49ers' versatile McCaffery rated No. 1 RB
The value of running backs in the NFL has dropped precipitously in recent years as teams rely more on the passing game.
This explains why 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey, equally adept at receiving and rushing, is the NFL's top running back in the in a poll by The Associated Press.
A panel of nine AP Pro Football Writers ranked the top five players at running back, making their selections based on current status entering the 2023 season. First-place votes were worth 10 points. Second through fifth-place votes were worth 5, 3, 2 and 1 points.
At running back McCaffrey is followed by Tennessee’s Derrick Henry at No. 2.
McCaffrey had four first-place votes, two seconds, a third and a fourth to beat out Henry for the top spot. Henry had three first-place votes and was the only back named on all nine ballots.
McCaffrey bounced back from two injury-plagued seasons to get back to his stellar form from 2019 when he topped 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in 2022.A midseason deal to San Francisco provided a big spark and McCaffrey’s presence as a runner and receiver helped the Niners score 30.5 points per game in his 10 games as a starter. McCaffrey
averaged 114.8 yards from scrimmage per game with 10 TDs in his 10 starts in San Francisco.
49ers linebacker Fred Warner was a unanimous choice for the top
spot among off-ball linebackers. Warner has been the lynchpin of the Niners’ defense since arriving in 2018. Warner is stout against the run and can defend wide receivers deep downfield. Warner has had at least 118 tackles in all five seasons and his 35 passes defensed since 2018 are tied for the most in the NFL for a linebacker in that span.
Top 5 Running Backs
1. CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY, San Francisco 49ers: McCaffrey bounced back from two injury-plagued seasons to get back to his stellar form from 2019 when he topped 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. A midseason deal to San Francisco provided a big spark and McCaffrey's presence as a runner and receiver helped the Niners score 30.5 points per game in his 10 games as a starter. McCaffrey averaged 114.8 yards from scrimmage per game with 10 TDs in his 10 starts in San Francisco.
2. DERRICK HENRY, Tennessee Titans: Henry is perhaps the most dominant runner in the game with more than 1,500 yards on the ground in three of the past four seasons. Only four players in NFL history have more seasons with at least 1,500 yards rushing than Henry. His 109.9 yards rushing per game the last four seasons are nearly 20 yards better than the next best player.
3. JOSH JACOBS, Las Vegas Raiders: Jacobs was hampered by injuries in 2020 and '21 but showed how dangerous he can be when healthy last season. He led the NFL with 1,653 yards rushing and 2,053 yards from scrimmage and matched his career high with 12 TDs. Jacobs has always been one of the best backs at breaking tackles, but he had more burst last season, leading to seven runs of at least 20 yards — two more than in the two previous seasons combined.
4. NICK CHUBB, Cleveland Browns: Chubb was the NFL's best big-play runner last season with a league-leading 13 carries that went for at least 20 yards. His 59 rushes of at least 20 yards since entering the league in 2018 are 17 more than the next highest player. He had a career-high 1,525 yards on the ground last season with 12 TDs but doesn't offer as much in the passing game as some of the more versatile backs.
5. SAQUON BARKLEY, New York Giants: Barkley showed once again what he can do when healthy, rushing for 1,312 yards and 10 TDs and catching 57 passes as he showed he had completely recovered from a season-ending knee injury in 2020 that still hampered him the following year. Barkley has topped 1,300 yards on the ground in both seasons when he didn't miss time for injuries.