The 2022 NFL Draft is over and teams are getting comfortable with their new draft picks. The next class of players is getting prepared now for another year of college football. Each position will be analyzed in the coming days. Here is the 2023 NFL Draft prospect watchlist: Running Backs.
Devon Achane, Texas A&M Aggies
Achane hasn’t been the starting running back, but he has played a lot over the last two seasons. He had 364 rushing yards and four touchdowns as a freshman. In 2021, Achane had 910 rushing yards, 261 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns. The Aggies won eight games last season. Achane is set to take on a more featured role with the Aggies in 2022 after Isaish Spiller left for the NFL.
He is a smaller back who doesn’t run with much power. Achane also has issues in pass protection. What he does bring to the table is quickness and speed. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and can make people miss in space. The 2022 season will give Achane the opportunity to prove he can be a featured running back.
Tank Bigsby, Auburn Tigers
Bigsby has had two really good years for Auburn. As a freshman, he rushed for 834 yards and five touchdowns. He upped his totals in 2021, rushing for 1,099 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Tigers went 6-7 last season. Auburn hasn’t had the best quarterback play, so teams have stacked the box against Bigsby.
He has a solid build for a running back and demonstrates good contact balance. Bigsby runs hard and is not often brought down by arm tackles. His vision is also solid. He could show better pass-catching out of the backfield and likely doesn’t have top-end speed, but he can make people miss with a good one-step juke move. Better quarterback play in 2022 could open up the field more for Bigsby.
Zach Evans, Ole Miss Rebels
Evans spent two years with TCU before deciding to transfer to Ole Miss. In 2020, Evans rushed for 415 yards and four touchdowns in five games. During his sophomore season of 2021, he rushed for 648 yards and five touchdowns. He will now join Lane Kiffin’s offense in Oxford.
His ability to make people miss in space with a good jump cut is unique. He isn’t the biggest running back, but he can run through arm tackles. Evans runs hard and has solid vision. He can improve as a pass-catcher and route runner. If he can prove to be valuable on third downs for Ole Miss this season, he could be a do-it-all back.
Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama Crimson Tide
After two good seasons at Georgia Tech, Gibbs will play at Alabama this fall. He had 460 rushing yards, 303 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns as a freshman. In his second season with the Yellow Jackets, Gibbs registered 746 rushing yards, 465 receiving yards and six total touchdowns. Georgia Tech went 3-9, so Gibbs decided to transfer to a more prestigious school.
Gibbs didn’t have a lot of space to run at Georgia Tech, but was able to make people miss. He has good quickness and elusiveness. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield was also on display. He can pick up a pass rusher as well, making him a three-down back. Gibbs also runs hard and right through arm tackles. He will be one of the top backs selected in the 2023 NFL Draft if he shows the same things on tape this season at Alabama.
Bijan Robinson, Texas Longhorns
Robinson has been one of the bright spots for Texas over the last two seasons. As a freshman, he had 703 rushing yards, 196 receiving yards and six total touchdowns. He improved as a sophomore, even with Texas unable to make a bowl game, with 1,127 rushing yards, 295 receiving yards and 15 total touchdowns.
Over the last several years, Robinson is the biggest star running back in college football. He is well-built and runs hard. His quickness and agility were also on display at Texas. He can catch passes and make people miss. His speed won’t be the best for the position, but Robinson can generate big plays. He is the frontrunner to sit atop the 2023 NFL Draft running backs.
Sean Tucker, Syracuse Orange
Tucker is one of the most productive running backs over the last two seasons. In 2020, he had 626 rushing yards, 113 receiving yards and four total touchdowns. He followed that up with 1,496 rushing yards, 255 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns. The Orange weren’t the best team even with Tucker’s solid production.
He is a good build for a running back with solid contact balance. He runs hard and shows good quickness. His top-end speed may leave some to be desired, but he was able to show that he can catch out of the backfield. His elusiveness isn’t on par with the top of the class, but he has been extremely productive.
Other Draft Prospects
Zach Charbonnet, UCLA- Charbonnet started his career at Michigan, but really popped off at UCLA last season. He is a good power back who could have a huge 2022 season.
Chris Rodriguez, Kentucky- Rodriguez is one of the most productive running backs in the SEC over the last several years. He is a power back who lacks great speed and agility, but could be a bruiser at the next level.
Tavion Thomas, Utah- Thomas started his career at Cincinnati, but has been more productive at Utah. Thomas runs hard and has good contact balance, he just won’t offer much as a pass-catcher.
Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State- Vaughn is small, but he plays like a star. He is quick, agile and is a great receiver. His playing style will remind some of Darren Sproles, as he is very explosive for a smaller running back.
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