2023 NFL Draft: Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs Lead the Way in Top 10 Running Back Rankings

Oct 1, 2022; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns running back Bijan Robinson (5) walks into the endzone for a touchdown against the West Virginia Mountaineers during a game at Royal Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman via USA TODAY NETWORK
Oct 1, 2022; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns running back Bijan Robinson (5) walks into the endzone for a touchdown against the West Virginia Mountaineers during a game at Royal Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman via USA TODAY NETWORK /

The 2023 NFL Draft class looks to be loaded at the running back position. Who earned their way onto this list, and who just missed the cut? Check it out below!

It is a popular sentiment from armchair GMs that the running back position “does not matter” anymore. There is a massive difference between “not being worth a day one pick” and “not mattering”.

While I agree that very few running backs ever earn a round-one grade, I would argue that they are increasing their value as the NFL continues to trend pass-happy. Rather than just using a guy to run between the tackles, many teams are looking for more versatile pieces.

To be a starting bell-cow running back in the NFL today, you must be able to adequately pass block, haul in passes, and dice defenses up on the ground. If your team is lacking an elite quarterback like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, or Lamar Jackson, then running back is a necessity to keep the offenses moving.

Even the teams with star quarterbacks need help from the run game. When the Chiefs or Bills, for example, become stagnant… it can be traced back to an inability to run the football. This is why those same teams have taken big swings on early-round running backs (Clyde Edwards-Helaire, James Cook).

Most franchise running backs are taken after day one. Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, and Joe Mixon all came off the board in the second round of the NFL Draft. Guys like Austin Ekeler were not even drafted at all.

Round two has become the ideal spot to find a franchise running back. The middle rounds always produce quality players at the position, too, so expect the trend to continue.

2023 NFL Draft: Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs Lead the Way in Top 10 Running Back Rankings

This 2023 NFL Draft class is particularly strong at running back. On paper, and from the tape, it looks like this could rank as one of the best ball carrier groups to ever come through the draft. Only one player garners a first-round grade right now, but a slew of others hold a round two or three grade.

Draft grades are in constant flux and will be adjusted as more tape, info, and measurables are released. That being said, these are my top ten running backs in the 2023 NFL Draft class — as of today. If a player is not listed: a) they fall just outside of the top 15 b) I have not watched enough to confidently rank them yet.

Keeping this in mind, let’s get this rolling with the best running back prospect in the draft!

1. Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

The top running back in the 2023 NFL Draft is Bijan Robinson of the Texas Longhorns. Robinson earned a four-star rating from ESPN — and received offers from every top college in the country — before signing on to don the burnt orange and white.

During his first season in Austin, Robinson burst onto the scene as a true freshman. As a sophomore, Robinson assumed the top spot on the depth chart, accounting for more than 1400 total yards and 15 touchdowns.


Using his impressive athletic profile, paired with impeccable timing and vision, Robinson only got better in 2022. He already has career highs across the board with a couple of games remaining and is the odds-on favorite to come off the board first at running back.

Robinson will be a game-changer as a runner and as a passer, with his hands being some of the best in the entire class, regardless of position. He holds up well as a blocker, which makes him a franchise running back from day one.

The only true downside for Robinson as a prospect is his lack of elite top-end speed. His tape doesn’t show defenders tracking him down, but it also doesn’t show much of him blowing by defenders either. It will be interesting to see the number he posts in the 40-yard dash.

Grade: Top 15 (Mid Day 1)

2. Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

Jahmyr Gibbs started his collegiate career with the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets. At GT, Gibbs posted career-high numbers in 2021 with 746 rushing yards and 35 receptions out of the backfield.

After transferring to Alabama, Gibbs became the focal point of the offense. In ten games, the shifty running back has 774 rushing yards and 40 receptions to his name. His nine touchdowns are more than he ever had in a season with the Jackets.

It is scary to think about where this Alabama team would be without Jahmyr Gibbs; he is that important. Gibbs has improved as a true runner between the tackles, but where he impacts the game the most is as a pass catcher and a runner out in space.

Gibbs is an elusive runner that can shake the best of defenders out of their cleats. He is nearly impossible to tackle in a one-on-one situation, and the burst he brings to the table is unmatched in the 2023 NFL Draft class. Simply put, the kid is a special talent.

Gibbs should be the next franchise running back that comes off the board early on day two. If he tests well (which I expect), and can quell some of the concerns around his size/blocking, there is a chance the Crimson Tide standout sneaks into the backend of day one.

Grade: Top 30 (Late Day 1/Early Day 2)

3. Sean Tucker, RB, Syracuse

Sean Tucker continues the trend of elusive backs by checking in as the No. 3 running back in the 2023 NFL Draft class. The best word to describe Tucker’s play style is electrifying.

Tucker arrived at Syracuse as a three-star recruit with minimal offers. It did not take long for the rest of the country to see that they had missed out on a needle mover at running back.

Through flashes in 2020, Tucker showed that he could be a difference-maker for the Orange offense. In 2021, he proved that those flashes could be manifested into a full season of jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring play.

Tucker is a difficult assignment because he can beat you in many ways. Similar to Gibbs, Tucker’s best trait at the next level will be his pass-catching prowess. Tucker has nearly doubled his career high with 35 catches in only ten games so far this season, showcasing the versatility to scouts everywhere.

To hear his name early on day two, Tucker must show improved timing as a runner, as he can miss holes entirely by being too patient. His straight-line speed will not blow you away, but as long as he checks in somewhere around 4.5, it will not hurt the grade too much.

Grade: Top 45 (Early Day 2)

4. Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M

A third straight pass-catching specialist checks in at No. 4. Devon Achane is one of the most fun players to watch in the 2023 NFL Draft. During his time with the Aggies, Achane has produced at a high clip on the ground (6.5 ypc) and reeled in 60 catches over his last two seasons.

Achane wins with a quick first step and amazing acceleration. His tape shows him running away from crowds like he stole the last roll at Texas Roadhouse. The short-area quickness he possesses is as impressive as any prospect in the class.

One concern with Achane is his meager size. At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, there are valid concerns about Achane holding up throughout 17 games in the NFL. He has never handled a bell-cow role but is touching the ball more in 2022 than he ever has before, and still looks just as good.

I understand those that are lower than this on Achane, but the upside far outweighs his size concerns when picking on day two. His size concerns could force a slip into day three, but that would be a mistake, in my opinion.

Grade: Top 60 (Mid Day 2)

5. Blake Corum, RB, Michigan

Hassan Haskins set school records during Michigan’s CFB Playoff run last season. Blake Corum is doing his best impression, and might even be a better player than his former teammate.

With Haskins off to the NFL, Corum went from an elite RB2 to “the man” in the backfield in Ann Arbor. The added responsibility can sometimes wear on a player, but Corum has handled it very well. He’s toted the rock 227 times for 1349 yards and an astonishing 17 touchdowns.

Corum is one of the best runners between the tackles in this class and thrives on reading his blockers and seeing lanes open before they actually do. Corum also runs with an edge that allows him to create holes out of nothing by barreling through defenders.

Corum’s contact balance is flawless, routinely bouncing off of would-be tacklers like a pinball. His vision is strong, and he is more elusive than I expected before digging into the All-22.

The areas for concern are real with Corum. His top-end speed isn’t as big of an issue, given how much Corum succeeds in short-area situations. He will not be much of a pass catcher at the next level, which can knock him down some 2023 NFL Draft boards.

I would happily take Corum in the middle of day two and slot him in as my starter as a rookie.

Grade: Top 60 (Mid Day 2)

6. Zach Evans, RB, Ole Miss

Zach Evans passes the eye test. He is uber-talented and looks like an NFL running back any time he touches the football. Evans jukes defenders out of their shoes when he gets the ball in space, and he is never shy to lower the shoulder and barrel through a potential tackler.

He spent two years in the TCU program but never logged more than 100 attempts on the ground or ten catches during the stint. Evans transferred to Ole Miss to assume the top spot in a Lane Kiffin-coached offense, resulting in the best numbers of his career to this point.

Evans’ usage is still wildly inconsistent, but he has produced 692 yards on only 114 carries, giving a glimpse of what the numbers could look like with the brunt of the workload. Unfortunately, there is a reason for his uninspiring counting numbers.

Evans has dealt with some nagging injuries in his career and his “rawness” as a runner leads to a lack of trust from the coaching staff. The fact that he has never handled a workload — regardless of why — is something that will be viewed as a negative by most.

Zach Evans is polarizing in the NFL Draft community. I have talked to folks that have him ranked in the top three, and I have spoken with others that have him outside of their top ten. I fall somewhere between the two extremes and acknowledge that Evans can climb the ranks with an impressive workout process leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft.

Grade: Top 60 (Mid Day 2)

7. Chase Brown, RB, Illinois

Chase Brown is witnessing a breakout season of his own in 2022. The Illinois running back rushed for 98 yards this past weekend, marking his lowest total of the year. No, that is not a typo. Brown opened his season with nine straight 100-yard games, which sounds a lot like my old running back on the NCAA video games from back in the day. Brown is doing it for real, though.

These numbers can be attributed to his Big Ten-leading carries, but a closer look at the tape shows why Brown can be a contributor at the next level. He is built like a brick house but is shifty as can be with the ball in his hands. My favorite trait of Brown’s is his ability to hit one cut and then re-accelerate immediately, leaving his defender looking silly. I rarely see the first tackler bring Brown down.

He owns incredible vision and seemingly can see the holes in the line before they develop. Brown isn’t going to win a foot race with some of his peers at the position, but he has a knack for pulling away from defenders the more momentum he gets behind him. His ability as a pass catcher hasn’t been used much in college, but the traits are there to be successful as a dual-threat running back.

The biggest concerns around Chase Brown, for me, start and end with his pass blocking — or lack thereof. One reason Brown hasn’t been used as much as he could as a pass catcher is that he cannot consistently be trusted in pass protection. The lack of blazing speed, paired with his issues as a third-down blocker, might knock him further down the board than he deserves when the 2023 NFL Draft comes around.

Grade: Top 75 (Mid Day 2)

8. Chris Rodriguez Jr., RB, Kentucky

Chris Rodriguez Jr. is one of the most underrated prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. It took the fifth-year running back time to make his mark, but thanks to Liam Coen and Will Levis, Rodriguez became a household name in the SEC in 2021.

Serving as the lead back in a Sean McVay-ish offensive scheme resulted in a stellar stat line for the Wildcat veteran. His 225 carries for 1378 yards ranked among the best in the conference, and Rodriguez even found the end zone ten times. He is playing just as well in 2022, averaging over 100 yards per contest.

Rodriguez wins by trusting his offensive line and allowing them to create the space for him to operate. He is savvy and knows when to be patient and when to get aggressive to make a big play on his own. Rodriguez’s motor will earn him favor from many scouts, as he runs like a bull in a China shop every snap.

Rodriguez has not been much of a pass catcher in college, mainly due to the scheme. His speed will be another knock on the resume, as Rodriguez rarely leaves defenders in the dust. These concerns are enough to knock him down the list but not enough to dissuade me from placing him as the No. 8 running back in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Grade: Top 100 (Late Day 2/Early Day 3)

9. Deuce Vaughn, RB, Kansas State

The Darren Sproles comparisons get lobbed at Deuce Vaughn constantly, and while I can see the vision, Maurice Jones-Drew feels like a more apt comparison. Sproles, as impressive as he was in the NFL, never showed an ability to handle the load as an RB1.

Deuce Vaughn can do that. Admittedly, Vaughn looks like the spitting image of Sproles as a pass catcher. They boast similar frames, and if you squint your eyes, Darren Sproles’ highlights look just like Deuce Vaughn’s.

Where Vaughn separates himself from Sproles is his ability to churn his legs between the tackles. His vision is an underrated asset, and the burst out of the backfield will be a weapon for whichever NFL team selects him.

Vaughn is the best pass catcher at running back in the 2023 NFL Draft. That is not a statement that is made lightly, as we have already highlighted the bevy of pass-catching running backs in this class. His hands are superb, and his ability to create after the catch is remarkable.

His size will be a knock, as will his lack of patience as a runner. He has strong vision but too often lacks the patience and instead tries to barrel through the line of scrimmage, resulting in negative gains. His ceiling is MJD, and his floor is Darren Sproles, making Deuce Vaughn one of the safer picks in this class.

Grade: Top 100 (Late Day 2/Early Day 3)

10. Israel Abanikanda, RB, Pittsburgh

The last player in this top ten is another prospect witnessing a breakout season in 2022. Pittsburgh Panther feature back, Israel Abanikanda, is one of the hottest names on the NFL Draft trail.

Abanikanda played sparingly with Kenny Pickett in 2021, but after a re-shuffling of the deck with Pitt, the game-breaking running back became the primary focus of the offensive game plan in 2022. Abanikanda has already run the ball 207 times for 1207 yards in nine games, chipping in 17 touchdowns to boot.


Abanikanda’s pass-catching numbers have taken a hit this season, but that is through no fault of his own. The scheme has become more run-oriented and less pass-happy, which naturally cuts down on his ability to make plays through the air. He possesses an ideal frame and athletic profile for an NFL running back, but Abanikanda is not without his concerns.

The “one-year wonder” label is a real one and something that Abanikanda must work to shed. Although he checks all the boxes athletically, Abanikanda has work to do when it comes to the nuances of the position. Knowing when to attack a hole or when to be patient and let the play develop is a concern with his tape.

Still, with an early day three selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, Israel Abanikanda is worth the shot every time. His athletic profile is special, so get him in the building and allow the coaching staff to do their job by tapping into his unfound potential.

Grade: Top 125 (Early Day 3)

2023 NFL Draft Honorable Mentions:

-Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA (Early Day 3)

-Eric Gray, RB, Oklahoma (Early Day 3)

-DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB (Early Day 3)

-Mo Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota (Early Day 3)

-Lew Nichols III, RB, Central Michigan (Early Day 3)