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Ranking AFC West running backs: Josh Jacobs leads the pack

Division has a few good backs

Kansas City Chiefs v Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Josh Jacobs was one of the few bright spots for the Las Vegas Raiders last season as he became just the second player in franchise history to win the NFL rushing title with 1,653 yards. But Jacobs isn’t the only notable running back in the AFC West as the division has quite a bit of talent at the position.

1) Josh Jacobs

Heading into 2023, Josh Jacobs has a strong argument as the best running back in the entire league. He ranked second with 1,156 yards after contact last season which comes out to nearly 70 percent of his league-leading total, and he topped the charts with 90 missed tackles forced, via Pro Football Focus.

The only question surrounding Jacobs’ future is how much time he has left with the Silver and Black as he hasn’t signed the franchise tender the front office slapped on him in March, and the deadline to reach a long-term agreement is approaching.

2) Austin Ekeler

Surprsingly enough, Austin Ekeler has never had a 1,000-yard season as a rusher or receiver during his six-year career, including the last three and a half seasons when he took over as the Chargers’ starter. But what he has done is rack up over 1,500 yards and double-digit touchdowns from scrimmage in three out of the last four seasons. Just looking at the last two campaigns, Ekeler has 38 total touchdowns which leads the league by 12 during that timeframe.

Similar to Jacobs, Ekeler’s days in Los Angeles appear to be numbered as he requested a trade this offseason as he’s looking to get a new contract.

3) Isiah Pacheco

There’s a steep drop off after the first two backs on this list, but Isiah Pacheco was impressive once he was given the starting job in Kansas City. In 11 starts (17 games) last season, he rushed for 830 yards and 4.9 yards per tote. The latter ranked 12th among qualifying running backs and 510 of his yards, or about 61.4 percent, came after contact. Pacheco could easily become a 1,000-yard back this season as the Chiefs’ full-time starter.

4) Javonte Williams

If it weren't for a torn ACL that limited him to four games last fall, Javonte Williams could be No. 3 on this list due to his potential alone. In limited action, he’s racked up 1,107 rushing yards on 250 carries (4.4 ypc) and has forced 79 missed tackles as a rusher and receiver. With Melvin Gordon finally out of the way and a surgically-repaired knee, Williams projects to be an integral part of the Broncos’ offensive resurgence this upcoming season, which should help improve his standing among his peers.

Honrable Mention: Jerick McKinnon (KC) and Samaje Perine (DEN)