The 2023 NFL draft showcased a variety of talented running backs restocking the NFL at a position where many of its top stars are at the back end of their prime age for the RB position and just like the 2017 NFL Draft RB class that gave us versatile backs like Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara, the 2023 NFL Draft class holds promise with the likes of Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs. Both players can significantly impact their respective teams immediately and reshape the running back landscape in the NFL. Their impact as fantasy football assets will be deeply examined throughout. However, as with any draft class, it will ultimately be their performance on the field that determines whether the 2023 class can truly rival the class of 2017.
Let's take a look at the top 12 ranked dynasty fantasy football rookie running backs ahead of the 2023 NFL season, according to Football Scout 365.
1). Bijan Robinson - Texas (Atlanta Falcons)
Robinson would be a great fit for a zone-blocking scheme that emphasizes a lot of inside and outside zone runs. He is a versatile running back with great vision, elusiveness, and pass-catching ability. He has the potential to be a three-down back in the NFL and could be a valuable weapon in the passing game, providing an elite level of play. He is the RB1 in Atlanta as a rookie, and do not be surprised if he is drafted #1 overall in a lot of fantasy redraft leagues in 2023.
2). Jahmyr Gibbs - Alabama (Detroit Lions)
Gibbs would be an excellent fit for an offense emphasizing zone blocking and outside-zone runs. At 5-11 200lbs, Gibbs is a versatile chess piece with big-play ability. He can make defenders miss with very little daylight and is explosive off the block, providing an elite level of play. Gibbs might only be a one-two punch lighting to someone else's thunder player, but his upside as a receiver is very legit, and he could become a 15-20 touch-a-game player down the road.
3). Zach Charbonnet - UCLA (Seattle Seahawks)
Charbonnet would be a great fit for an offense that emphasizes power running and inside zone runs. He is a powerful physical runner with good vision and pass-protection skills. He may not be the most elusive runner or dynamic receiver, but he has the potential to be a reliable and consistent contributor at the next level as a high-end starter. If it were not for Kenneth Walker, Charbs would be the 2nd back off most dynasty rookie draft boards.
4). Roschon Johnson - Texas (Chicago Bears)
Johnson is a versatile running back who would fit well in a scheme that incorporates both inside and outside zone runs. He has good vision and patience, allowing him to find running lanes and make decisive cuts. He possesses solid athleticism and elusiveness, making him difficult to bring down in the open field. Johnson also has decent receiving skills, which add to his value as a three-down back. With his well-rounded skill set, he has the potential to contribute as a rotational back and provide a change of pace for the Bears' offense. Johnson might surprise a lot of people as a rookie, and could compete early for opportunities. Johnson has legit three-down versatility.
5). Devon Achane - Texas A&M (Miami Dolphins)
Achane is a dynamic playmaker who can excel in various offensive schemes. He is a speedy and explosive runner with excellent burst and acceleration. Achane has the ability to turn the corner quickly and break off big runs. He also showcases solid receiving skills, which make him a threat in the passing game. Achane's versatility and big-play ability make him an intriguing option for the Dolphins' offense, where he could be utilized as a change-of-pace back and a receiving threat out of the backfield. A lot will depend on how many carries Achane can handle in a committee as a rookie, but he has an elite upside.
6). Tyjae Spears - Tulane (Tennessee Titans)
Spears would be a good fit for a zone-blocking scheme that emphasizes a lot of inside and outside zone runs. He is an explosive running back with good vision and pass-catching ability. His size and power may be a concern at the NFL level, but he has the potential to be a change-of-pace back and a valuable contributor in the passing game, providing a high level of play. Spears could see a lot of time spelling Derrick Henry as a rookie and could take over the backfield by his second year.
7). Kendre Miller - TCU (New Orleans Saints)
Miller is a physical and downhill runner who would be a good fit in a power-running scheme. He has good size and strength, allowing him to break tackles and gain yards after contact. Miller is a decisive runner who hits the hole with authority. While he may not possess top-end speed, his power and toughness make him effective between the tackles. Miller's running style would align well with the Saints' offensive approach, and he could provide a physical presence in short-yardage situations and as a complement to their existing running backs. Miller will get opportunities early on behind Alvin Kamara.
8). Chase Brown - Illinois (Cincinnati Bengals)
Brown has the skill set to fit into various offensive systems. He can be effective in a zone-blocking scheme due to his vision and ability to make quick cuts. He plays with good vision and patience as a runner and possesses the three-down versatility needed in the NFL. He is predicted to be a high-level contributor to the Bengals.
9). Deuce Vaughn - Kansas State (Dallas Cowboys)
Vaughn is a versatile and shifty running back who would excel in a scheme emphasizing outside-zone runs and utilizing running backs in the passing game. He is undersized but compensates with exceptional quickness, agility, and elusiveness. Vaughn has excellent change-of-direction ability, allowing him to make defenders miss in tight spaces. He is also a reliable receiver out of the backfield, capable of creating mismatches against linebackers in coverage. The Cowboys' offensive system, which incorporates zone blocking and relies on running backs as receivers, is a perfect fit for Vaughn's skill set. Vaughn will be paired with another versatile RB in Tony Pollard.
10). Zach Evans - TCU (Los Angeles Rams)
Evans is a pro spread/zone style/power runner. He is a natural at pressing the hole and using his vision to locate the open area. He has the skill set to be a top-three back in this class and is expected to be a high-end starter for the Rams by year two.
11). Israel Abanikanda - Pittsburgh (New York Jets)
Abanikanda is a well-rounded running back with good size and athleticism. He is a patient runner with good vision, allowing him to find running lanes and maximize his opportunities. Abanikanda has solid burst and acceleration, which help him break off big runs. He is also a capable pass-catcher out of the backfield, adding versatility to his game. Under the guidance of their new coaching staff, the Jets' offensive scheme could benefit from Abanikanda's ability to contribute as both a runner and a receiver, providing a balanced and multi-dimensional threat. He will have to compete for opportunities behind Breece Hall and Michael Carter.
12). Eric Gray - Oklahoma (New York Giants)
Gray is an elusive and versatile running back who would fit well in a scheme that utilizes zone-blocking concepts and emphasizes running backs as receivers. He possesses excellent agility and quickness, allowing him to make sharp cuts and elude defenders in the open field. Gray has reliable hands and can be a threat in the passing game, running routes and creating mismatches against linebackers. His versatility and elusiveness make him a valuable asset in the Giants' offensive system, where he could contribute as both a runner and a receiver, providing an added dimension to their offense. He is expected to be Saquon Barkleys backup in 2023.
Overview Of The 2023 NFL Draft RB Class
In summary, the 2023 NFL draft has brought in a range of diverse running back talent. Some players, like Robinson and Gibbs, are expected to make an immediate impact as elite-level starters. Others, like Johnson and Achane, are expected to be solid contributors early with starter-level ability by years two and three. Based on their current situation, Tyjae Spears, Chase Brown, and Zach Evans are anticipated to be starter-level by year two. It will be exciting to see how these players progress and impact their respective teams in the upcoming NFL seasons.