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Top 5 Running Backs for the 2023 NFL Draft

Farrell Files - 2023 NFL Draft RB

Farrell Files - 2023 NFL Draft RB

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The NFL Draft for 2023 is a long way away, but it’s never too early to look at the top at each position. We continue with the running backs.

This is in order per Mike Farrell’s top five.

1. Bijan Robinson, Texas

The Texas running back has the most buzz that anyone at the position has had since Saquon Barkley was at Penn State. Robinson is a do-it-all guy whose skills were fully displayed in Austin last season. Texas has a huge transfer class coming in for the 2022 season including former 5-star recruit Quinn Ewers who will likely make the Longhorns' offense more dynamic, and make Bijan Robinson an even bigger threat. The Texas back has great size, is impossible to tackle in the open field, and has a patented stiff-arm move that floods highlight reels. He hits the hole with a purpose, makes smooth and decisive cuts, and explodes through the defensive front at an elite level.

He runs good routes as a receiver and has the hands to make himself an NFL every-down back. Robinson had over 1,300 all-purpose yards as a sophomore and I expect that number to increase this season. While taking early running backs in the draft has become less and less popular, a talent like Robinson’s isn’t one to pass on. I expect the Texas star to be a day one selection in the 2023 draft.

Farrell’s take: With his amazing skillset and versatility you could make an argument that he will go in the Christian McCaffrey range next season as a top 10 pick which would be something. With Barkley, Fournette, McCaffrey and others having ups and downs as top 10 picks, the running back position is once again not at a premium. But Robinson could be the exception.

2. Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama

Gibbs was one of the best under-the-radar performers at Georgia Tech last season, and now he’s off to Alabama to show the nation what he’s got. Gibbs is electric as a ball carrier whether it’s as a runner, receiver, or as a kick returner. The Georgia Tech offensive line held him back from his full potential in 2021 but expect him to blossom into a star with the Crimson Tide. Gibbs will be used a ton by Alabama’s quarterback Bryce Young in the screen game and as a safety valve. His burst after the catch makes him an incredible weapon.

He doesn’t project as an every-down back in the NFL because his blocking isn’t as good as it should be, but that doesn’t worry me with Gibbs as much as it tends to with others. Gibbs is such a big threat in the receiving game and that occasionally forces teams into bringing fewer pass rushers than they’d like to. Gibbs’ second-level vision is what makes him a special player. So many running backs can hit the hole and get a good chunk of yardage, but Gibbs hits the hole and continues to make people miss until he’s in the open field. His home run potential makes him one of the elite running back prospects in the 2023 draft class, and I’m excited to see how well he develops under the watch of all-time legend, Nick Saban.

Farrell’s take: As we know Alabama running backs land in the first round as we saw with Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs and it’s probably because too many teams passed on Derrick Henry. Gibbs has elite speed and could be a late first rounder with a huge year in that offense.

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3. Sean Tucker, Syracuse

I’m under the impression that not too many people figured a Syracuse player would be relevant, but Sean Tucker is more than ready to prove everyone wrong. Tucker exploded in his second year in upstate New York and rushed for nearly 1,500 yards while tallying over 250 receiving yards. Tucker is a pure runner, and it’s amazing that he’s able to operate as well as he does, given the fact that opposing defenses undoubtedly have him under a microscope in the week prior to their matchup.

Tucker breaks tackles at an incredible rate, over 1,000 of his rushing yards this past season came after contact which ranked third in the nation behind none other than Kenneth Walker and Tyler Allgeier. Tucker gets downhill fast and keeps his feet moving very well. I think it’ll take some time for him to be used on passing downs as he’s not the best pass blocker or threat as a pass-catcher, but his rushing ability is enough to warrant a day two selection in April’s draft. It’s time to get excited about Syracuse football again (at least kind of).

Farrell’s take: There is a slight drop-off to Tucker as both Robinson and Gibbs are better as pass catchers but he’s a hard runner and a lot will depend on his 40 time. He’s a day two guy to me right now but he’ll need to pop off a good time to stay that way despite his production as he’s not a guy who runs away from people.

4. Devon Achane, Texas A&M

Achane lived in the shadow of Isaiah Spiller for much of last season but started to show that he might actually end up being the better draft prospect in the end. The Texas A&M running back is a speed demon who averaged a whopping 7 yards per carry in 2021. I expect him to thrive in more of a feature role, and I think if he’s used more in the receiving game this coming season than he has been in the past, then he could evolve into a premier target for NFL teams. Achane doesn’t have too much tread on his tires which tends to be something that pro teams are attracted to. He projects as a home run-hitting early-down back who should also be used in the receiving game.

He fits right in with the way the NFL is trending in terms of more passing plays and more speed on the field. I expect him to open eyes at the combine with his speed drills, and back that up on tape. He scored 10 total touchdowns in 2021, and I think that number could nearly double now that Spiller is in the pros. Devon Achane is going to be one of the top breakout candidates for the 2022 season and will be a highly intriguing draft prospect to follow. When it’s all said and done, I expect to hear his name called on day two of the draft and I think he’ll be used a ton as a rookie.

Farrell’s take: Speed won’t be a question for Achane and he’s arguably more versatile than Robinson and Gibbs as he could be a legit slot receiver as well. However, he hasn’t produced as a feature back like either of them so this season will be a test. There are also testing concerns with A&M players in the mind of the NFL after last season’s debacle with their elite prospects.

5. Tank Bigsby, Auburn

Bigsby has been hyped up in the college football world for quite some time now, and I think people are beginning to underestimate his talent. He’s an incredibly strong runner who lives up to his nickname. His power rushing style makes him incredibly hard to bring down, and he thrives off of embarrassing defenders with his stiff arms and truck moves. While he may not be the flashiest runner on the planet, his simple style of hitting the hole and running north to south is so effective.

Even though Jarquez Hunter figures to continue to take some of Bigsby’s workload, I think Tank will comfortably put up double-digit touchdowns, continue to be one of the best downhill runners in college football, and keep tormenting opposing defenses when he gets in the open field. It’s tough to grasp where Bigsby may land when it comes to next year’s draft, but he definitely possesses the same day-two ceiling as Tucker and Achane.

Farrell’s take: Tank is an interesting one as he came on strong as a freshman and was the best offensive player on the team but had ups and downs last season and Hunter looked better. He needs a big season and to show injuries won’t slow him down but he has round two ability.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]