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2023 NFL Draft Running Back Rankings: Texas's Bijan Robinson, UCLA's Zach Charbonnet Lead the Way

The 2023 NFL Draft RB class is loaded with versatile players. The reoccurring theme in the 2023 class is three-down versatility and that's exactly what NFL teams covet the most at the RB position as evidenced in the last few years and at least ever since the 2017 RB draft class that was loaded with several backs who provided high-level three-down versatility. You can read more about the 2017 draft class here.

So what are we looking for when evaluating the RB position?

The Key Positional Factors:

  • Vision

  • Contact Balance

  • Three Down Versatility

As everyone already knows (or should know), we do a show (After Further Review) on our Youtube channel that features in-depth individual NFL Draft player analysis. We cover a lot in these episodes, from player grades, team fits, and player comps, and we even do a quick film analysis. Still, the core of the final player analysis is the final grade and the ceiling grade, which are largely determined by the key positional factor grades.

The Final Grades for any player in the top 50 rankings will be within the range of Instant Impact, High Upside, and Developmental. Each of the grades referenced in the above text possesses subcategories to help us gauge where a player stands from day one entering the NFL. You can find these below.

The Grade Scale

IIP (Instant Impact Potential)

(9.0-7.0) High-End Starter

HUP (High Upside Potential)

(6.9-6.7) Solid Starter Level

DP (Developmental Potential)

(6.6-6.5) Lower Level Starter

(6.4) Starter Level Traits

(6.3) Limited Opportunity/Shows Starter Level Traits When Given the Opportunity

The Top 5 2023 NFL Draft RB's

1). Bijan Robinson Texas, JR, 6-0, 220

Current Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

Ceiling Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

Bijan Robinson has a chance to become a generational talent at the running back position in 2022. Already considered a first-round talent, Robinson can cement his top status by continuing to build off of a strong 2021 season.

If our bar at the college level is Saquon Barkley, Bijan checks many of the same boxes as Barkley. Bijan is not as fluid an athlete as Barkley, but he can make a defender miss in a small area or run behind his pads to turn a small gain into an explosive play (arm tacklers need not apply).

Robinson is also a proven receiver out of the backfield and can split wide or in the slot when needed. He possesses high-level Three down ability and positional versatility built for the NFL level.

2). Zach Charbonnet UCLA, 6-1, 220

Current Grade: Solid Starter Level (High Upside Potential)

Ceiling Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

Committed initially to Michigan, where he played as a true freshman, Charbonnet drew comparisons to David Johnson, according to his former RB coach at Michigan (Jay Harbaugh). Charbonnet transferred to UCLA before the 2021 college football season seeking a less competitive backfield situation.

Charbonnet exploded onto the scene in his first game as a Bruin, rushing only six times for 106 yards, and three of those carries went for scores. In week two, Charbonett proved his week one performance was not a fluke by rushing 11 times for 111 yards and another score against the LSU Tigers. Charbonnet finished the 2021 season with seven games of 100 rush yards or more and 13 TD's on the ground.

Charbonnet has legit three-down versatility; he is also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield. For a bigger back, Charbonnet plays with great footwork and possesses the ability to make a defender miss in space or run through arm tackles.

3). Jahmyr Gibbs Alabama, JR, 5-11, 200

Current Grade: Solid Starter Level (High Upside Potential)

Ceiling Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

The Georgia Tech Transfer took his talents to Tuscaloosa via the transfer portal this offseason. Gibbs is a talented player with three-down versatility. At Georgia Tech, he proved he could be a threat as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. In 2021, Gibbs rushed 143 times for 743 yards and added 36 catches for an additional 460 yards as a receiver.

Gibbs provides the Crimson Tide with a different type of back than they have trotted out in recent history. At 5-11 200lbs, Gibbs is not a player the Tide should depend on to bang out tough yards between the tackles. If Gibbs is deployed correctly, he is a versatile chess piece with big-play ability. He can make defenders miss with very little daylight and is explosive off the block. Once he enters the second level of the defense, good luck.

If Gibbs is, in fact, the lead back for the Crimson Tide in 2022, he will be in the conversation to become a top-three back in the 2023 NFL draft.

4). Zach Evans Ole Miss, JR, 5-11, 215

Current Grade: Starter Level Traits (Developmental)

Ceiling Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

Evans has been on my radar the last few years. The former five-star recruit from the 2020 class ranked as the 2nd best RB in his class, with Bijan Robinson ahead of him. Evans had a laundry list of SEC offers but chose TCU. Evans amassed 1046 rush yards in two years at TCU and averaged 7.3 yards per rush attempt. Where he was wildly underutilized was as a receiver. When given the opportunity, Evans has proven chops as a receiver.

Evans transferred to Ole Miss during the offseason, and one of the areas I expect Lane Kiffen will unlock is his ability as a receiver in and out of the backfield.

Evans is a natural at pressing the hole and using his vision to locate the open area and either explode through an opening or bounce it to the open space. Evans can run behind his pads, picking up the tough yards or in goal-to-go situations when needed. If Evans does grow as a receiver with more usage at Ole Miss in 2022, he has the skill set to be a top-three back in this class.

5). Blake Corum Michigan, JR, 5-8, 200

Current Grade: Starter Level Traits (Developmental)

Ceiling Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

Blake Corum is a unique talent both as a runner and a receiver. As a runner, Corum proved he can be utilized both as an inside and outside runner. He can pick up tough yards after contact or make a defender miss in a phonebooth. For a player that is 5-8 200lbs, Corum possesses deceptive lower body strength. In addition to being a tough runner, he is an explosive home run hitter if given any space once entering the second and third level of a defense.

Corum is also a dynamic receiver. He can lineup all over the formation and displayed a solid route tree for a running back in 2021. You name it, the angle route, the wheel, a flat route, a bubble, a screen; Corum's tool belt is not lacking. The three-down versatility is where Corum has the best opportunity to rise on 2023 NFL Draft Boards.


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