The start of training camp is now just days away for teams across the NFL, with preseason and the regular season not far down the line. While there are some potential acquisitions that could still take place, most major moves have already transpired in free agency and the draft.
Therefore, we have a good idea of what the AFC North teams’ rosters will look like in 2022. Let’s break down where each position group stacks up within the division, continuing with the running back corps.
1) Cleveland Browns
Projected starter: Nick Chubb
Depth: Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, Jerome Ford
The Browns not only have the best running back in the division, Nick Chubb, but they also have probably the league’s best backup in Kareem Hunt. Chubb missed three games last season but still totaled nearly 1,300 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Hunt played only eight games and scored five times with 560 all-purpose yards.
For a third straight season, these two comprise a formidable duo that spearhead the Browns’ rushing attack. With uncertainty at quarterback and some overturn at the wide receiver position this offseason, expect the Browns to lean even heavier on Chubb and Hunt in 2022.
No. 3 on the depth chart, D’Ernest Johnson, played an expanded role in 2021 and impressed as well. He turned 100 rushing attempts into 553 yards, adding another 137 yards as a pass-catcher.
2) Cincinnati Bengals
Projected starter: Joe Mixon
Depth: Semaje Perine, Chris Evans, Trayveon Williams
Joe Mixon ranked No. 4 in the NFL in rushing touchdowns last season with 13. He rushed for 1,205 yards in 16 games and added another 314 yards and three scores through the air. After Chubb, Mixon has a strong argument as the second-best running back in the division.
Because Mixon takes on a significant workload, there isn’t much room for opportunity behind him. Semaje Perine has proven to be an efficient backup over the past two years, though. He’s averaged 4.8 and 4.5 yards per carry, respectively, and caught 27 passes in 2021, also.
3) Baltimore Ravens
Projected starter: J.K. Dobbins
Depth: Gus Edwards, Mike Davis, Tyler Badie, Justice Hill
Had the 2021 season gone according to plan, the Ravens may rank above the Bengals on this list. Their top two rushers, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, did not play a single snap, though. Both players are returning from season-ending injuries, making this group more difficult to project.
At full strength, they make up a strong 1-2 punch who could each probably rush for 1,000+ yards with a bigger workload. Dobbins has breakout potential if 100% healthy. In 2020, both players were two of the most efficient running backs in the league.
Veteran Mike Davis and rookie Tyler Badie were also added to the mix this offseason, solidifying the team’s depth. Justice Hill, also returning from a torn ACL injury, is on the roster bubble ahead of the season.
4) Pittsburgh Steelers
Projected starter: Najee Harris
Depth: Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., Trey Edmunds
2021 first-round pick Najee Harris was as-advertised in his rookie season. The Alabama product took a heavy workload (307 carries) and totaled over 1,600 scrimmage yards with 10 touchdowns. He caught 74 receptions, too, serving as a valuable pass-catcher in the Steelers’ offense.
Harris wasn’t especially efficient as a rusher (3.9 YPC) but that had a lot to do with Pittsburgh’s subpar offensive line and vertical passing attack. The reason the Steelers rank last on this list is because of the lack of quality depth behind him.
Benny Snell Jr. has not proven to be especially effective when given extended carries, and the pair of recent mid-round draft picks from Maryland (Anthony McFarland Jr., Trey Edmunds) are even more unproven.
What are your thoughts on this order? Share your own below and join in on the conversation in the comments!