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NFL RB Index, Week 17: Top five rushing quarterbacks 

In Christmas Day's blockbuster meeting between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, the football world had the luxury of watching two of the most electric rushers in the league. The first being the NFL's current rushing yards leader -- Christian McCaffrey. No surprise there. The second was quarterback Lamar Jackson, who made timely plays with his legs to move the chains and ultimately help the Ravens win on the road.

This week, I am, of course, staying within the run game but looking at the quarterback position. There are a ton of dual-threat signal-callers who are shredding defenses through the air but who also can weave their way down the field with their legs.

Here are my top five rushing quarterbacks right now:

Josh Allen
Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen is the second coming of Cam Newton. He's a big, physical guy who doesn't shy away from contact and works for every yard. In 2023, Allen has finally received some help in the run game, with James Cook logging more than 1,000 yards -- the most by a Bills running back since Allen took over as Buffalo’s QB1 in 2018. And while Allen is on pace for his lowest rushing yards total (468) since 2020, it doesn’t mean he is any less effective in the run game. The 6-foot-5, 237-pound dual-threat quarterback is a force as a runner and has gotten the best of his opponents near the end zone this season, scoring a career-high 13 rush touchdowns, with two games still to play. Scoring two in Saturday’s win over the Chargers, Allen joined (you guessed it!) Cam Newton as the second quarterback in NFL history to have at least 50 rush TDs in their career.

Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens

We are watching Lamar Jackson transform right in front of our eyes. He's still running the ball, but he's only utilizing his legs when he needs to, not because he has to. Jackson's focus this season has been his improvement as a passer under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and it's paid off, with Jackson already reaching career highs in pass attempts (436), completions (289), pass yards (3,357) and completion percentage (66.3). It's great to see him playing so well and returning to the MVP conversation.

But his success through the air doesn’t mean he’s completely gone away in the run game -- and thank goodness for that. His rushing ability was on full display near the end of the first half of Monday night's win, most notably on a 30-yard scramble in which he escaped a sack before breaking All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner’s ankles, setting up an easy Justin Tucker field goal. Jackson is capable of making these highlight-reel runs every time he takes off, whether on scrambles or designed runs, so it should come as no surprise that he leads all quarterbacks with 786 rush yards, 27 runs of 10-plus yards and 171 rush yards over expected this season, per Next Gen Stats. His improvement as a passer, combined with his game-changing rushing ability, have him in position to win his second MVP award -- and he's put the Ravens on the precipice of earning the AFC’s No. 1 seed with two weeks remaining in the regular season. 

Justin Fields
Chicago Bears

Joining Lamar Jackson as the only other quarterback to lead his team in rushing yards, Justin Fields is a big play waiting to happen. He leads all quarterbacks this season with 53.2 rush yards per game, thanks to his ability to evade pressure in the pocket and pick up extra yards with his legs. He also has logged 131 rush yards over expected this season, second-most among quarterbacks, and he reached a top speed of 20.68 miles per hour during a 13-yard sprint in Week 12, the second-fastest among QBs on a run play, per Next Gen Stats. As long as he’s as the center of Chicago’s offense, the run game will play a huge part in his success. 

Jalen Hurts
Philadelphia Eagles

It's been an up-and-down campaign for Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles, who are underperforming despite having 11 wins. Hurts has certainly had his struggles in the pass game, but he’s routinely found consistency in the run game in 2023. He has the ability of Allen and the speed and explosiveness of Jackson and Fields. And perhaps there is no bigger threat to convert on short-yardage or goal-line situations than Hurts behind the Eagles’ elite O-line. Of his record-setting 15 rush TDs, 13 have come within 3 yards of the goal line, per Next Gen Stats, thanks to the team’s signature play: the Brotherly Shove. Hurts has converted 32 first downs on short down-and-distances with his legs -- but it’s not just in those situations that he thrives as a runner. He has earned 65 first downs on run plays in total this season, most among quarterbacks and second in the NFL, to only Christian McCaffrey (79). With the second-most rushing yards (576) on the Eagles this season, Hurts’ size and speed make him a rushing threat defenses must account for.

Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs

When I think about rushing QBs, Patrick Mahomes does not immediately come to mind -- mainly because he is undoubtedly the league’s best passer. But Mahomes is sneaky fast and finds a way to get loose, thanks to his feel in the pocket and ability to escape pressure. Mahomes has the second-most yards on scrambles with 409 and has earned 25 first downs on such plays, per Next Gen Stats. We saw this rushing ability at the forefront of the Chiefs’ offense against the Raiders on Christmas, when he recorded season highs in attempts (10) and rushing yards (53). That tells us exactly where the Chiefs are as an offense right now. It’s not ideal, but Mahomes is effective on the ground, which brings me to another question: Should this Chiefs offense become an RPO team? It needs to try something.

Top 15 running backs

Former NFL rushing leader and current NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his top 15 each week of the 2023 season. His rankings are primarily based on this season's efforts. Here is MJD's list in Week 17.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from Week 16's rankings.

Christian McCaffrey
San Francisco 49ers · Year 7

2023 stats: 15 games | 258 att | 1,395 rush yds | 5.4 ypc | 14 rush TD | 63 rec | 537 rec yds | 7 rec TD | 2 fumbles lost

Brock Purdy’s interceptions took the 49ers right out of the game -- and potentially took Purdy out of the MVP race -- on Christmas night, but Christian McCaffrey continued to be his reliable self, no matter how ugly things got. Finishing with 103 rush yards, one rush TD, six catches and 28 receiving yards, CMC logged a new single-season career high with 1,395 rush yards. He also became the first player in 49ers history with at least six games of 100 rush yards and one rush TD in a season.  

Raheem Mostert
Miami Dolphins · Year 9

2023 stats: 15 games | 209 att | 1,012 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 18 rush TD | 25 rec | 175 rec yds | 3 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

In a game where both teams had to work harder than usual to get into the end zone, Raheem Mostert came through to score Miami’s lone touchdown in Sunday’s hard-fought win that clinched a playoff berth. Though he’s scored nearly 20 times on the ground this season, this touchdown came on a 4-yard pass from Tua Tagovailoa, capping an eight-play, 71-yard drive at the end of the first half. 

Kyren Williams
Los Angeles Rams · Year 2

2023 stats: 11 games | 208 att | 1,057 rush yds | 5.1 ypc | 9 rush TD | 30 rec | 192 rec yds | 3 rec TD | 2 fumbles lost

The Rams have been on fire since their Week 10 bye, ranking in the top five in points per game (29.8) and total yards per game (406) in that span. Kyren Williams has been a huge part of that success, and he continued to make his impact felt Thursday night. With 22 carries for 104 yards -- including a 10-yard TD run in the third to give the Rams their biggest lead of the game -- Williams recorded his sixth straight game with at least 100 scrimmage yards. He's the first Rams player to do so in a season since Steven Jackson’s eight consecutive games in 2009, per NFL Research. He’ll look to extend that streak against the Giants in Week 17.

David Montgomery
Detroit Lions · Year 5

2023 stats: 12 games | 195 att | 910 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 11 rush TD | 16 rec | 117 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

The rushing attack is at the center of everything the Lions do offensively, and we again saw David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs wear down the Vikings defense in Detroit’s division-clinching win Sunday. Montgomery added his 11th rushing touchdown -- a 1-yard plunge to cap Detroit’s opening drive -- in the win, and the Lions surpassed their 2022 rushing TD total (23) with 24, the third-most in franchise history, with two games remaining. Detroit has only had more rushing touchdowns as a team in 1934 (27) and 1981 (26).

Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · Year 8

2023 stats: 15 games | 249 att | 972 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 11 rush TD | 28 rec | 214 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Derrick Henry bounced back from a down Week 15 with a game-leading 88 rush yards on 19 carries for 4.6 yards per attempt. He regularly helped move the chains and hit pay dirt twice -- on a 12-yard pass to Chigoziem Okonkwo for the first points of the game and a 2-yard run to give Tennessee a late lead -- but it wasn’t enough to give Tennessee its sixth win of the season. It did, however, mark Henry’s third career game with a pass TD and rush TD, tied for second-most by a non-QB in NFL history (LaDainian Tomlinson did it five times). 

Jahmyr Gibbs
Detroit Lions · Rookie

2023 stats: 13 games | 154 att | 872 rush yds | 5.7 ypc | 9 rush TD | 51 rec | 316 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

Jahmyr Gibbs keeps getting better the further we get into his rookie campaign. In Sunday’s historic win over Minnesota, he rushed for a team-high 80 yards with a pair of touchdowns: a 14-yard run that gave Detroit its largest lead of the game in the second quarter and a 3-yard scamper in the fourth. He has nine rushing touchdowns since Week 7. If Gibbs keeps up this hot streak, the Lions are going to be tough for any opponent to beat.

James Cook
Buffalo Bills · Year 2

2023 stats: 15 games | 208 att | 1,038 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 2 rush TD | 40 rec | 433 rec yds | 4 rec TD | 2 fumbles lost

In the Bills’ third straight win, a 24-22 defeat of the Chargers, James Cook didn’t have to carry the load as he did in weeks prior. The second-year back chipped in with a respectable but not stellar outing, rushing for 70 yards on 20 carries while taking a backseat to Josh Allen at the goal line.

Rachaad White
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 2

2023 stats: 15 games | 242 att | 873 rush yds | 3.6 ypc | 6 rush TD | 56 rec | 507 rec yds | 3 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

Rachaad White continued to make an impact for the Bucs’ offense by scoring on a 2-yard TD run in Sunday’s romp over Jacksonville. Led by Baker Mayfield, the Bucs’ offense is clicking and finding ways to get into the end zone, whether with White and the run game or Mike Evans and the passing attack. It's nice to see White embracing his opportunity as RB1 in his second year in the league.

D'Andre Swift
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 4

2023 stats: 15 games | 216 att | 988 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 5 rush TD | 38 rec | 209 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

D’Andre Swift earned 77 of his 92 rush yards in the second half of Sunday’s win over New York, picking up gains of 13, 17 and 12 yards and fighting his way into the end zone on a 5-yard run early in the fourth quarter. Swift helped the Eagles rush for more than 170 yards for the second straight game and snap their three-game skid. This is the type of effort Philly needs from its RB1 going forward to alleviate pressure on Jalen Hurts late in tough games.

Saquon Barkley
New York Giants · Year 6

2023 stats: 12 games | 217 att | 877 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 4 rush TD | 36 rec | 210 rec yds | 4 rec TD | 2 fumbles lost

The Giants refused to go away Sunday, and Saquon Barkley was a big part of the team’s second-half push. The physical veteran registered nearly half of his rushing yards in the second half, including an untouched 7-yard TD run -- his third in three weeks -- and a converted two-point try that illustrated why he owns the nickname SaQuads. He has no quit.

Travis Etienne
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 3

2023 stats: 15 games | 235 att | 849 rush yds | 3.6 ypc | 9 rush TD | 51 rec | 430 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

The Jaguars’ offense has been stuck in the mud for some time. It was no different Sunday in the team’s fourth straight loss. Travis Etienne’s production was anything but spectacular with a mere 12 yards on six carries, while the Jags were held to a season-low 37 rush yards for the game. This rushing attack should never be led by Trevor Lawrence, who posted 29 yards. Something has to change.

Bijan Robinson
Atlanta Falcons · Rookie

2023 stats: 15 games | 188 att | 873 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 4 rush TD | 48 rec | 373 rec yds | 3 rec TD | 3 fumbles lost

One week after a dismal performance against the Panthers, Bijan Robinson bounced back by leading the Falcons in carries (12), rush yards (72), receptions (seven) and receiving yards (50) in Sunday’s win over the Colts. He is the third rookie in Falcons history to lead the team in all four categories in a game. Most important, the Falcons kept their slim playoff chances alive.

Joe Mixon
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 7

2023 stats: 15 games | 222 att | 858 rush yds | 3.9 ypc | 8 rush TD | 47 rec | 348 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

A 24-point first-half hole didn’t do anything for Joe Mixon’s usage on Saturday. It’s tough to look to the run game when trying to make up that many points. The veteran back finished with just 50 yards on 13 touches in a critical loss, which knocked Cincy out of a wild-card spot, snapping his streak of games with a TD run at three.

Tony Pollard
Dallas Cowboys · Year 5

2023 stats: 15 games | 219 att | 886 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 5 rush TD | 52 rec | 295 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

With so many weapons contributing in Dallas’ offense, Tony Pollard is getting lost in the shuffle. Over the last two games, both losses to Buffalo and Miami, he has totaled 23 carries for 90 yards. There’s an obvious pattern in Dallas’ struggles this season; it has rushed for fewer than 100 yards in four of the team’s five losses. Mike McCarthy must find a way to get Pollard and the backfield going, though it won’t be easy against Detroit’s fourth-ranked run defense.  

Gus Edwards
Baltimore Ravens · Year 5

2023 stats: 15 games | 172 att | 694 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 12 rush TD | 12 rec | 180 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Gus Edwards has worked his way back into my top 15 thanks to his ability to get into the end zone. On perhaps the biggest stage of the regular season, a Christmas night showdown with the 49ers, Edwards scored his 12th rushing touchdown of the season -- on a fourth down, no less. The TD tied Edwards for the second most in a season in Ravens franchise history, behind Jamal Lewis’ 14 in 2003. 

DROPPED OUT: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (previously No. 14).

The Ground Index presented by FedEx ranks NFL running back performances all season long. Check out the weekly FedEx Air NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote after Sunday Night Football.

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