The weeks right before training camp provide the most obscure and arbitrary “list” articles. But they’re at least a different way of looking at rosters. Monday, CBS Sports ranked each division based off the collective strength of their running back rooms, with the AFC North taking the top spot.
The North is full of household running back names. Joe Mixon in Cincinnati, J.K. Dobbins in Baltimore, Nick Chubb in Cleveland, and Najee Harris in Pittsburgh. Author Jordan Dajani wrote the following about the North running back room:
“The AFC North has the best overall running back group in the NFL, as this division had three of the top four rushers last year. Look at this group: Dobbins rushed for 805 yards and nine touchdowns in 15 games with one official start in his rookie season before missing last year due to injury, Mixon had a career year in 2021 as the Bengals made it all the way to the Super Bowl, the dynamic duo of Chubb and Hunt is probably the best in the NFL and then Harris had a very promising rookie campaign in which he touched the ball more than anyone. It’s fair to expect big seasons from all of these starters in 2022.”
It’s a group that should be even better in 2022. As Dajani alludes to, the Ravens’ run game took a major hit last year missing its top backs in Dobbins and Gus Edwards, both lost for the season before it even began. Beyond them, Chubb is arguably the most talented running back in football. Since entering the league in 2018, his 5.3 YPC is tied for the highest mark in football of all running backs with at least 500 carries, matching Jonathan Taylor’s mark. Chubb, Taylor, Aaron Jones, and Derrick Henry are the only backs with a 5+ yard average. Cleveland has a deep running back room with Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, and rookie Jerome Ford, leading some fans to speculate Hunt or Johnson will be traded this summer.
Mixon has been one of the league’s most underrated running backs for years, running behind some ugly offensive lines. He was a workhorse last season, carrying the ball nearly 300 times for 1,205 yards and 13 rushing scores while chipping in another 42 receptions for another three touchdowns.
In Pittsburgh, Najee Harris immediately became the team’s bellcow, Though far from the most efficient season, he set the franchise record for rushing yards by a rookie, 1,200 on the dot, with ten total touchdowns. Depth behind him is a concern, but Harris will be the guy as long as healthy permits.
The AFC North edged out the NFC North who have top names like Chicago’s David Montgomery, Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook, and Green Bay’s Aaron Jones. The AFC East was ranked as having the worst collective running back room.
Our Josh Carney broke things down further and ranked the best RB rooms in the AFC North. Cleveland took the top spot followed by Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh last, though clearly every room has talent. Check out his analysis below.