May 19, 2024

Ranking current NFL 2023 linebackers by league: 49ers’ Christian McCaffrey, Browns’ top linebacker Nick Chubb

Maybe not NFL The position has been more devalued in recent years than in the past, with so many big names on it struggling to get the top dollar. But that doesn’t mean the site doesn’t have dynamic talents. It’s one thing to debate whether these players require lucrative investments compared to, say, wide receivers or pass rushers. Discrediting their game-changing abilities is another.

In the spirit of Quarterback Will Brinson’s streaks, we’re taking a look at these underrated ball carriers around the league. Which ones are bona fide weapons? Which ones come closest to the “replaceable” label often thrown around on the site? Here’s one look at the RB landscape heading into 2023, with each of the 32 projected starters — plus a bonus wild card — divided into six tiers:

Series 1: The game changers (5)

Christian McCaffrey (49 on), Rory Henry (Titans), Josh Jacobs (Raiders), Nick Chubb (Browns), Austin Thank you (Fees)

Christian McCaffrey


These are what you might call the last of a dying breed: the three-down, do-it-all workhorses. McCaffrey He’s had an injury history since his Panthers days, but he’s proven in his first half-year in San Francisco that he’s still a QB’s best friend when healthy, fully competent on the ground but even more reliable as a target machine. HenryHe’s bound to feel the wear and tear of his heavy, brutal roles someday, but you can’t teach his superhuman combo of size and silky speed. Jacobs went from another physical bruiser and explosive during the 2022 breakout. Chubb, despite a smaller role in the passing game, is still extremely underrated for his week-to-week production; his vision and stocky power have easily produced 6,300+ yards in five years. And Thank you Volume like McCaffrey has long been available out of the backfield in Los Angeles.

Series 2: The ‘prove-it’ stars (5)

Jonathan Taylor (colts), Saquon Barkley (Giant), Aaron Jones (Packers), Dalvin Cook (TBD), Alvin Kamara (Saint)

Jonathan Taylor

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All five of these vets were at the top of the RB mountain recently or still are, albeit with minor issues of concern. Taylor He’s a lot like Nick Chubb in that he consistently makes a stellar rush look easy, but an ankle injury slowed him down in 2022 and could still be a factor entering this year. Barkley he has incredible tools and was a key part of Brian Daboll’s dual-threat debut, but he’s still trying to prove he can stay healthy for years on end. Jones He is one of the most natural players in the game, but a lot of snacks and balls prevented him from enjoying a real off season. Cook He’s even more explosive at full speed, offering breakout ability, but his availability — he’s only played one full season — helped the Vikings justify his release from a cost perspective. CameraMeanwhile, he’s like a more electrifying version of Ekeler as a high-volume pass target, but injuries have slowed him down recently, and he’s just as good. facing a possible multigame suspension for off-field misconduct.

Series 3: The next generation (8)

Travis Etienne Jr. (Jaguars), Tony Pollard (Cowboys), Rumanagh Stevenson (Patriots), Damon Pierce (Texans), Kenneth Walker III (Hawk), Isiah Pacheco (Leaders), Sesame Robinson (Falcon), Jahmyr Gibbs (lions)

Travis Etienne Jr.


Here is the big middle, made up almost exclusively of first- and second-year prospects and the juice to jump into a top tier. Stephen made up for a lost rookie year by eclipsing 1,400 scrimmage yards as Trevor Lawrence’s outlet. Pollard He’s finally settled into a full-time role after years as Ezekiel Elliott’s more explosive reliever. Stevenson facing an uphill battle to maintain a majority role in the Patriots’ crowded backfield but was busy as a runner and receiver as a rookie. Pierce He inspired the enormous strength to get a bell post under DeMeco Ryans. A walker combined power with slippery change-of-direction ability in the Offensive Rookie of the Year bid. pachecoThe breakthrough helped give the Chiefs a bonus punch during their title run. And both Robin and Gibbs enter the NFL with the kind of electricity that should be boosted by strong running games in Atlanta and Detroit.

Tier 4A: The in-service vets (3)

Najee Harris (Rocky), Joe Mac Enrachtaigh (Bengal), Miles Sanders (Pantries)

Najee Harris

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If you’re looking for solid, if not spectacular, results, these are your guys. Harris sure he has the yardage and body type to defend an old-school role at the heart of the Steelers offense, but in today’s NFL, you want a lot more than 3.9 yards per carry over two seasons. An improved line should help, but he still has more of a profile as a traditional back than a game-changing back. A mixture he was similarly ineffective, though he enjoyed hotter streaks during his career. Sanders He has ready home run ability, but his vision and pass catching have been scattered.

Series 4B: The high upside bets (5)

Breece Hall (jets), D’Andre Swift (Eagle), Javonte Williams (Broncos), JK Dobbins (Ravens), James Cook (Bills)

Breece Hall


Hall He was extremely effective as a big-play pitcher before going down with an ACL tear in New York. Swift Injuries tarnished the Lions’ mercurial run but the Eagles’ friendly attack has the multi-purpose skills to break out. Williams Bowling ball was a rookie for Denver before shortening his own ACL tear in 2022. Dobbins severely limited by injuries (noticing a theme here?) but is ultra-effective when active alongside Lamar Jackson. And Cook looking to go from positional pace to full-time, replacing Devin Singletary in Buffalo.

Series 5: The Places (7)

Brian Robinson Jr. (Commanders), Alexander Mattison (Vikings), James Conner (Cardinal), Rachel White (Buccaneers), Akers Cam (rams), Onta Foreman (Bear), Raheem Mostert (dolphins)

Brian Robinson Jr.


This is not meant to be a bit against the backs; some may prove to be top 15 starters, if things turn around. But the reality is, in a position where rotation is more common than ever, these vets are more likely to split the backfield or eventually give it up entirely. Robin he deserves props for his off-the-field journey to an over-the-field year, but he already has a two-down label. Mattison entering a trial run as a simpler successor to Dalvin Cook. Conner He is a red-zone tight end with a heavy injury history. White he managed just 3.7 yards per carry in his first half start. Akers he struggled to keep up in three years under John McVay. Foreman His last two stops have flashed big-body production but the more explosive Khalil Herbert has not been out. Mustard It is possible to fly but it is part of an inevitable committee in Miami.

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