Even in a pass-heavy NFL, the buzz surrounding the incoming group of rookie running backs is strong.
Many believe the 2023 NFL Draft features one of the deeper classes at the running back position to enter the draft in some time. At least one back seems like a first-round lock, while several others have generated significant Day 2 buzz. How each prospect performs at the next level remains to be seen, but it’s no stretch to believe that several starting running backs could emerge from this year’s draft.
SB Nation polled several of its draft analysts to determine a consensus top 11 running backs in this year’s class.
1. Bijan Robinson, Texas
Robinson is arguably the most talented running back prospect since Saquon Barkley in 2018, so it’s no surprise he finished as the unanimous No. 1 back. An electrifying blend of size, speed, power, agility, pass-catching ability and creativity, the 2022 first-team All-American figures to be an immediate star at the next level.
2. Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
Gibbs was voted as the unanimous No. 2 back in the class behind Robinson in our polling, and after the season he had at Alabama in 2022, that’s no surprise. Though not the bigger back out there, he’s incredibly shifty, has impressive breakaway speed, runs with determination, and offers plenty of value on passing downs.
3. Devon Achane, Texas A&M
The consensus was heavy on Achane being the third-best running back prospect in the 2023 draft. Running a 4.32 40-yard dash helped back up the findings on tape: He’s one of the most explosive runners in this year’s draft. He’s far from a power back but has quick feet and home-run ability written all over him.
4. Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
Charbonnet is a tough runner with an NFL-ready frame and arguably the best contact balance in this year’s class. He’s far from the shiftiest back in the nation, but he’s more than capable of breaking free for big gains regularly with his solid breakaway speed.
5. Tyjae Spears, Tulane
Spears exploded onto the scene after tallying 1581 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground this past year. A creative runner with quick feet and very good acceleration out of the backfield, he’s like lightning in a bottle and seems like a strong bet to be selected within the first 100 picks.
6. Chase Brown, Illinois
With two 1,000-yard seasons to his name and one of the best athletic profiles in this year’s running back class, Brown is one of the most entertaining runners in the 2023 draft. He’s a very good athlete with a well-rounded skill set with the potential to be a solid starter at the next level.
7. Roschon Johnson, Texas
Were it not for Bijan Robinson’s presence ahead of him on Texas’ depth chart, there’s a strong chance Johnson would be more commonly viewed as a top-5 running back in this year’s class. Though unproven as a bell-cow back, one could argue the lack of a massive workload could benefit him as a powerful runner with shifty feet for his size.
8. Tank Bigsby, Auburn
Bigsby concludes his time at Auburn with 2903 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns in three seasons. He doesn’t have elite breakaway speed but is agile in a vacuum and runs with plenty of determination in between the tackles.
9. Israel Abanikanda, Pitt
Abanikanda is a certified speedster out of the backfield who could carve a niche for himself in a committee at the next level. A lack of consistent ball-carrier vision hurts his draft stock a bit, but he’s one of the more athletic weapons this year’s draft has to offer, and he has a lower center of gravity that gives him nice contact balance.
10. Zach Evans, Ole Miss
The first five-star recruit to sign with TCU, Evans headed to Ole Miss and showcased his impressive lateral quickness and game-breaking acceleration, despite playing in a stacked backfield. He has had injury and fumble concerns in his collegiate career, but he seems like a quality complementary back at the next level.
11. DeWayne McBride, UAB
McBride proved to be a divisive prospect in our voting, having received two sixth-place votes but also some much worse numbers on other ballots. He’s far from the most valuable back to have on third downs, and his athletic ability is just decent for his position. However, he’s a tough runner with a smooth running motion and an aggressive edge when tacklers come to meet him.