff. Wilson, who was an acquisition just before the trade deadline in 2022, proved to be worth the draft capital given to San Francisco. In eight games with Miami, Wilson amassed 392 yards and three touchdowns on 84 attempts. The two backs split carries during this time. They’re poised for a successful 2023.
Both unfortunately endured major injuries around the same time, each tearing the ACL before the start of the 2021 season. Now entering the 2023 season, both should have had enough recovery time to possibly return to the former selves. Though it is rare to see a running back do that. That’s why I am bullish placing them at the ninth spot. But I believe in their talent and the Ravens’ offensive scheme.
With a great season in 2023, this duo could easily propel themselves into the top five of this category. Pacheco is poised to build off of the success he round as a seventh-round rookie in 2022. The team loves him. McKinnon is that change-of-pace guy that offers versatility in the receiving game. This time next year, this duo will be talked about much more.
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