The 2023 rookie class is finally here. There was a lot of hype and anticipation for this class, not only because of some of the big-name players but also because of the overall depth of the class. This quarterback class is anticipated to be much better than in 2022. We should also see a first-round rookie running back and tight end this year.
Day Two will be littered with running backs and wide receivers. We will also see several 1st round wide receivers in this class, but maybe not as many as last year. Dynasty startups are happening right now, and I am sure you are getting ready for your rookie drafts. Let’s talk specifically about rookie running backs. Here are my top 20:
Comparisons are based on body type, style of player, and NFL players as prospects.
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2023 Rookie RB Rankings and NFL Player Comparisons
1. Bijan Robinson – Texas
Weight: 222 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats:258 Attempts / 1580 Yards / 18 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 19 Receptions / 314 Yards / 2 TDs
NFL Player Comparison: Todd Gurley
Bijan Robinson looks to be the best running back prospect we have seen since Saquon Barkley. We don’t think he gets drafted at the #2 pick, but we do expect him to get 1st round consideration.
The guy is a do-it-all back with everything you are looking for. The only cons are that he doesn’t have elite speed, and he didn’t play in the SEC. The list of positives is extremely long.
Robinson is so good that you might have to trade the 1st round pick just because you can get a king’s ransom for it right now.
2. Jahmyr Gibbs – Alabama
Weight: 200 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 151 Attempts / 926 Yards / 7 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 44 Receptions / 444 Yards / 3 TDs
NFL Player Comparison: Tony Pollard
Gibbs’s weight will be interesting at the combine. If he comes in closer to 215 and maintains his speed, he could see a rise in his stock. He will not go as high as RB1; Bijan is the undisputed champ.
But, he will solidify himself as the RB2 in this class and could get some high draft capital. Draft capital is huge and should be a big factor in your evaluation of players.
What the NFL thinks about the player means a lot, and the success rates of Round 2 vs. Round 4 players are pretty clear. The comparisons to Aaron Jones and Alvin Kamara are warranted.
Gibbs is a player that excels out in space in the running game or in the return game. He is not your typical between-the-tackles runner and might not start out as a 1st and 2nd down back.
3. Zach Evans – TCU
Weight: 215 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 144 Attempts / 936 Yards / 1 TD
2022 Receiving Stats: 12 Receptions / 119 Yards / 0 TD
NFL Player Comparison: Aaron Jones
Zach Evans is a player that was underutilized in college, and that leaves some questions to be answered. He looks the part with a great combination of size and speed. Evans has great size and great play strength.
He looks bigger than 6’0″, 215 in a lot of his games, especially when he was punishing defensive backs. Evans has a strong lower half and isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder to go through defenders. He has a certain finesse in his game and plays bigger than his size.
Evans has great speed and burst, making him a gliding type of runner like Aaron Jones. His speed is easy with his long strides. The head-scratcher is his production and usage. Evans was getting seven and then 6.5 yards per carry the last two seasons, and he only had 144 attempts this year.
Evans’ yards per reception in the last three seasons were 9.5, 12, and 9 yards per catch. This guy gets big chunk plays, but the high efficiency and low volume are a concern, much like Dameon Pierce in 2022.
4. Zach Charbonnet – UCLA
Weight: 220 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 195 Attempts / 1359 Yards / 7 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 37 Receptions / 321 Yards / 0 TDs
NFL Player Comparison: James Conner
Charbonnet has been one of the top running backs in the country for the last two seasons, and his production was huge in both. Charbonnet is a bigger back, having transferred from the Big 10 to the Pac 12.
He punished defenders and is a very physical runner at the line and when he gets out in space. At his size, his role in the receiving game is surprisingly effective. He didn’t just have a couple of catches but rather a major contribution with 61 receptions in two seasons.
Charbonnet showed soft hands and good timing in the screen game. He had over eight yards a catch each of the last two seasons as well. Charbonnet is everywhere from 2-5 in most rankings. Draft capital and landing spot could easily move him up to RB2 with the appeal of his size.
5. Sean Tucker – Syracuse
Weight: 205 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 206 Attempts / 1060 Yards / 11 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 36 Receptions / 254 Yards / 2 TDs
NFL Player Comparison: Elijah Mitchell
Tucker is an explosive player that had great production in college. Tucker’s play in the passing game is really exciting. In the past two seasons, he caught the ball 56 times for 509 yards. His yards per catch went down from 14.1 to 12.8 and finally to 7.1, but the average of 9.7 is still impressive.
Tucker is a solid rusher and has great short-area quickness. He’s another one of these backs that is a little smaller than teams might prefer, but we will see what he comes in at for the combine despite not being in the ideal 215-225 range.
6. Eric Gray – Oklahoma
Weight: 210 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 213 Attempts / 1366 Yards / 11 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 33 Receptions / 229 Yards / 0 TDs
NFL Player Comparison: Khalil Herbert
Eric Gray is a player that we are higher on than the consensus. His age is definitely a concern. Gray transferred from Tennesee and played four collegiate seasons. Between the Tennesee scandal and COVID, it made sense for many of these players to wait.
Gray had a solid Sophomore year with 1,000 all-purpose yards in a short 9-game COVID season. He took over the backfield in 2022 and was extremely impressive. Gray doesn’t wow you with speed, but he is an instinctive runner.
Gray shows great patience at the line and was used a lot with draw plays or RPOs in their spread offense at Oklahoma. Both Gray’s vision and elusiveness in the open field are up there with the top of this class.
He is quite good at setting up his defenders and hard to tackle in space. Gray also has a thick lower half and shows good power in short-yardage situations.
7. Kendre Miller – TCU
Weight: 214 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 224 Attempts / 1399 Yards / 17 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 16 Receptions / 116 Yards / 0 TD
NFL Player Comparison: Miles Sanders
Kendre Miller broke out in 2022 after Zach Evans transferred. Miller was a huge part of the Hornfrogs’ success in 2022. Miller showed a lot of maturation in his senior year, and the game really slowed down for him. An ideal fit would be an inside zone/gap scheme for Miller.
He has the ideal size to run between the tackles and shows great lateral quickness to bounce it outside. His patience and his combination of moves have really improved as he has developed into a great runner. Miller showed some ability in the passing game, but the offense rarely threw to running backs.
8. Tyjae Spears – Tulane
Weight: 204 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 229 Attempts / 1581 Yards / 19 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 22 Receptions / 256 Yards / 2 TDs
NFL Player Comparison: Elijah Mitchell
Spears is one of the biggest risers in this NFL Draft process. He has checked off every single box, and he does it in an extremely impressive fashion. There was a lot of concern about Spears’s size, and he showed up at the Senior Bowl at 204 lbs; check!
How will he play next to other backs from bigger conferences? Spears was the talk of the town, just dominating every practice. His quick acceleration, burst, and easy change of direction impressed scouts from day 1.
Spears carried his speed and burst with the added weight. The big tests will be at the combine, mainly his medical. Spears is a great athlete with great hands and is expected to test well at the combine. His knee injuries to the same knee will be a point of focus at the combine.
Spears has done enough that he could be in the second-round or early third-round discussions. His medical evaluation will be important, with his price skyrocketing.
Spears is a well-rounded player that excels in both phases of the game. He is a nifty route runner and great after-the-catch in the passing game. As a runner, he is extremely quick and just blows by linebackers.
9. Israel Abanikanda – Pittsburgh
Weight: 216 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 239 Attempts / 1431 Yards / 20 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 12 Receptions / 146 Yards / 1 TD
NFL Pro Comparison: Isiah Pacheco
Israel “Izzy” Abanakianda was one of the most productive runners in the country last year. His track speed was on display often as he ran for 20 touchdowns. Similar to Isiah Pacheco, Izzy runs with tremendous power.
He is not afraid to lower his shoulder, and he easily breaks arm tackles. Abanikanda forced 46 missed tackles and had 38 runs of 10-plus yards. Izzy had 644 yards after contact, according to PFF.
10. Tank Bigsby – Auburn
Weight: 213 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 179 Attempts / 970 Yards / 10 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 30 Receptions / 180 Yards / 0 TDs
NFL Pro Comparison: Zonovan “Bam” Knight
Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby has all of the skills to be a good pro runner. He has good size and speed for an early-down runner. He also showed some versatility by excelling in different schemes. His speed really showed up on outside runs, and when he put his foot on the ground, he was able to break off big plays.
Bigsby has good power and elusiveness, with 95 tackles broken in the last two seasons. They did get Bigsby involved in the passing game, however, mostly in the screen game. He showed soft hands and the ability to catch the ball. At the same time, he isn’t a great route runner and struggles to get separation from coverage.
11. DeWayne McBride – UAB
Weight: 215 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 233 Attempts / 1,713 Yards / 19 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 2 Receptions / 10 Yards / 0 TD
NFL Player Comparison: Tyler Allgeier
McBride led the FBS in rushing yards per game, and the 1,700 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns speak for themselves. As a pure rusher, he offers a great skillset. McBride has great size and speed. His only downsides are the lack of passing game involvement and the small-school competition.
Especially with the transfer portal and NIL money, it would have been nice to see him move up in the competition. Regardless, McBride has been getting a lot of love from scouts. He and Spears are probably the top 2 small school guys, and both could land on day 2.
12. Kenny McIntosh – Georgia
Weight: 210 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 150 Attempts / 829 Yards / 10 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 43 Receptions / 504 Yards / 2 TDs
NFL Player Comparison: Cam Akers
Kenny McIntosh has gotten some lofty comparisons while at Georgia to former Bulldog D’Andre Swift. Other comparisons include Rachaad White and Tony Pollard. The first knock on McIntosh is the usage and production.
Most would have loved to see more of him. However, the backfield committee in Georgia stopped that from happening. Matt Miller thinks he will be a better pro than a college player: “I think Kenny McIntosh will get more use in the NFL.”
His ability in the passing game will launch him up the boards, and he could end up being one of the top backs off of the board. Draft capital has the potential to launch him up the rankings. Players 3-15 on this list are so close together; draft capital is really going to help break things up.
13. Devon Achane – Texas A&M
Weight: 185 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 196 Attempts / 1102 Yards / 8 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 36 Receptions / 196 Yards / 3 TDs
NFL Player Comparison: Nyhiem Hines
The NFL loves speed, and Achane has plenty of it. This guy has easy speed and is one of the fastest players in this entire class. His abilities are reminiscent of someone like Javhid Best. Achane also offers some return ability and will get on the field in specialty packages.
This will be great for whatever team he lands on, but the usage raises questions for potential fantasy managers. If he can carve out a third-down role like James White or Giovanni Bernard, he could boost his usage. The dream would be carving out an Austin Ekeler-type of role.
Achane is a solid runner, but he does struggle at times with trying to bounce it outside too much. He struggles between the tackles and is much better outside or in space.
He is a good pass catcher but not a great blocker. If he wants to stay on the field on third downs, he will need to improve in these areas.
14. Roschon Johnson – Texas
Weight: 225 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 93 Attempts / 554 Yards / 7 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 23 Receptions / 158 Yards / 1 TD
NFL Player Comparison: Jamaal Williams
Roschon Johnson is an old-school running back. He is big, strong, and physical. Johnson is an imposing runner that dominates in short-yard situations. Johnson is a big guy, but he was hidden behind Bijan Robinson’s shadow.
He has the size and all of the tools to be a future starter. His lack of usage is simply a product of playing behind Bijan. Any team looking for a true power back would love to have Johnson on the roster. He is going to be more projection than production, but his unique size could help him stand out.
15. Chase Brown – Illinois
Weight: 215 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 328 Attempts / 1643 Yards/ 10 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 27 Receptions / 240 Yards/ 3 TDs
NFL Comparison: James Robinson
Chase is a powerful runner that definitely enjoys the weight room. He was showing off the quads A.J. Dillon-style at the Senior Bowl. Brown essentially carried the Illinois offense with almost 400 touches last year.
While it’s not ideal to see a running back get that much usage, it showed how the team trusted him. He wasn’t just a volume runner either – he had good efficiency and showed ability in the passing game.
16. Mohamed Ibrahim – Minnesota
Weight: 210 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats:320 Attempts / 1665 Yards / 20 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 7 Receptions / 50 Yards / 0 TDs
NFL Player Comparison: Javonte Williams
Ibrahim is the oldest RB on the list, and his age will be the talk of dynasty Twitter. There are definitely some fans of his game, and with good reason. He is a productive player and a good runner. He has shown the ability to be a three-down back, and he runs with power.
The Minnesota offense has really struggled the last few seasons, and he has been the focal point. The production is unquestioned, with three separate 1,000-yard seasons and 53 career rushing touchdowns.
One question this year was whether this is a 23-24-year-old player playing against 18-20-year-olds. At 24 years old, we will see what the NFL thinks of him here soon.
17. Deuce Vaughn – Kansas State
Weight: 176 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 293 Attempts / 1558 Yards / 1 TD
2022 Receiving Stats: 42 Receptions / 378 Yards / 0 TD
NFL Player Comparison: Darren Sproles
Vaughn is an interesting player because of his size. There really aren’t many examples of players at his size that transfer to the NFL. There are several at his size that did well in college, but he is far below the 200lb mark. Even Darren Sproles was closer to 190.
Tarik Cohen would be another example, and he never was able to become an every-down player. Vaughn will be a weapon for someone and will absolutely find his way onto a roster.
But will he be able to be a consistent fantasy option is the question. History says that it is very unlikely. Even with guys like James White and Nyhiem Hines who have flashed, we haven’t seen it on a yearly basis.
18. Keaton Mitchell – East Carolina
Weight: 185 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 201 Attempts / 1452 Yards / 14 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 27 Receptions / 252 Yards / 1 TD
NFL Player Comparison: Ameer Abdullah
Mitchell is going to be a highly analyzed player after the combine. His speed is elite, and he is a productive runner. Mitchell has a great ability to maintain speed in and out of breaks with his smooth-running style.
He has a good vision for a fast runner and is explosive. The concern is the size at only 184 lbs. Will he hold up to a big workload?
He is another exciting, productive player that just happens to be an outlier with his size. Mitchell is a weapon in the passing game and as a returner. This will definitely help him get on the field.
19. Evan Hull – Northwestern
Weight: 210 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 221 Attempts / 913 Yards / 2 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 55 Receptions / 546Yards / 2 TDs
NFL Player Comparison: James White
Hull is an interesting player as you can see the rushing stats don’t pop as much as the receiving stats do. He is a good runner, great receiving back. He shows good patience behind the line and always falls forward. He is a north-south runner that plays well between the tackles. He is not a blazer and will not wow anyone at the combine. He shows quick feet and is a threat out of the backfield. He was used a ton on screenplays and routes coming out of the backfield. He also played outside and played in the slot at times. This versatility will definitely interest some teams and we could see him have a 3rd down role like a James White or even develop into a Kyle Jusczyk or a Taysom Hill type of chess piece.
20. Chris Rodriguez Jr. – Kentucky
Weight: 224 lbs
2022 Rushing Stats: 175 Attempts/ 904 Yards/ 6 TDs
2022 Receiving Stats: 5 Receptions/ 41 Yards/ 0 TDs
NFL Player Comparison: Gus Edwards
Chris Rodriguez is a powerful runner with a thick lower half. This offense really suffered in 2022 after losing their offensive coordinator, best playmaker, and three starting linemen. Will Levis struggled this year and missed some time due to a hand injury. Rodriguez only played in 8 games himself.
In 2021, he was far more productive. In 2021, he had 1,378 rushing yards and ten rushing touchdowns with three receiving touchdowns. Rodriguez offers power and size; he hopes to show some speed at the combine.