Intro to the 2023 NFL Draft Class: Running Back

by Cody Carpentier · NFL Draft

Continuing Full steam ahead with the Introduction to the 2023 NFL Draft Class, today it’s Running Backs – Most of the NFL Draft and Fantasy communities are in agreeance on the Top Runningback in 2023, but it’s the guys that follow Bijan that are interesting.

Over the next few weeks, I will continue breaking down prospects you need to know heading into the 2022 College Football Season and 2023 NFL Draft. From Bryce Young at Quarterback for Alabama to Bryan Breese on the Defensive Line for Clemson, you will leave this series fully equipped and prepared to talk your friend’s ear off at the local pub this College Football season.

The ONE

(1) Bijan Robinson, Texas – 6’0″ 220 lbs

  • Evaluation: The best all-around running back since Saquon Barkley came out of Penn State in 2018. However, Robinson does struggle a bit in the pass-blocking game, getting mauled again Iowa State multiple times and allowing two big pocket breakdowns. Aside from blocking, Bijan does the Runningback stuff better than most – great vision, hands, and lethal agility. Bijan is nearing a Barry Sanders level when it comes to the ability to reroute carries and use the whole field.
  • Projected Comp: Miles Sanders
  • 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: Late 1st Round
  • Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 8.68

Bijan Robinson Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

The Second Tier

(2) Zach Evans, Ole Miss – 6’0″ 215 lbs

  • Evaluation: The former no. 1 overall running back in the 2020 ESPN recruiting class, Evans has dealt with his fair share of off-field issues while at TCU. However, when he is on the field, Evans is as good as it gets, racking up over 1,200 scrimmage yards in 15 career games. Entering the 2022 season as a transfer at Ole Miss, Evans has been named to preseason All-SEC team lists. With Evan’s size, speed, balance, and strength combination he has the capability to compete with Bijan Robinson as the top running back in the 2023 NFL Draft, after a smooth 2022 season.
  • Projected Comp: Marshawn Lynch / Alvin Kamara
  • 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: Early 2nd Round
  • Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 8.08

(3) Tank Bigsby, Auburn – 6’0″ 213 lbs

  • Evaluation: Early in the offseason there were rumors of Bigsby potentially leaving the Auburn program, but those have since settled. Bigsby has had his nose to the grindstone working with RB Coach Brad Lester, In a recent workout video Tank can be shown making quick twitch cuts over bags and working out of the backfield on hand-eye coordination. If Bigsby was able to put 5-10 lbs on over the summer while holding onto a perceived low-4.50 40-yard dash, look for him to have a similar last year in college as Najee Harris. Harris made jumps from 790 to 1,528 and 1,891 yards from scrimmage in his last 3 seasons. Tank Bigsby had 918 yards as a freshman, and 1,283 as a true sophomore.
  • Projected Comp: Kenyan Drake
  • 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: 2nd Round
  • Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 7.60

(4) MarShawn Lloyd, South Carolina – 5’9″ 212 lbs

  • Evaluation: There is a lot of projecting to be done with MarShawn Lloyd entering the 2022 College Football season. But South Carolina is a sleeping giant in the making, and with Lloyd’s 4-star pedigree, he is my favorite running back in the class to take that much-needed next step. Throughout the recruiting process, Lloyd had offers from Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, and Texas to name a few, he had his choice and the former high school sprinter chose to stay “close” to home in Maryland by attending South Carolina. On the second day of his true-freshman fall camp, Lloyd Tore his Left ACL and was forced to miss the entire season. While recovering, Lloyd sat behind current NFL runningbacks Kevin Harris, and ZaQuandre White while rotating in during the 2021 season, he finished with 228 yards on 64 carries.
  • Projected Comp: Mark Ingram / Kenneth Walker
  • 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: 3rd Round
  • Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 7.44

(5) Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama – 5’11” 200 lbs

  • Evaluation: Elite pass catcher, with a mean streak and want to put his face in a defender’s chest to make a block. Gibbs’s best trait outside of pass-catching comes as soon as the ball arrives, Acceleration is second to none in the 2023 NFL Draft Class. After finishing with 1,200 rushing yards and 700 receiving yards through two seasons at Georgia Tech, Gibbs transferred to Alabama in the spring of 2022.
  • Projected Comp: James Cook
  • 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: Late 2nd Round
  • Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 7.20

Jahmyr Gibbs Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

(6) Sean Tucker, Syracuse – 5’10” 205 lbs

  • Evaluation: Athletic and Strong enough to make all the key pass blocks, and does it well against most defenders. Runs very tight when in the open field, reminisce of Doug Martin / Nick Chubb. Fluid pass catcher, with great acceleration in the open field – one of my favorite pure rushers. Tucker was a Redshirt Freshman in 2021 and received FWAA, ESPN, The Athletic, Phil Steele, and PFF First Team All-American honors after finishing with 1,700 yards from scrimmage.
  • Projected Comp: Ronald Jones
  • 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: 3rd Round
  • Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 7.07

The Watch List

(7) Blake Corum, Michigan – 5’8″ 210 lbs

  • Evaluation: Blake Corum‘s career started off slow at Michigan while playing with Hassan Haskins and fellow 2023 NFL Draft prospect Zach Charbonnet. Due to an ankle injury during the season he was unable to find ground and carve out a true role for the Wolverines. In 2021, Charbonnet transferred to UCLA, and Michigan was left with the 1-2 punch of Haskins and Corum, Corum tallied back-to-back 3 touchdown games to begin the season, to go along with 407 yards in that three-game stretch. As a ball carrier, Corum shows great burst and low center of gravity – forcing his hand on the defense while not being the overpowering back that Haskins was at Michigan. Oh, and he is a pretty solid kick returner as well.
  • Projected Comp: Devonta Freeman
  • 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: 3rd Round
  • Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 7.00

(8) Devon Achane, Texas A&M – 5’9″ 185 lbs

  • Evaluation: During the 2022 NFL Draft process, many evaluators were blamed for discrediting Isaiah Spiller due to the talent and speed playing next to him at Texas A&M. That talent and speed belong to Devon Achane, reaching 22.2 mph, and carrying a personal record of 10.12 in the 100-meter. It’s no secret that Achane is an unbelievable athlete, but the thing I want to watch during the 2022 College Football season, is to see if Achane grows as a ball carrier. Right now, the world-class sprinter is trending towards being one of the most dynamic college players of all time, but his current game doesn’t translate well to the NFL.
  • Projected Comp: Ranging from Tyler Ervin to Chris Johnson
  • 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: 4th Round
  • Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 6.74

(9)  Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State – 5’6″ 176 lbs

  • Evaluation: Considered by some as the BEST running back in college football entering the 2022 season. Vaughn lacks long-speed in college, which will inhibit him in the NFL, but his burst and quickness underneath coupled with his size create one simple comparison at the NFL level. Darren Sproles. After cresting 1,000 and 1,800 yards each of his first two seasons at Kansas State, you can’t help but notice. But the job of a scout and talent evaluator isn’t to count stats and ride with what the media is pushing from a college football perspective, we are looking for stars at the next level.
  • Projected Comp: Darren Sproles
  • 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: 4th Round
  • Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 6.72

(10) Zach Charbonnet, UCLA – 6’1″ 220 lbs

  • Evaluation: One of the hardest pure runners, though his upright running style hurts his top-end speed and ability to pull away. Charbonnet was expected to declare in the 2022 NFL Draft class, but decided to return to UCLA for a second season, his fourth in college after two seasons at Michigan.
  • Projected Comp: Tim Hightower
  • 2023 NFL Draft Projected Round: 5th Round
  • Cody’s Early Draft Grade: 6.16

The Rest of the Class of 2023 (11-20)

11. Kendall Milton, Georgia – 6’1″ 220 lbs – Senior

12. Trey Sanders, Alabama – 6’0″ 215 lbs – Junior

13. Lew Nichols III, Central Michigan – 5’10” 220 lbs – Senior

14. Noah Cain, LSU – 5’10” 226 lbs – Senior

15. Kenny McIntosh, Georgia – 6’1″ 210 lbs – Senior

16. Jase McClellan, Alabama – 5’11” 212 lbs – Junior

17. Eric Gray, Oklahoma – 5’9″ 206 lbs – Senior

18. Chris Rodriguez, Kentucky – 5’11” 224 lbs – 5th-year Senior

19. Mo Ibrahim, Minnesota – 5’10” 210 lbs – 5th-year Senior

20. Jalen Berger, Michigan State – 6’0″ 203 lbs – Junior

John Emery, LSU – 5’11” 215 lbs – Senior

Camerun Peoples, Appalachian State – 6’2″ 220 lbs – 5th-year Senior

Chris Tyree, Notre Dame – 5’9″ 188 lbs – Junior

Travis Dye, USC – 5’10” 200 lbs – 5th Year Senior

Tavion Thomas, Utah – 6’2″ 221 lbs – Senior

Re’Mahn Davis, Vanderbilt – 5’9″ 215 lbs – Senior

E.J. Smith, Stanford – 6’0″ 208 lbs – Junior

Keyvone Lee, Penn State – 6’0″ 220 lbs – Junior

Jaylan Knighton, Miami(FL) – 5’10” 190 lbs – Junior

Roschon Johnson, Texas – 6’2″ 223 lbs – Senior

George Holani, Boise State – 5’11” 205 lbs – Senior

Xazavian Valladay, USC – 6’0″ 198 lbs – 5th-year Senior

2021-2023 Runningback Draft Grade Comparison

Cody Carpentier’s Rookie Runningback Draft Grades 2021-2023 – past classes stay unchanged

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