Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor Top ESPN Rankings of Best RBs Entering 2022 NFL Season

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 12, 2022

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JANUARY 22: Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans walks off the field after a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Nissan Stadium on January 22, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Bengals defeated the Titans 19-16.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans' Derrick Henry was voted as the NFL's top running back for the second straight year in an ESPN survey of the league's executives, coaches, scouts and players.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler provided the voting results Tuesday as Henry held off the Indianapolis Colts' Jonathan Taylor for the No. 1 spot.

"I'd still give him one more year at the top," an unnamed NFL coordinator said. "He's the constant for that offense no matter who's around him. I still trust him to make it happen above anyone else. You can give him the ball 30 times and he won't disappoint."

Here's a look at the top five rushers from the ESPN poll:

  1. Henry
  2. Taylor
  3. Nick Chubb (Cleveland Browns)
  4. Dalvin Cook (Minnesota Vikings)
  5. Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints)

Henry is one of the most physically imposing rushers in NFL history with a 6'3'', 247-pound frame, but there is a question of whether the heavy workload is starting to take a toll.

The 28-year-old University of Alabama product was limited to eight games last season because of a foot injury. Despite missing more than half the 2021 campaign, his 1,115 carries since 2018 are still the most in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott is the only other player with over 1,000.

His 4.3 yards per carry last year also marked the second-lowest figure of his six-year career, but people around the NFL are still betting on the Titans star.

"I go Henry because everyone knows he is running the ball and their offensive line has been injured and it largely doesn't matter," an NFC executive told Fowler.

Meanwhile, Taylor is coming off a 2021 season when he led the NFL in both rushing yards (1,811) and rushing touchdowns (18) en route to his Pro Bowl debut and a first-team All-Pro selection.

"You go into the game with the Colts and say, 'Don't let him kill you. Make the quarterback beat you,'" an NFC executive told Fowler. "He's No. 1, 2 and 3 on the game plan."

At least one front-office member isn't totally sold on the Colts cornerstone, however, describing him as a "compiler" who benefited from the team's offensive system.

"I like him a lot, I just think he's set up for success more than most," the exec told Fowler.

One name from outside the top five that'll be watched closely in 2022 is the Carolina Panthers' Christian McCaffrey. He was voted No. 7 at the position, one spot ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Mixon.

McCaffrey is one of the league's most versatile playmakers, but he's only suited up for 10 games over the past two years because of injuries.

At least one NFL assistant is predicting a bounce-back year from the 2019 Pro Bowl selection in his age-26 season.

"[McCaffrey will] be higher on this list next year," an NFL offensive coach said. "He's still young."

Even in a league where a vast majority of the teams are now using a pass-first offensive approach, running backs are still a key element to success and will play an important role across the NFL in 2022.