The AFC North is staked with talent and some in the media are calling it the best division in football. Whoever wins the division will have earned it after surviving the gauntlet it will likely be; hopefully, that is the Cleveland Browns led by the rushing attack of running back Nick Chubb.
Old-school AFC North football is about playing good defense and running the football, though there is a ton of great passing offenses in the division now. Each team in the division has a lead running back that has the talent to be a Pro Bowler this season. Let’s take a look at how the leading runners for each team rank in the stout AFC North.
1. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
Nick Chubb continues to be one of, if not, the best running back in the entire NFL. PFF listed him as the most elusive back in the league this offseason and his numbers add up. During the 2022 season, Chubb forced 83 missed tackles, rushed for 1,050 yards after contact, and had 47 explosive runs according to PFF.
This might surprise people to see Najee Harris ranked second on this list, but if he played behind a better line the past two years it wouldn’t be. Harris is a dual-threat player as a pass catcher as well as a solid runner. He is patient with good vision and a combination of power and speed that you want in a running back. He has shown that he can be a workhorse and carry the load and with an improved offensive line in 2023 he should take a step forward.
Joe Mixon seemed to have taken a step back last season with his rushing average dipping under four yards per carry in 2022. However, he still was an effective player that helped to complement Joe Burrow and the passing offense as well as being a decent receiver out of the backfield. Mixon forced 23 missed tackles last year while scoring nine total touchdowns.
Coming off a torn ACL that cost J.K. Dobbins his 2021 season, Dobbins had a solid season working back from the injury. Dobbins rushed for an impressive 5.7 yards per carry while forcing 18 missed tackles. Dobbins however didn’t get a ton of opportunities in the passing game and only scored three total touchdowns last year. An extra year removed from the injury Dobbins should have a much better season in 2023.