The bulk of NFL free agent signings are now in the rear view as the start of training camp is only a few weeks away. While some additions could still be forthcoming, we have a good idea of where each AFC North team’s depth chart stands ahead of the 2023 season.
Looking at both sides of the ball, how does everyone’s positional groups stack up to one another in the division? Continuing with the offense, let’s break down the running back position.
1. Cleveland Browns
Starter: Nick Chubb
Depth: Jerome Ford, Demetric Felton Jr.
With Kareem Hunt not being re-signed, the Browns no longer have their top-end duo of Hunt and Nick Chubb. Nevertheless, Chubb is good enough on his own to keep the Browns atop the running back hierarchy in the division. Chubb had a career-high 1,525 rushing yards in 2022, No. 3 in the NFL, scored a career-best 13 total touchdowns.
D’Ernest Johnson also departed in free agency, leaving 2022 fifth-round pick Jerome Ford as the projected primary backup behind Chubb. Ford nor third-string Demetric Felton Jr. are established, but Chubb will be the workhorse running back regardless.
2. Baltimore Ravens
Starter: J.K. Dobbins
Depth: Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
The Ravens are the only team in the division without a running back whose rushed for 1,000 yards in their career. However, with the past couple year’s injury struggles behind them, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards still form a formidable duo heading into the 2023 season.
Dobbins in particular is a breakout candidate. He’s averaged nearly 6.0 yards per carry for his career and began to regain pre-injury form during the second half of last year. Edwards is one of the most efficient backups in the league and compliments Dobbins well. No. 3 on the depth chart Justice Hill, a high-end special teams player and change-of-pace back, was re-signed in free agency as well.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Starter: Najee Harris
Depth: Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland Jr.
Through two seasons, Najee Harris has filled the stat sheet with over 1,000 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in back-to-back years. He also has nearly 700 combined yards and six more scores as a receiver. Much of this is high volume-based, however, as Harris has not been particularly efficient. He’s averaged 3.9 yards per carry for his career thus far.
Backup Jaylen Warren was particularly much more efficient than Harris on a per-touch basis last season. The undrafted rookie averaged 4.9 yards per carry and totaled 593 scrimmage yards. The team has not re-signed Benny Snell Jr. to-date, giving Anthony McFarland Jr. an opportunity as the third string running back.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
Starter: Joe Mixon
Depth: Chase Brown, Trayveon Williams
Like Harris, Mixon has long been a stat-sheet filler on lower rushing efficiency. Mixon missed three games in 2022 and averaged his lowest yards-per-game mark (58.1) since his rookie campaign, while averaging 3.9 yards per carry as well. Mixon did have his best season as a pass-catcher, though, with career-highs in receptions (60) and receiving yards (441).
Losing Samaje Perine in free agency could prove to be an underrated departure. Perine has been a productive backup behind Mixon the past couple seasons. Neither Chase Brown or Trayveon Williams are proven commodities to fill his role.
Which team has the best running back group in the division?
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