NFL News & Analysis

2023 NFL Free Agent Rankings: Running backs

East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) reacts to his touchdown run against the Washington Commanders during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With the first day of the 2023 NFL calendar now just three months away, it's time for most teams around the league to turn their attention to NFL free agency in a bid to improve their rosters for a new campaign.

Here are the top free agents at running back, taken from PFF's list of the top 50 players set to enter free agency.

Click here to jump to a position:

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | iOL | DI | EDGE | LB | CB | S


1. RB JOSH JACOBSLAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Free agent rank: 13

Jacobs became just the 11th player in NFL history to record 300-plus yards from scrimmage in a single game, capping an overtime victory in Week 12 with an 86-yard touchdown dash. His 303 yards are tied for the eighth most ever and stand alone as the fourth most by a running back. He was a force for a struggling Raiders team in 2022.

Jacobs’ 91.9 rushing grade in 2022 ended up as the top mark at the position, and his cumulative 93.2 rushing grade over his first four seasons ranks behind only Nick Chubb, with his 267 missed tackles forced over the span ranking first and his 118 explosive rushes coming in at fourth. All the while, he's picking up 71.4% of his rushing yards after first contact — a top-25 figure among qualifying running backs.

While he’ll never be known as a receiver or pass blocker, he’s a net positive in both facets for his career, giving him true workhorse value like we’ve seen this season in Las Vegas. Jacobs has been a major beneficiary of his fifth-year option for 2023 not being exercised by this new regime.


2. RB SAQUON BARKLEYNEW YORK GIANTS

Free agent rank: 14

When healthy, there is no question Barkley is a difference-maker on the ground and through the air. That may be understating things, as he was a significant chunk of the Giants' offense in the 2022 regular season. Barkley accounted for nearly 30% of New York's total yards on offense in 2022. His usage appeared to have caught up with him at times, but that illustrates how much he did for the team in every conceivable way.

While we’re a few years and injuries removed from Barkley’s historic rookie campaign in 2018, during which he racked up more than 2,000 all-purpose yards and a staggering 91 receptions, Barkley will be just 26 for the 2023 season and has a very high floor wherever he ends up. His 32 explosive rushes this season tied for the fifth most among running backs, and while the upside of him breaking off a big gain is where a lot of his value lies, it’s also notable that he dropped his rate of stuffed runs down to 6.8% in 2022 compared to 9.2% over his three healthy seasons when he tried to bounce too many runs outside instead of trusting his blocking.


3. RB TONY POLLARDDALLAS COWBOYS

Free agent rank: 45

Pollard slowly but surely ate into Ezekiel Elliott’s workload this season as the back who clearly had way more burst and ability to break off explosive plays, with his 31 explosive rushes the sixth most in the NFL despite him working as the No. 2 back for the most part. He’s also a dynamic receiving weapon, with five explosive receptions landing him in the top 15. Clearly, he’s a big play waiting to happen every time he steps on the field, but the one knock — if you wanted to find one — would be occasional negative plays, with his 9.3% stuff rate ranking 20th highest among 67 backs with at least 50 carries.

Dallas still trusted Elliott more in short-yardage situations and at the goal line, which is completely understandable, but we’re nitpicking here. Pollard deserves the opportunity to lead a backfield, and that opportunity may still come in Dallas.

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