As you have seen in the NFL this year, the 2017 running back class is beginning to hit its wall. Names like Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, James Conner, and others are starting to slow down. Of course, others like CMC, Alvin Kamara, and Joe Mixon keep chugging along. That’s why it’s great news for dynasty players, fantasy football, and the NFL that the 2023 NFL Draft is bringing a potentially generational type running back class into the mix. This class has the potential and likelihood to achieve greater success than the 2017 class.
Last year’s draft had some talented running backs drafted. Dameon Pierce, Breece Hall, Kenneth Walker Jr., and Rachaad White are the best four in the class so far. However, there’s still more like Tyler Allgeier, who is starting to rise. In this year’s 2023 NFL Draft class for running backs, I’m not sure of any, but Pierce, Hall, and Walker would be among the top ten in this running back primer. That’s how extremely loaded this class is, which is why I hope you’ve been loading on rookie picks for the 2023 draft. This draft class could determine your dynasty and favorite NFL team’s future for many years. So, let’s get started with the best running back I’ve ever seen in college in the past decade.
1. Bijan Robinson, Texas
Bijan is easily the best running back prospect for the NFL Draft since Saquon Barkley, if not for a decade or more. Robinson will be the top running back selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. He will likely go in the early first round which speaks to how great he is considering how devalued running backs are in the current NFL. Robinson will be the 1.01 for many 2023 rookie drafts, including any in which I have the first selection. He’s the number one running back in our devy rankings.
So far this year, Robinson is averaging 5.7 ypc and has 11 touchdowns. He’s showcased his receiving ability, too, with 17 catches for 280 yards and a touchdown. Bijan can do anything you want a running back to do. One can’t speak enough of how good he is and will be. Easiest pick for the first spot in any of these 2023 NFL Draft primers. Bijan has the perfect mix of elusiveness, vision, speed, toughness, hands, and every other quality in a running back.
2. Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
If you wanted to make a case for a 1A/1B running back duo this year, Gibbs is your man at 1B. In most years, he’d easily be the best running back in the class, but not when you have a generational-type player included. However, Gibbs is plenty elite when it comes to playing running back. With Alabama, he’s put his insane speed, pass-catching ability, and overall skillset on display every week. This year, he has 6.9 ypc, nine total touchdowns, and 31 catches for 301 yards. I could see him being the next Alvin Kamara if he reaches his true potential.
Gibbs has elite speed, vision, and understands how to find the open lane. To make it even better, he’s probably the best route-running back in the 2023 NFL Draft class. He’s a wide receiver in a running back’s body. Try to grab him in your dynasty rookie drafts, as he’ll be going early, but he will be a massive long-term asset. Just get Gibbs in space and watch him excel.
3. Sean Tucker, Syracuse
Tucker is an excellent running back that does everything well and is a team player. I barely have him over Zach Evans, but it could just as easily be flipped. Tucker’s an extremely fast running back with good straight-line burst/speed. Despite being on the smaller side of running backs, he’s got great toughness and an ability to break tackles. To increase his appeal to the NFL, he’s also a good pass-catcher. He’s already got a career-high in catches this season. If he can improve his pass-blocking, I’d say Tucker’s got a great shot to be a three-down back for some NFL team. See if you can get him in the mid-late firsts in dynasty for a worthwhile investment.
4. Zach Evans, Ole Miss
Evans is one of my favorite players in this running back class if he keeps his head on straight. He’s got immense talent and size and the ability to do basically anything on the field. The only concern is that he’s had attitude issues which could hurt him in the NFL. Or, he could just be the next supposed “hothead” to excel in the NFL. Evans transferred to Ole Miss after a tough ending with TCU in 2021. He’s averaging a great 6.3 ypc with seven touchdowns. Evans can easily make defenders miss and has some of the best burst/speed in the 2023 NFL Draft class.
Evans could likely finish his college career with over 2,000 yards rushing on fewer than 300 carries. That’s pretty insane, considering that’s over 6.5 ypc over three+ years. The only question besides the mood is whether he can stay healthy. If he can, he’s a bell-cow three-down running back for your dynasty team. See if you can’t get him in the late-first or so, as he will be a solid investment long-term.
5. Blake Corum, Michigan
Corum is pushing for a Heisman while he sets his case to be one of the best running backs selected in the NFL Draft. Corum has had plenty of supporters, but there was always doubt about how good he is. Plus, there are worries his shorter stature of 5’8″ could harm him, but he’s proving all those doubters wrong this year. So far this year, Corum has 1,187 yards, 16 touchdowns, eight receptions for 37 yards, and another touchdown. He’s averaging almost six ypc and has done exceptionally well against tough schools like Penn St. Don’t be surprised if Corum winds up sneaking his way into the second or third round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Corum can break tackles, make defenders whiff, and make insanely quick cuts on a dime. He runs forward with a low center while staying upright enough to absorb hits. I like Corum’s future, but he could have a tough time in the NFL. He’s got extreme upside in dynasty but also some very real downside, although he could be the next Kenneth Walker Jr.
6. Tank Bigsby, Auburn
Tank’s a big source of conflict among the NFL Draft and fantasy football community. Are his numbers not great because of the team he plays for (Auburn), or is it because he’s just overhyped? He’s done well behind an awful Auburn offensive line and has shown an ability to be a capable pass-catcher. However, he isn’t showing much elusiveness aside from a one-step, plant foot, and explode move. Bigsby is plenty quick with a good burst, but you need more than that in the NFL. Only time will tell, but he’s worth the second-round pick in your dynasty rookie draft.
7. Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
Charbonnet is another conflict among the draft/fantasy football community. He seems to be good but didn’t declare for the draft last year. There are rumors that the NFL isn’t a fan of his, but it only takes one team. Charbonnet has amazing size at 6’1″ and 220 pounds. He reminds me a bit of King Henry in that he looks for contact. He’s not a running back that wants to juke you. Charbonnet wants to run straight through you. Aside from good hands and route running, the big plus for him is that he can pass protect. Doing that well enough will guarantee you a job in the NFL. I’d want him on my dynasty squad for sure, even if there’s not much upside and just a solid floor.
8. Israel Abanikanda, Pittsburgh
I don’t know what to make of Abanikanda, but he has a terrific name. Aside from his massive six-touchdown game in which he rushed for 320 yards, he’s had an “okay” season. Yes, he ran for 320 yards in a game; you read that right. Abanikanda never stops his feet from moving forward, which leads to increased yards. He has excellent speed, especially on outside-zone runs, where he uses his amazing burst and nimbleness to eat up the yardage. Abanikanda is young, at only 20 years old, and has much upside. If he can pass-block, he’s a three-down back and one you’ll want on your dynasty team no matter what.
9. Kendre Miller, TCU
Miller has more than filled Zach Evan’s shoes on No.4 TCU’s roster this year. Miller is built for the long haul of an NFL season at 6’0″ and 220 pounds, with a good burst and an unrelenting drive forward. He could return for the 2024 season to set himself up as one of the best running backs. If that happens, I’d probably put Chris Rodriguez Jr. or Devon Achane up. However, Miller might tell the NFL he’s ready for the big show. Miller is a solid blocker, pass-catcher and has the mentality to handle a three-down role. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes as a top-six running back in this class when all is said and done.
10. Kenny McIntosh, RB, Georgia
We know that Georgia running backs often excel in the NFL, so why wouldn’t you want McIntosh? He’s got great size at over 6’0″ and 207 pounds. McIntosh isn’t just an elite pass-catcher like James Cook, but he also can rush really well. He isn’t elite at running the ball but is excellent at pass-blocking. I see him being a third-down back in the NFL with more upside if he can improve as a rusher. The speedy McIntosh will have plenty of hype entering the draft but is a high-risk/high-reward dynasty and draft pick.
Honorable Mentions: Devon Achane (Texas A&M), Kendall Milton (Georgia), Eric Gray (Oklahoma), and Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Kentucky).
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As always, May the Force be with You…