The freshman running back class isn’t as strong as some recent years but has a few guys who could make an immediate impact. We are always searching for the diamonds in the rough, and a few could emerge and are worth late selections in your devy drafts.
Cedric Baxter Jr., Texas
As the top back in the class and replacing Bijan Robinson in a system that churns out 1,000-yard rushers, Baxter garners the most excitement of all the backs. He hasn’t replaced Bijan yet, Jonathan Brooks is currently atop the depth chart, but Baxter will be the lead back by October.
Baxter is 6’1” and 210 pounds, and he’s a powerful runner that absorbs contact, powering through tackles. As a running back, he’s only been in the position for two seasons, and he has some room to grow – a scary prospect. He has game-breaking speed, an explosive first step, and accelerates to top speed quickly. Oh, and he is patient too. Baxter hasn’t displayed much as a pass-catcher and needs to run with his pad level lower, I expect him to work on these, and he’s got a great shot to be the top back selected in the 2026 NFL Draft.
Baxter is the top back to target for devy drafts, I like a few WRs more, but it’s hard to argue with Baxter’s upside and opportunity.
Justice Haynes, Alabama
Heading to a program with a strong history of producing NFL backs, Haynes has tremendous upside, but we may have to wait a minute to see it fully. There isn’t much experience in the Tide running back room, though, so Haynes could carve out a role early.
Haynes is an electric ball carrier with a load of twitchiness, and he makes difficult runs look incredibly easy. He strings together moves, changes directions, and makes guys miss – all at full speed. Haynes plays a lot like Jahmyr Gibbs, but I think Haynes is a better rushing option than Gibbs was. Haynes only had 23 receptions in high school as well, so we would want to see many more catches before calling him Gibbs 2.0.
I like Baxter and his situation a bit better, but a strong case can be made for Haynes being the top back in this class. Take him in the first round of your devy drafts.
Roderick Robinson II, Georgia
Georgia has a few absolute units at running back with Branson Robinson and Roderick Robinson II. The latter is an incoming freshman who is 6’0” and 235 pounds but can also run nearly 22 MPH. That should be ILLEGAL.
Roderick Robinson is my RB2 in the upcoming class. He’s in a rare group of high school prospects that has hit 22 mph and weighs over 220 pounds. He’ll get touches in 2023 pic.twitter.com/Da2QeKabeC— Austin (@devydeets) January 17, 2023
Robinson is a bull in a china shop with the ball; he’s a nasty, straightforward rusher but has a solid ability to change direction. He will run over people and is surprisingly smooth as a pass catcher. Robinson has the skill set to be a three-down back in the NFL.
But he enters a murky situation at Georgia, as the team has a bevy of talented backs, and a lot can happen over several seasons of not playing. Just a year ago, we were touting Andrew Paul, and after missing last season, he seems like an extinct relic. Robinson should see the field, and he’s going to get to the NFL – draft him with confidence.
Cam Seldon, Tennessee
One of next year’s top running backs, Raheim Sanders, took a similar role to college as Seldon, and Seldon has an enticing upside. He was used as a quarterback, running back, and wide receiver in high school. Seldon is a phenomenal athlete with an NFL-ready size of 6’2” and 215 pounds.
In spring camp, he was already laying his claim to be a running back and showcased his speed and power. He’s been clocked over 22 MPH and caught a bunch of passes. Although his pass-catching technique needs work, it’s still nice to see a willingness to do so. With his speed, Seldon is also a bear to bring down.
It’s all about enticing upside and traits with Seldon that puts him all the way up here on this list. If he’s the next Rocket Sanders, you want to be on that train early.
Rueben Owens, Texas A&M
The first four cats make hay as strong runners and have limited pass-catching experience as running backs. That is definitely not the case with Owens. He’s an accomplished pass-catching back with soft hands and good moves after the catch. He runs with good contact balance and vision but often loses speed when he makes moves. Owens doesn’t have much wiggle and is better as a north-south runner.
He’s an older prospect, already 19, which may cause a few to knock him down. Owens is the last of the “cant-miss” prospects you want in your devy drafts. I would target him in the early second, I have hesitation in the whole Texas A&M program’s ability to develop players.
Kaleb Jackson, LSU
Despite missing a majority of his senior season, Jackson finished as a top-12 running back and has impressive athleticism. Plus, he’s got a chance to emerge for the Tigers early in his career.
Jackson is a downhill runner with patience, and he has the ability to explode when he gets an opening. He’s got track speed and isn’t afraid to hit people, either. Jackson won’t make a mess of moves to sift through traffic, but he’s very sudden when running and capable of making a cut at full speed. I like his ability to catch passes too.
Jackson is one of the backs I am trying to leave my devy drafts with. He added weight, so seeing what he does at 222 pounds is a bit of a hesitation, yet the talent and opportunity are ideal.
Dontavious Braswell, South Carolina
Another back I am trying to leave as many drafts as possible with is the Gamecock freshman back, Braswell. He’s got the potential to be one of the top three backs in the class but has questions. His speed’s not a question – Braswell has state championship medals in the 100 and 200m. He runs with purpose, setting up defenders and putting them in a blender with moves at full speed.
We haven’t seen much as far as a pass-catching from Braswell, and he would need to add 15 pounds or so to meet the thresholds we like for three-down backs. At worst, he’s an explosive back with home-run speed, which will get him a role on Sundays.
Kedrick Reescano, Ole Miss
Originally committed to my Michigan State Spartans, Reescano rose over 200 spots in the composite over his senior season, and it garnered him a bit more interest. He’s now headed to Ole Miss, and Lane Kiffin has another back at his disposal to replace the departed Zach Evans.
Undoubtedly, Quinshon Judkins is the man, but Reescano has value as a powerful back with some juice in his stride. He is a fluid back, with patience and the ability to quickly get through a developing hole. Reescano is an accomplished pass-catching option, too. What holds me back in my ranking of him is he’s a bit limited athletically, and I need to see a little more ability to make people miss.
Richard Young, Alabama
I have a really hard time selecting Young with Haynes in the way, and who knows who else will be on the Tide roster in a few years? The path for him to get carries is muddled. Young is a big back and makes his money by being a north-south runner who can lay down some punishment. His vision is a little spotty, but he doesn’t have much ability to improvise. We’ve seen Alabama backs like Young have relevance, though; looking at you, Brian Robinson.
Quinten Joyner, USC
Another back to take a flyer on late, Joyner has a crowded situation at USC, and Lincoln Riley doesn’t favor one back. So, yes, he could see carries early and then often over the next few seasons. Joyner has good size and track speed and invites contact by running hard. He doesn’t show the ability to string together moves and gears down when trying to. Joyner does have good size and speed and a stage to showcase it on, though.
Jeremiyah Love, Notre Dame
I feel like I have talked about almost exclusively one-cut, north-south runners, and Love is not an exception. He can get upfield in a hurry and has a good situation in South Bend. He’s not a powerful back and has been elusive in the open field, so Love could develop as a pass-catching option.
Isaiah Augustave, Arkansas
I admit it, I want Augustave to be the next Rocket, and I really just love saying his last name. Augustave has some serious burst, ridiculous long speed, and plays physically. He needs work in many areas, including using blockers better, and has shown absolutely nothing as a pass-catching option. Yet, I find myself grabbing him in devy drafts in the fourth round or later many times.
Names to Monitor
A’Marion Peterson, USC
Jeremiah Cobb, Auburn
Kaden Feagin, Illinois
Dante Dowdell, Oregon
Darius Taylor, Minnesota
Cameron Cook, TCU
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