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2023 NFL Draft Prospects: Under-the-Radar Running Backs

2023 NFL Draft Prospects: Under-the-Radar Running Backs

There’s something magical about un-sexy running backs.

They hold onto the football, hit their holes and keep their legs moving. No, they’ll never earn the name recognition of Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley or Jonathan Taylor. However, in the right system, they still contribute to winning tangibly.

C.J. Anderson, LeGarrette Blount, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Alfred Morris, Devonta Freeman and Rashard Mendenhall are a few that come to mind.

Here, we won’t discuss highly-touted prospects such as Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs, Zach Charbonnet or Tank Bigsby. I’m taking a jump into the world of late-round and UDFA candidates, many of whom are thoroughly unsexy. Though, considering they won’t cost a premium pick, could be your team’s dream selection.

2023 NFL Draft Prospects: Under-the-Radar Running Backs

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Tavion Thomas (RB – Utah)

Tavion Thomas is listed at 247 pounds, and he runs with every ounce of it. He’s not breaking away with next-level speed or eye-popping agility, but you’re in for a terrible time if you think you’re bringing him down with an arm tackle.

This man does not go down. He is truly exceptionally difficult to tackle or appears to be. If a team is willing to take a shot on him and develop his footwork, he’ll be an exceptional goalline/change-of-pace back who excels between the tackles and on the occasional screen.

Again, at his size, if he were particularly explosive, he’d be a first-round pick. He’s not right now. Who knows if he ever will be. However, he’s a fun prospect to watch and will absolutely create problems for defenses who don’t pay enough attention to him.

Evan Hull (RB – Northwestern)

“Hull,” Noun, “the main body of a ship or other vessel.”

It’s fitting the dictionary definition of his last name is exactly what he is as a running back. Evan Hull is as steady as they come. He proved it in spades in the Senior Bowl.

Hull took his first carry of the Senior Bowl 24 yards in a beautiful display of vision and patience.

Yes, the blocking was good, but that gap was smaller than it looks, and Hull navigated it phenomenally. This run, plus his more hard-hitting collisions, are mildly reminiscent of Tyler Allgeier. Allgeier was more rounded in pass protection at this stage but as a runner, Hull’s right there. Hull also caught 88 passes in his last two seasons at Northwestern.

I would be surprised if a team was disappointed with selecting Hull, mainly because wherever he goes feels like it will be good value. For that reason, I could see his stock rising, potentially higher than expected.

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

Eric Gray (RB – Oklahoma)

In a world where running routes and catching passes out of the backfield are commodified, Eric Gray’s price tag is rising. He spent all week at the Senior Bowl impressing anyone who watched what he could do as a receiver.

This play got called back for a penalty on the offensive line, but check out how Gray catches this in stride and makes the first man miss.

He’s not just a one-trick pony, either – watch him catch this dump-off, immediately shake off shoulder tackles and keep his legs turning with five guys on top of him.

Gray is giving me peak Nyheim Hines vibes, an all-around back at his best when running routes out of the backfield. Let’s not forget Gray ran for 1,366 yards on 6.4 yards per carry his senior year at Oklahoma, too. I think his ceiling is a lot higher than we’re admitting right now. If he puts up good numbers at the combine, I wouldn’t be shocked if a team invested in Gray in the form of a third or fourth-round pick.

Chase Brown (RB – Illinois)

Chase Brown could go anywhere from the second to the seventh round, and it wouldn’t surprise me.

Let’s start with the good, the reason why he could skyrocket up draft boards in the coming months. He runs with power and has breakaway speed. Once he plows through a hole, he’s looking to run over defenders and can shift gears to turn open space into six points. It’s impressive.

He measured at 5’9 215 pounds at the Senior Bowl and incorporates that stockiness into his powerful running style, too. He’s not just speed; he can absolutely throw his weight around colliding with defenders. He’s also an above-average pass catcher. The way he’s flashed on tape makes me think he’s a sneaky candidate to have a great NFL Scouting Combine. If he does, I wouldn’t be surprised if Brown is a second-round pick.

Ultimately, he’s not projected to be that high of a pick yet. He’s got work to do in pass protection. He’s 5’9 and needs to develop his footwork and movement behind the line of scrimmage.

But Brown’s ceiling is phenomenal. If front offices think they can assuage some of his development areas, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him absolutely fly up draft boards with a good Combine performance.

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