RB7: Sean Tucker (Syracuse)
For most of the 2023 NFL Draft process, Sean Tucker has been a mainstay in my top five running back rankings. So, why is he sitting at No. 7 overall on this list?
The answer to this is not simple. Tucker’s camp was notified of a medical red flag that popped up during his NFL Combine exams. While it is still undisclosed, and I will not speculate on someone’s health, it is impossible to ignore how much this impacts Tucker’s NFL Draft stock.
Tucker was unable to work out at the event and has only been able to provide a “Pro Day” consisting of numbers tracked by his team. Mix this uncertainty into the on-field weaknesses and it leads to Tucker falling down the board.
Still, I don’t think Tucker’s tumble should last very long. The Syracuse star needs more consistency on a snap-to-snap basis, but oh boy, the good snaps are fun. Tucker is as explosive as they come, and he is the definition of a home run hitter out of the backfield.
Tucker is at his best when working in space. Whether it be designed runs to the outside or swing routes, Syracuse tried to get the ball to its star in several different ways. However, Tucker is also quite impactful when working between the tackles.
Two-thirds of his career rushing yards came after contact. This stat highlights Tucker’s ability to fight through contact and bounce off one-person tackle attempts. In 2022, Tucker was tasked with creating even more out of nothing, as his line failed to create space for him to operate.
He possesses top-tier traits as a pass catcher, but he’ll never reach these heights if he doesn’t commit to better blocking. Tucker missed his assignment several times on tape and got his quarterback in sticky situations because of it. This is not the way to win over an NFL signal-caller.
The risks are valid, especially with how clouded his medical situation is at the moment. If Tucker is cleared for action, an NFL team will take him on day two of the draft. I would happily pull the trigger in round three.
NFL Draft Grade: Mid-to-Late Day 2
RB6: Devon Achane (Texas A&M)
Devon Achane continues the trend of track stars turned running back. Achane won Track & Field Athlete of the Year in 2020 before enrolling with the Aggies to star as a member of the football squad.
Achane’s speed translated to the field immediately, as he became one of the best spark plugs in the entire country. As a true freshman, Achane netted 48 total touches on offense and posted 461 yards. He also fielded punts for A&M and continued this role in year two.
Achane carried more of the load in the backfield in 2021, jumping from 43 rushing attempts to 130. His production jumped even more in his final season on campus, as Achane ran the ball 196 times and caught 36 passes.
His dual-threat ability, combined with the best breakaway speed in this class, paints Achane as a potential game-breaker in the NFL. He displays great vision and is like a stick of butter when a defender tries to wrap him up.
Achane’s footwork is impeccable when working in a cluster, and his unparalleled burst allows him to accelerate when he finds a running lane. Achane is also uber-competitive, even for his meager size.
Speaking of size, this keeps Achane from earning a spot in my top five. I believe in his talent, but I have a hard time seeing a three-down role in his future. Achane lacks the raw power necessary for goal-line work and will never be an above-average pass protector at his size.
For a player who projects best with the ball in space, it could be tricky for offensive coordinators to do this if Achane is a liability as a blocker on third down. Still, the NFL is full of savvy play callers, and Achane boasts a skillset made for this era of football. He is worth a day-two selection — size be damned.
NFL Draft Grade: Mid Day 2