Will we see the return of the first-round running back in the 2023 NFL Draft? That remains to be seen, but the talent is there for one — if not two — RBs to crack the top 32 picks. And in the rounds that follow, there is plenty of value. With the draft mere months away, here are the top 10 running backs in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Top 10 Running Backs in the 2023 NFL Draft
10) Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
Zach Charbonnet isn’t an elite running back, but his skill set easily translates to the NFL. At 6’1″ and 220 pounds, he easily checks the size box and doesn’t lack in the athletic department.
He’s less “make you miss” and more “run through you,” which lends to his north-south style. Charbonnet’s contact balance is only rivaled by the Weebles toy — they wobble, but they don’t fall down.
9) Sean Tucker, Syracuse
You may need to see an ophthalmologist if you aren’t pleased after watching Sean Tucker play football. The Syracuse product isn’t much of a power back, but you don’t have to be when you can outrun most defenders. Much of Tucker’s allure stems from his track speed and easy acceleration.
Combined with his vision and footwork, it’s no wonder he often finds daylight. Moreover, Syracuse utilized him in the passing games (52 targets) more than ever before this season, displaying his receiving prowess.
8) Zach Evans, Ole Miss
A true freshman outperformed Zach Evans. Normally, that sentence would be a cause for concern. But that true freshman was Quinshon Judkins — possibly the best RB in the country not named Bijan Robinson. So take Evans’ inability to lock down Ole Miss’ RB1 role with a grain of salt.
If Evans declares this year, he will finish his collegiate career with less than 300 carries (290) and one yard short of 2,000. That’s a ridiculous average of 6.9 yards per carry, but four RBs had more rushing attempts in the 2022 season alone. The tools — top-end speed, fleet-footedness, etc. — are there, but decision-makers will have questions about his bell-cow ability.
7) Israel Abanikanda, Pittsburgh
If you didn’t know Israel Abanikanda before the season, you definitely did after his 320-yard and six-touchdown performance against Virginia Tech. At just 20 years old (he doesn’t turn 21 until next October), he’s proven to be a complete ball carrier.
Outside of passing up opportunities to bounce to the edge and refining his ability on passing downs, there isn’t much not to like about Abanikanda. A ban I kinda want to place in this year’s draft? Letting Izzy fall beyond the first four rounds.
6) Kendre Miller, TCU
There’s production, and then there’s Kendre Miller’s production. Miller scored a touchdown in every … single … game this season. He finished with 1,342 yards and 17 TDs on 216 carries (6.2 average).
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But there is more to Miller than the stat sheet. He is a creative speed back that is constantly searching for the big play but also possesses the vision to mitigate wasted motion.
5) Devon Achane, Texas A&M
ALL ABOARD! The Achane (Devon, that is) is ready to depart. The Texas A&M RB is the human reincarnation of Lightning McQueen — “Speed. I am speed.” He can flip the field on any given play, whether as a rusher or kick returner.
Achane’s size (5’9″, 185 pounds) restricts his projection, but his elite speed and burst are tailor-made for today’s NFL.
4) Tank Bigsby, Auburn
If the draft was based on names, Tank Bigsby would be the 1.01. Nevertheless, his game doesn’t fall too far behind. The Auburn RB exhausts runs of their full potential with explosiveness and sheer physicality. But his trump card is his ability to plant his foot, change directions, and dart upfield.
Bigsby is a scheme and situation-diverse runner that can produce in any situation. And like his first name (Tank, not Cartavious), he’ll turn gaps into craters at a moment’s notice.
3) Blake Corum, Michigan
At 5’8″ and 200+ pounds, Blake Corum isn’t the biggest nor fastest back in the class. However, nearly every other aspect of his skill set is a coach’s dream. His low center of gravity and short-area explosiveness make him one of college football’s shiftiest RBs.
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Corum obliterates tackling angles with lateral quickness and decisive cuts. But what’s most exciting is the Michigan RB’s combination of vision and patience — a deadly duo that maximizes the blocking up front. Yet, his season-ending knee surgery must be thoroughly vetted before a team uses Day 2 capital on him.
2) Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
Today’s NFL is all about operating in space, and Jahmyr Gibbs has a doctorate in aerospace engineering. His otherworldly twitch, flexibility, and lightning-quick feet provided a foundation for the astronaut to navigate flying debris.
Akin to Jamaal Charles and Alvin Kamara, Gibbs thrives in the open field and has legitimate upside as a receiver. He isn’t your typical bruising Alabama back (Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram, etc.), but he has first-round potential all the same.
1) Bijan Robinson, Texas
Putting positional value aside, Bijan Robinson is a top-10 talent. His uncanny creative instincts, processing speed, and overall athletic profile are simply unparalleled. Heck, you could line him up at slot receiver full-time, and he’d be productive in the NFL.
If there’s one clip to summarize Robinson’s prowess as a ball carrier, it’s this:
Bijan Robinson (Texas RB 5) you have my attention sir. pic.twitter.com/lufl0TX2gH
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) March 9, 2021
No need to overthink it — Robinson is the top running back in the 2023 NFL Draft, and it’s not particularly close.
- Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
- DeWayne McBride, UAB
- Eric Gray, Oklahoma
- Chase Brown, Illinois
- Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota
- Chris Rodriguez, Kentucky
- Travis Dye, USC
- Camerun Peoples, Appalachian State
- Roschon Johnson, Texas
- Isaiah Davis, South Dakota State