NFL free-agent rankings: Top 5 RBs led by big names like Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs

Get ready for some more talk about the value of running backs.

The circular debate about running backs and their worth will continue this offseason because there are a lot of big-name stars that are about to hit the market. There are players who are well known and have helped a lot of fantasy football teams, but what kind of deals will they find with teams being wary about giving veteran running backs long contracts?

Yahoo Sports is ranking the top five NFL free agents by position. (Mallory Bielecki/Yahoo Sports)
Yahoo Sports is ranking the top five NFL free agents by position. (Mallory Bielecki/Yahoo Sports)

Here are the top five free agent running backs:

1. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Perhaps Barkley is a bit overrated due to his lofty status as a prospect out of Penn State and a historic rookie season. Barkley has one Pro Bowl season out of his last five. That can be blamed on injuries and an often mediocre Giants situation around him, but there is a question over how good Barkley is and how much a team should spend on him. Barkley did not get a franchise tag, like he did last offseason, so we'll see what kind of deal he commands.

2. Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

Jacobs was an All-Pro in 2022, when his talent finally translated to huge numbers, including a rushing title. Last season was a step back, but that might have had something to do with Josh McDaniels. After McDaniels was fired, Jacobs looked a lot better before an injury ended his season. He's just 26 years old and seems like a fairly safe investment, as far as running backs go.

3. Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys

Pollard got a shot as the Cowboys' unquestioned RB1 and was fairly underwhelming. That makes him a hard evaluation because he was highly efficient in the seasons before that as a 1-2 punch with Ezekiel Elliott. His career mark of 4.8 yards per carry is fantastic, tied with Christian McCaffrey's career mark. But how much should a team spend on a back that might not be best suited in a featured back role?

4. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

Henry has had an outstanding career, but that's part of the problem. The Titans — and the University of Alabama before that — gave him as many carries as he could handle. Henry led the NFL in carries four of the past five seasons, and only an injury in 2021 kept him from making it five-for-five. He's 30 years old with 2,030 regular-season NFL carries, and that doesn't count the postseason or a huge college workload. He's also a unicorn who averaged 4.2 yards per carry despite a below average offensive line blocking for him last season, so maybe he still has a couple prime seasons left.

5. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

Ekeler tried to leverage his past production into a bigger deal last offseason, but eventually settled for the Chargers adding just $1.75 million in incentives. He's one of the main examples of star running backs not being able to land huge long-term deals. He's a tough, shifty runner whose biggest asset is being one of the best receiving backs of his era. That will have value to some team, even as Ekeler enters his age-29 season.