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Dynasty Rookie Draft Primer: Running Backs (2023 Fantasy Football)

Dynasty Rookie Draft Primer: Running Backs (2023 Fantasy Football)

The NFL offseason is here (silently chuckles on the inside). Every dynasty GM knows there is no offseason. There’s the regular season, and then there is rookie fever season. If you’re like me and you’ve had a raging fever since February…the only prescription is my rookie primers.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Primer

I’ll run through each skill position (QB, RB, WR, TE), laying out draft strategy, tiers, statistical analysis, and scouting reports. Let’s dive into this exciting rookie class.

How to Approach Running Backs in Dynasty Rookie Drafts

The approach with running backs in the different formats is unchanged. The only difference is in SuperFlex. Running backs will get pushed down the board, some with quarterbacks going early and ahead of them sometimes. Bijan Robinson (the locked-in 1.01) and Jahmyr Gibbs will each be gone within the top ten picks in each format. Each back in tier 3 should be gone by the end of the second round of drafts. I love picking up a ton of running backs to round out my dynasty rosters that could fall into volume during the season with one or two injuries on a depth chart. That’s exactly the thought process when looking through tier 4 and my honorable mentions. 

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

Dynasty Rookie Draft Positional Rankings & Tiers

Tier 1

Analysis: Bijian Robinson is a three-down workhorse from Day 1. He could easily roll up 250-300 touches in his rookie season. 

Tier 2

Analysis: Gibbs surprisingly went in the first round of the NFL Draft, and while consensus might not agree with Detroit selecting Gibbs 12th overall, he should, at his baseline, be a Swift clone with the upside for more. 

Tier 3

Analysis: This is the upside tier of this rookie running back class. These backs were selected anywhere from the second round to the fourth round of the NFL Draft. Charbonnet could be a league winner if anything happened to Ken Walker. Roschon Johnson could be the Bears’ Week 1 starter if he blows up in camp. Miller and Achane could both be committee leads in their rookie season, depending on how their depth charts shake out. Spears is a high-upside handcuff to Derrick Henry, who could inherit the backfield if the team moves on from him after this season. 

Tier 4

Analysis: None of these running backs received higher than fifth-round draft capital, but their skillsets and raw talent make them awesome darts to toss in rookie drafts. 

Honorable Mention:

2023 NFL Draft Guide: Prospect Rankings & Player Profiles

Dynasty Rookie Draft Player Profiles

Bijan Robinson (Texas)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 11th
    • Breakaway rate: 60th
    • PFF elusive rating: 6th
    • PFF receiving grade: 19th
    • Yards per route run: 21st
  • 2021 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 18th
    • Breakaway rate: 88th
    • PFF elusive rating: 3rd
    • PFF receiving grade: 86th
    • Yards per route run: 43rd
  • Career
    • College dominator: 86th percentile
    • College target share: 77th percentile

Scouting report:

  • Bijan Robinson is a beautiful combination of speed and power. He can beat you in a variety of ways as a rusher. His pristine vision marries well with his efficient footwork and an extensive tool bag of moves. Robinson can jump cut or break out a spin move leaving a defender in the dust, or he can use his powerful lower half to drop the hammer.
  • Robinson breaks tackles like he’s playing against junior high defenders. He looks like he’s playing on a different level slicing through and mowing defenders down easily. Robinson is a scheme-versatile back. He has the strength to excel in a downhill gap scheme and the juice to plant and go on outside zone runs.
  • If Robinson wasn’t so talented, his 2022 could have looked quite different. The Texas offensive line was a trainwreck in 2022. They dropped from 13th and 43rd in stuff rate and power success rate (per Football Outsiders) to 45th and 90th. Robinson had to face skinny running lanes, multiple defenders in his face at the second level, and free rushers on many runs.
  • Robinson is a dependable three-down weapon. He is a wheel route demon with speed to separate from linebackers and a pair of soft mitts. Robinson showed growth in the passing game in 2022, ranking 19th in PFF receiving grade and 21st in Yards per route run (minimum 20 targets, per PFF).

Player Comp: Ezekiel Elliott with softer hands

Dynasty Outlook: Robinson is one of the best running back prospects since Saquon Barkley hit the NFL. Arthur Smith and the Falcons wasted no time during the draft affirming this fact by selecting Robinson eighth overall. Robinson should be the engine that makes that offense go. He should have no issues racking up volume or finding open running lanes with the Dirty Birds. Atlanta was second in neutral rushing rate and first in red zone rushing rate last year. The Falcons were also tops in PFF’s run-blocking grade in 2022. Robinson should be the locked-in 1.01 in dynasty rookie drafts regardless of format.

Jahmyr Gibbs (Alabama)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 45th
    • Breakaway rate: 7th
    • PFF elusive rating: 35th
    • PFF receiving grade: 6th
    • Yards per route run: 9th
  • 2021 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 74th
    • Breakaway rate: 30th
    • PFF elusive rating: 69th
    • PFF receiving grade: 2nd
    • Yards per route run: 2nd
  • 2020 (minimum 20 targets)
    • PFF receiving grade: 2nd
    • Yards per route run: 1st
  • Career
    • 93rd percentile collegiate target share

Scouting report:

  • Gibbs is a slasher back that has 0 to 60 speed. He wins with foot quickness and raw speed that can string together lightning-fast lateral movements. Gibbs can take any touch to the house with a small crease in the second level.
  • He has average contact balance. Gibbs will never be a pile-pushing running back. This could leave his red zone usage more in the form of pass-game targets than two-yard goal-line dives.
  • Gibbs has been an elite receiving option out of the backfield for the last three seasons. Since 2020, he’s never ranked lower than ninth in Yards per route run or sixth in PFF receiving grade among running backs (minimum 20 targets). He’s an angle route master that will destroy the soft underbelly of zone coverage. In limited pass pro reps seen on film, Gibbs has the ability to turn into a solid pass protector. His first punch is solid, and he had the leg drive to stand up defenders.
  • Gibbs has a high motor. He’s sprinting out in front of his scrambling quarterback to try and set a block or fighting for extra yards at every turn. Coaches will love his energy.

Player Comp: faster D’Andre Swift

Dynasty Outlook: The Detroit Lions apparently agree with my comp. Gibbs replaces Swift in Detroit as the former passing down specialist was shipped off to Philadelphia after the Lions selected Gibbs 12th overall. My post-draft ranking of Gibbs at tenth overall in Superflex drafts might not sit well with everyone, and that’s fine. Frame it however you’d like, but Gibbs is my RB2 of this class now, with Zach Charbonnet getting torpedoed by the Seattle Seahawks. You can make a case to take Gibbs as high as the 1.05 in Superflex drafts, but I prefer the four wide receivers and Dalton Kincaid, that were also selected in round 1 of the NFL Draft. Gibbs should have a productive rookie season, there’s no doubt about that, but David Montgomery will remain a big part of this offense. Last year Jamaal Williams led the NFL in red zone rushing attempts and inside the five-yard line carries. Montgomery should soak up most of this work, but that doesn’t mean Gibbs won’t have a red zone role. Last season Swift ranked second on the team in red zone targets despite missing time and being marginalized some weeks. Gibbs could eclipse that mark in his rookie season.

Zach Charbonnet (UCLA)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 14th
    • Breakaway rate: 34th
    • PFF elusive rating: 22nd
    • PFF receiving grade: 13th
    • Yards per route run: 31st
  • 2021 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 52nd
    • Breakaway rate: 72nd
    • PFF elusive rating: 19th
    • PFF receiving grade: 77th
    • Yards per route run: 97th
  • Career
    • 70th percentile college dominator
    • 93rd percentile college target share

Scouting report:

  • Zach Charbonnet is a dancing rhino covered in butter. Charbonnet is a tough runner with nimble feet for his size and a mean stiff arm. He can string together jump cuts to daylight more regularly than a person his size should be able to. Arm tackles don’t bring down Charbonnet. He slips through them with ease.
  • Charbonnet has a strong leg drive and consistently finishes runs well. While his lateral agility will surprise, he’s still at his best when he gets downhill in a hurry. Charbonnet is a decisive runner who operated in a gap-heavier scheme over the last two seasons (53.5% of his runs came on gap designs).
  • Charbonnet is a serviceable pass catcher. He displays soft hands, but his athletic ceiling will limit how creatively a team will deploy him through the air at the next level. He can be a trusted check-down option for his next quarterback.
  • His calling card will be his ability to handle volume and break off chunk plays. His home run hitting ability will not. Charbonnet is a buildup speed back who utilizes his fancy footwork to cover up for an average burst. He’s an upright runner who can also be slowed down when hit in the backfield or contacted before he’s built up momentum.

Player Comp: A.J. Dillon’s little brother

Dynasty Outlook: Seattle crushed my heart. You heard my audible sorrow if you listened to our live reaction podcast on Round 2. That pain was and remains real. Charbonnet got the draft capital we wanted from a dynasty perspective, but Seattle just dolled out similar capital for Ken Walker last year. Charbonnet is now locked into a timeshare for the foreseeable future with Walker. Unless Seattle plans to transition to a top 5-10 neutral rushing rate team, this will cap the volume for Walker and Charbonnet yearly, assuming both stay healthy. I can’t drop Charbonnet below the ranking of RB3 in this class because of the combination of talent, draft capital invested in him, and the fact that nearly every running back in this class was sent to a butthole-clenching landing spot. Charbonnet is a late first-round/early second-round rookie draft pick.

Tyjae Spears (Tulane)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 5th
    • Breakaway rate: 15th
    • PFF elusive rating: 11th
    • PFF receiving grade: 21st
    • Yards per route run: 33rd
  • Career

Scouting report:

  • Tajae Spears concluded his final season at Tulane with stellar numbers ranking fifth in Yards after contact per attempt, 15th in breakaway rate, and he’s 11th in PFF’s elusive rating.
  • He’s electric in space with plus lateral agility and an effective jump cut. Spears flashes good change of direction ability with the juice to flip the field and get to the edge on zone runs. He’s adept at utilizing his vision and angles, making it difficult for tacklers to wrap him up head-on.
  • Weighing in at 204 lbs at the Senior Bowl helps his projection at the next level. He added essential “work weight” with a stacked lower half without sacrificing his explosiveness.
  • Spears possesses fluidity in his routes from the backfield with the ability to separate from linebackers. He is a work in progress in pass protection, but he has the tenacity and lower half strength to at least grow into a serviceable back in this area.

Player Comp: Michael Carter with a jetpack

Dynasty Outlook: I love Spears’ talent and what he showed both at Tulane and in the pre-draft process. If you feel like a but is incoming, there is, but his medicals are concerning. The conversation around his knee is frightening. His problematic knee could easily derail his short-term and long-term projection in the NFL. Derrick Henry is an unrestricted free agent after this year, so it’s equally possible that Spears is the favorite to take over as the team’s starter next year. I’ll only let him slip so far in rookie drafts before pulling the trigger based on that upside alone. Spears shouldn’t be available past the second round of Superflex rookie drafts.

Kenny McIntosh (Georgia)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 82nd
    • Breakaway rate: 117th
    • PFF elusive rating: 36th
    • PFF receiving grade: 1st
    • Yards per route run: 3rd (18.6% slot or wide)
  • Career
    • 58.7% of carries on zone runs
    • Never crested 100 carries or 400 rushing yards until 2022

Scouting report:

  • McIntosh is smooth as butter as a receiver. He was aligned in the slot and out wide in college. He looks like a natural. He’s clean in and out of his breaks with soft hands. He could be a dangerous dual threat with a smart OC at the next level.
  • He’s an upright slasher type as a rusher. McIntosh can make smooth jump cuts in the open field, which is impressive considering his size. While he can shed arm tackles, his height and upright running style can lead him to be brought down by the first tackler if they get a decent wrap on him. He’s not a pile mover.
  • McIntosh has good vision in traffic. He is adept at getting small through creases and lets his blocks develop. He’s very comfortable with zone concepts and has enough speed to get around the edge.
  • With the limited pass protection reps I saw, he had a solid anchor. He flashed more physicality in some of these reps than I saw as a rusher which leads me to believe that he has more untapped power to finish runs.

Player Comp: Javorius Allen

Dynasty Outlook: Kenny McIntosh’s putrid testing obliterated his draft stock as he dropped to the seventh round of the NFL Draft. McIntosh is now likely the RB4 on the Seattle Seahawks’ depth chart behind Ken Walker, Zach Charbonnet, and DeeJay Dallas. He’s nothing more than a waiver wire pickup in dynasty or a taxi squad stash at this juncture.

Evan Hull (Northwestern)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 122nd
    • Breakaway rate: 113th
    • PFF elusive rating: 97th
    • PFF receiving grade: 16th
    • Yards per route run: 7th
  • 2021 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 39th (tied with Israel Abanikanda)
    • Breakaway rate: 33rd
    • PFF elusive rating: 38th
    • Missed tackles forced: 23rd
    • PFF receiving grade: 36th
    • Yards per route run: 50th
  • Career
    • 96th percentile collegiate target share (17.3%)
    • Utilized in the slot or out wide on 20.7% of his snaps in 2022.
    • Hull led all FBS running backs in 2022 in receiving yards (536)

Scouting report:

  • Hull is a tough runner. Compact build. He’s more quick than fast, but Hull also displays good burst as soon as the ball is in his hands.
  • Excellent lateral agility with the ability to jump cut on a dime.
  • Strong leg drive to finish runs with impressive contact balance. He’s rarely dropped by the first defender he encounters.
  • Watching Hull weave through traffic with jump cuts and impressive vision is a treat.
  • Plus pass catcher. Displays fluidity in the passing game and soft hands. He’s not a nuanced route runner, as he was utilized on dump-offs and simple stop routes. This part of his game could grow further in the NFL with a creative play-caller.

Player Comp: Rhamondre Stevenson

Dynasty Outlook: I’m an Evan Hull fanboy, and I don’t care who knows it. Hull has a three-down workhorse build and skillset. Zack Moss and Deon Jackson are scrubs to which new head coach Shane Steichen has no previous ties. The fifth-round pick could quickly ascend to RB2 on the Colts’ depth chart and factor in on passing downs. Jonathan Taylor is an unrestricted free agent after this season. I’m not saying that Hull is the heir apparent because the team could easily sign Taylor to an extension at any moment, but I also won’t rule out that Hull could take over for Taylor if the team moves on. Hull will slip to the fourth or maybe fifth round in many rookie dynasty drafts. I have no issues with anyone drafting him as early as the late-third round. This class becomes a grab bag of “get your guys” after round two.

Tank Bigsby (Auburn)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 13th
    • Breakaway rate: 13th
    • PFF elusive rating: 14th
    • PFF receiving grade: 100th
    • Yards per route run: 82nd
  • 2021 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 93rd
    • Breakaway rate: 96th
    • PFF elusive rating: 94th
    • PFF receiving grade: 116th
    • Yards per route run: 83rd
  • 2020 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 13th
    • Breakaway rate: 42nd
    • PFF elusive rating: 7th
  • Career
    • Bigsby’s two best seasons in yards per contact per attempt came with 67.7% of his rushing attempts on zone concept plays.

Scouting report:

  • Bigsby runs angry. He has the leg drive to push a pile and had multiple runs in 2022 where he carried would-be tacklers. He ranked 21st in missed tackles forced (minimum 100 carries). He’s a north/south straight-line runner with average burst. This isn’t to say he doesn’t have the lateral agility to explode upfield on outside-zone runs. Bigsby evades tacklers in the second level with a heavy dose of jump cuts.
  • His vision can lapse. On interior runs, he’ll try to bounce them outside (usually a bad idea) instead of taking the crease. He does display plenty of inside zone runs where he hits the hole with authority, but there’s equal evidence of him hesitating at the line when defenders enter the picture.
  • Bigsby’s ferocity comes through on pass pro reps. He tries to punish incoming rushers. He anchored well standing up defenders on the limited reps I saw on film. Last year on 91 pass-blocking reps, he allowed only one hurry and one pressure. His ability to pass protect could earn him some more passing down snaps which would be good for an average (to below-average) receiver like Bigsby.

Player Comp: Chris Carson

Dynasty Outlook: The Jacksonville Jaguars invested in some thunder for their backfield by drafting Bigsby in the third round. His skill set compliments Travis Etienne quite well. Bigsby is a punishing runner who could garner the red zone work while also sharing the early down lifting with Etienne. Bigsby’s pass protection skills could also allow him to eat into Etienne’s pass game routes which would be disastrous for any dynasty GMs with high hopes for Eitenne’s 2023 season. Bigsby should come off the board in the second round of dynasty rookie drafts.

DeWayne McBride (UAB)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 2nd
    • Breakaway rate: 11th
    • PFF elusive rating: 9th
  • 2021 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 1st
    • Breakaway rate: 8th
    • PFF elusive rating: 1st
  • Career
    • 93rd percentile college dominator
    • 95th percentile college ypc
    • 8th percentile college target share
    • Only ten targets in college with 0.16 Yards per route run

Scouting report:

  •  McBride is a tough runner. He has strong contact balance as he pinballs off defenders into the second level. His plus leg drive masks average burst at the line. McBride has enough lateral agility to sidestep to a different gap when the designed hole is filled with a defender. His vision is a plus as he presses the line well and improvises when it’s called for. He’s at his best when he gets downhill in a hurry as a one-cut and go back. 
  • McBride lacks the extra immediate juice to hit some creases as he looks a second behind. This also shows up when he’s asked to avoid a defender in the backfield. He can jump-cut an early surprise occasionally, but he’s getting dropped behind the line on many plays that he encounters a defender immediately. 
  • He’s an unknown in the passing game. McBride only garnered ten targets in college. This could be related to offensive design or a reflection of stone hands, but with such a small sample to work with, it’s impossible to know which. McBride did perform as a plus pass protector in his final season in college, so we can assume that the lack of targets wasn’t related to him coming off the field on passing plays. Last year McBride was 15th in PFF pass-blocking grade (minimum 50 pass-blocking snaps, 109 RBs). 

Player Comp: Damien Harris

Dynasty Outlook: McBride nearly fell to UDFA status before the Vikings drafted him in the seventh round. McBride’s rushing talent is undeniable, but his pass game usage is likely zero in the NFL. He should still battle last year’s fifth-round selection Ty Chandler for the RB3 spot on this depth chart behind Alexander Mattison and Dalvin Cook. Cook’s name has come up in trade rumors. If Cook ends up getting moved, then the intrigue for McBride grows. He’s a fourth-round dynasty rookie pick worth investing in. It could net you a starting running back if Cook is moved, and somehow McBride can beat out Mattison and Chandler in camp. That’s an upside play worth making.

Roschon Johnson (Texas)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets) * (*93 rushing attempts in 2022)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 11th*
    • Breakaway rate: 56th*
    • PFF elusive rating: 3rd*
    • PFF receiving grade: 90th
    • Yards per route run: 41st
  • Career
    • 4.06 or higher Yards after contact per attempt in each of his final three seasons
    • 69.8% of his runs with zone concepts for his collegiate career. 46.8% gap scheme runs in 2022. Scheme versatile back.

Scouting report:

  • North/South runner. He is at his best when he gets downhill quickly and into the second level.
  • Patient at the line. Scheme versatile. He has good lateral agility for his size, but he’s not a wiggle-back. However, Johnson has enough juice and good vision to work well on zone runs.
  • Johnson quickly gets up to top speed but lacks that second “home-run” gear.
  • Good contact balance. He’s able to shed arm tackles. Plenty of film of him making the first would-be tackler miss.
  • He was utilized on dump-offs in college. He displayed soft hands when called upon in the passing game.

Player Comp: Shaun Alexander

Dynasty Outlook: Roschon Johnson is now a Chicago Bear. Chicago has sounded elated to the media about his fall to the fourth round of the NFL Draft. While D’Onta Foreman and Khalil Herbert also reside on this depth chart, Johnson could carve out a role as soon as Week 1. After losing David Montgomery in free agency, the team has shown a lack of faith in Herbert by bringing in Foreman on a one-year deal and selecting Johnson in the draft. If we’re reading the tea leaves correctly, with these moves and the draft pick of Darnell Wright, the team could be moving to more gap scheme runs in 2023 and beyond. Johnson is a scheme versatile back, but his downhill and powerful running style will play well in a gap-oriented attack. Johnson could be the leader of this committee early, and if he gets a stranglehold on the work or at least the lead share, he might not let go. Johnson is a second-round rookie draft pick and my RB4 of this class.

Devon Achane (Texas A&M)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 34th
    • Breakaway rate: 39th
    • PFF elusive rating: 46th
    • PFF receiving grade: 77th
    • Yards per route run: 97th
  • 2021 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 15th
    • Breakaway rate: 10th
    • PFF elusive rating: 21st
    • PFF receiving grade: 13th
    • Yards per route run: 14th
  • Career
    • Achane had 40.3% of his runs in 2022 on gap scheme plays. Coincidentally he also had the lowest Yards after contact per attempt of his collegiate career (3.60). He didn’t drop below 4.02 in the two previous seasons, with 77.4% of his runs on zone-designed plays.

Scouting report:

  • Devon Achane’s compact build allows him to be slippery in close quarters. He sets up his blocks well as a patient runner with the bend to destroy pursuit angles. I’m curious how well he tests in short area agility drills. I was expecting more lateral agility (fluidity) in his game with jump cuts and jitterbug action, but he’s more downhill than I anticipated. This is likely related to his stiff hips. 
  • Achane’s size shows up in a few different areas. His smaller frame isn’t as big of a problem in the second level or with a head of steam built up, but when he is contacted in the backfield, he can be wrapped up easier. He can shed arm tackles when weaving through traffic, but he also goes down on too many shoestring tackles, especially early in runs. He has the lower-half strength to engage pass rushers at times when blocking, but he doesn’t anchor well, and on many snaps, he gets blown out of his cleats.
  • Achane’s acceleration and big play ability are evident immediately. His usage at Texas A&M was head-scratching. Over his final two collegiate seasons, he was utilized on “A” gap runs on 29.4% of his carries, with 5.0 yards per carry and 3.29 Yards after contact per attempt. While Achane displays good vision on interior runs and he runs hard, this will never be his calling card because of his size. That’s not how any team should utilize him and expect him to be an interior pile pusher. He saw 29.1% of his carries on the edge over the last two years, which results in eye-popping numbers. He had 7.5 yards per carry and 4.6 Yards after contact per attempt. An NFL team that prioritizes using him on outside zone and stretch runs more will reap the benefits of his game-breaking speed.
  • Achane is also a pass-game weapon. His explosiveness in space is on display here. In 2021, he saw an 18% snap rate in the slot or out wide. That number dropped to 6.7% in 2022. His Yards per route run saw a huge hit dropping from 1.85 to 0.66. Achane could see his pass game usage increase in the NFL with a creative play caller. He has good ball tracking with some nifty over-the-shoulder catches on film. He has the speed and route chops to pull away from linebackers in coverage and after the catch.

Player Comp: LaMicheal James

Dynasty Outlook: The diminutive Achane landed in one of the best possible spots considering his skill set and size. If any coaching tree or organizational philosophy has been willing to toss size concerns to the side, it’s been Kyle Shanahan and his disciples. Mike McDaniel could deploy a three-headed committee, with Achane splitting work with Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson. That’s the risk of drafting Achane, but there’s also hope here. Yes, Mostert and Wilson were retained this offseason on two-year deals, but each deal is essentially a puffed-up one-year deal. This backfield could evolve into a two-way split as early as this season or 2024 if the team keeps all three players on the roster. Achane’s speed and vision will suit Miami’s outside zone scheme well. Achane is a second-round rookie draft pick.

Israel Abanikanda (Pittsburgh)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 133rd
    • Breakaway rate: 36th
    • PFF elusive rating: 108th
    • PFF receiving grade*: 107th
    • Yards per route run*: 76th

*only 17 targets

  • 2021 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 39th
    • Breakaway rate: 91st
    • PFF elusive rating: 13th
    • PFF receiving grade: 87th
    • Yards per route run: 60th
  • Career
    • 97th percentile college dominator
    • 72nd percentile college ypc
    • 42nd percentile college target share

Scouting report:

  • Abanikanda is a patient runner with electric burst. When he sees a crease, he moves like lightning. He’s tailor-made for an outside-zone team. He’s a natural moving down the line surveying for a hole or cutback lane. He sets up his blocks in the second level well before exploding to daylight. 
  • He’s a linear runner that has some hip tightness. He is likelier to spin move a defender to avoid a tackle than move laterally or jump-cut. 
  • Abanikanda has house call type of speed. Any touch can go for 50 yards if he gets a crease. He looks the part of a 4.3 speedster. His spindly lower half doesn’t lend itself to many broken tackles. He more than makes up for what he lacks in power with his speed. 

Player Comp: prime Raheem Mostert

Dynasty Outlook: Abanikanda didn’t go early on Day 3 or Day 2 as many dynasty GMs had hoped with his stellar testing. He was drafted by the Jets in the fifth round and now slots in as the RB3/4 on this depth chart. After Breece Hall, the running back work for New York could get divided up in many ways. With the combination of landing spot and draft capital, Abanikanda has been reduced to a round-three dart throw in rookie drafts.

Sean Tucker (Syracuse)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 114th
    • Breakaway rate: 73rd
    • PFF elusive rating: 117th
    • PFF receiving grade: 94th
    • Yards per route run: 77th
  • 2021 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 14th
    • Breakaway rate: 23rd
    • PFF elusive rating: 28th
    • PFF receiving grade: 110th
    • Yards per route run: 56
  • Career
    • Tucker ranked 10th in missed tackles forced and fifth in runs of 10 plus yards in 2021.

Scouting report:

  • Sean Tucker wins with patience, footwork, and lateral agility. Tucker might not have the most explosive jumpcut, but when combined with these other attributes, it’s more than sufficient. Tucker is well suited for a zone-heavy run scheme. He’s at his best on outside zone and stretch runs where he can utilize his speed on cutbacks or beating defenders to the edge after building up some steam.
  • Tucker has decent vision. He can sometimes hesitate at the line, but it’s not a consistent issue. He’s patient in allowing his blocks to set up well before exploding upfield.
  • Tucker is a check-down option only in the passing game. He never crested 1.22 Yards per route run or a 56.2 PFF receiving grade. Tucker could be slotted into a committee backfield in the NFL as the early down complement to a pass-game specialist back.

Player Comp: Ronnie Hillman

Dynasty Outlook: The NFL told the dynasty community loudly how it valued Tucker as an NFL prospect during the draft. He completely fell out of the draft and signed as a UDFA with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tucker also had undisclosed medical concerns, so I won’t rule out that playing a part here. Lump his medical concerns with his UDFA status, and Tucker is only a late-round dynasty rookie draft target and taxi squad candidate. Tucker might not even make it through camp with the team, so tread lightly here.

Kendre Miller (TCU)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 31st
    • Breakaway rate: 32nd
    • PFF elusive rating: 23rd
    • PFF receiving grade: 74th
    • Yards per route run: 105th
  • Career
    • 52nd percentile college dominator
    • 79th percentile college ypc

Scouting report:

  • A north/south one-speed runner. Miller has average leg drive and vision. He’ll be best utilized at the next level in a gap or inside zone scheme. Miller is at the peak of his powers when he gets downhill with one cut and hits the gas.
  • He tends to dance at the line occasionally, which he can’t afford to do. Miller is a more limited athlete and doesn’t possess the juice to tack on multiple evasive movements without losing speed and burst in the process.
  • Miller is an upright runner who defenders can square up. He has the lower half strength to power through flimsy tackling but can’t break tackles once wrapped up decently.
  • He’s a functional receiver in the passing game with soft hands. Miller is a check-down option only in the passing game. He lacks the short-area agility to offer much of a ceiling as a route runner long term.

Player Comp: La’Mical Perine

Dynasty Outlook: Miller was a substantial riser after the NFL Draft in my rankings. He’s currently my RB6 (Tier 3) after being selected in Round 3 by the New Orleans Saints. With Alvin Kamara’s future up in the air and Jamaal Williams in the Big Easy for (at least) the next two seasons, Miller’s potential year-one role and two-year outlook are up in the air. Miller could easily be the team’s compliment to Williams or the long-term leader of this backfield if Kamara is suspended for a lengthy amount or cut by the team. Miller is a second-round rookie draft pick with upside in all formats.

Chase Brown (Illinois)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 108th
    • Breakaway rate: 95th
    • PFF elusive rating: 87th
    • PFF receiving grade: None above 62.3 over the last three seasons
    • Yards per route run: 0.96 (70 career targets)
  • Career
    • Back-to-back 1,000 rushing seasons from 2021-2022 (1,005, 1,632)
    • 69.3% of his carries on zone runs

Scouting report:

  • Good vision on zone runs and with finding cut-back lanes. Brown does hesitate at the line when he should explode through the hole. Ran with more conviction as the 2022 season progressed.
  • He’s a runway back. Brown doesn’t display the ability to make the first tackler miss in the hole, but once he’s into the second level, he displays a good second gear and the ability to set up his blocks.
  • Brown isn’t blessed with overwhelming lateral agility. He gets himself in trouble when he hesitates at the line or tries to bounce some runs outside. Brown doesn’t have the raw athleticism to get away with this.
  • Brown displays soft hands in the passing game. Mostly utilized as a check-down option or on the occasional rail route.

Player Comp: Myles Gaskin

Dynasty Outlook: Brown’s draft capital (fifth round) isn’t much to sniff at, but the landing spot is interesting. Brown should be considered the favorite to grab the RB2 spot on the Bengals’ depth chart behind Joe Mixon. The team also added UDFAs Calvin Tyler and Jacob Saylors to the running back room, which gives us a small inclination that they haven’t been wowed by the performance of Trayveon Williams and Chris Evans in previous seasons. While Brown’s game doesn’t blow me away, and he shows little upside in the passing game, he’s still worth sprinkling into your rookie draft exposures across your leagues. The Bengals have shown no issue giving one running back all the work in any games Mixon has missed over the last few seasons. Brown is a good mid-round dynasty rookie pick that could pop off with some RB2 weeks in-season should Mixon miss any time. If that scenario played out, he would also be a good player to trade away in-season for a small equity gain for your dynasty squad. While the Bengals didn’t invest substantial capital into the running back position in this NFL Draft cycle, I would be shocked if they didn’t address the position with a high pick in 2023.

Camerun Peoples (Appalachian State)

Stats:

  • 2019 ACL tear
  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 7th
    • Breakaway rate: 53rd
    • PFF elusive rating: 18th
    • PFF receiving grade: Never above 58.8
    • Yards per route run: 0.28 (16 career targets)
  • Career
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 4.14
    • 80.3% of his collegiate carries on zone runs

Scouting report:

  • Stiff hips. Peoples looks lumbering at times, getting up to second gear. He does display sufficient lateral agility flashing the occasional jump cut. Peoples won’t be a home run hitter, but in a gap scheme, he can get you the consistent 4-7 yards with some chunk plays sprinkled in.
  • Invites contact. He has no qualms about lowering this shoulder to bulldoze a tackler. Strong lower half that allows him to push the pile. Peoples runs angry. Physical grinder back.
  • Peoples feels like a future Patriot or Raven. Drop him into a scheme that utilizes gap runs with regularity and let him get downhill and punish the second level.

Player Comp: Gus Edwards

Dynasty Outlook: Peoples fell to UDFA status as he still awaits an NFL roster to call home. Stay tuned for my updated analysis once he signs with a team.

Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Kentucky)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 23rd
    • Breakaway rate: 77th
    • PFF elusive rating: 11th
    • PFF receiving grade: Never higher than 61.8.
    • Yards per route run: 0.34 (30 collegiate targets)
  • Career
    • In his final season, 50.2% gap scheme runs with his lowest season Yards after contact per attempt (3.84).
    • He displayed workhorse upside with 224 carries and 1,337 rushing yards in 2021.

Scouting report:

  • Questionable vision on zone runs. Rodriguez will take the cut back often as he lacks the speed to get to the edge. He won’t stretch it to the boundary.
  • He is best utilized as a gap scheme back with clear downhill running lanes. Rodriguez is a dependable volume back. Solid interior rusher.
  • Rodriguez will get what is blocked, but he displays little ability to get more than that.
  • He has a power-back mentality inviting contact, but he doesn’t have the extra thump or leg drive to run over people.
  • Straight line & one-speed runner.

Player Comp: Benny Snell

Dynasty Outlook: The Commanders picked up Rodriguez in the sixth round. Rodriguez is an early down grinder type who, at best, is the early down handcuff to Brian Robinson for Washington. With zero passing game upside, meh draft capital, and abysmal testing (56th percentile 40-yard dash and 24th percentile burst score per Playerprofiler.com), Rodriguez is a player that I’m content with letting fall to waivers or the last round of a dynasty rookie draft before considering adding him to my rosters.

Eric Gray (Oklahoma)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 42nd
    • Breakaway rate: 57th
    • PFF elusive rating: 42nd
    • PFF receiving grade: 5th
    • Yards per route run: 58th
  • Career
    • PFF receiving grades rankings (2020-2022, minimum 20 targets): 10th, 15th, 5th
    • Yards per route run rankings (2020-2022, minimum 20 targets): 13th, 45th, 58th
    • Slot or wide snap rate (2019-2020): 15.3-25.8%

Scouting report:

  • He should be a quality RB2 in the NFL.
  • He wins with vision. Gray displays a good feel for zone runs with the patience to let his blocks develop. He presses the hole and has a good jab step that he deploys before getting upfield.
  • Gray doesn’t possess much in tackle-breaking or the ability to create a ton on his own. His leg drive is average, and he goes down too often by shoestring tackles or with the first defender in pursuit. Gray deploys a spin move occasionally to help him create more yards after first contact.
  • His lack of physicality shows up in blocking and pass protection. Gray is a solid receiver. He is at his best when working in space where he can build up a head of steam and utilize his vision in traffic. His pass protection worries could limit his upside as a receiver at the next level unless he lands in a scheme that deploys their backs in routes more than blocking duties.

Player Comp: Bilal Powell

Dynasty Outlook: Gray heads to the Big Apple via the fifth round of the NFL Draft. While Gray could ascend to the RB2 spot on this depth chart behind Saquon Barkley, he could also fall as low as third or fourth behind Matt Breida and Jashaun Corbin. Gray is worth a late-round rookie draft stab and taxi squad stash, especially if you have Barkley on your roster.

Zach Evans (Ole Miss)

Stats:

  • 2022 (minimum 100 carries, 20 targets)
    • Yards after contact per attempt: 37th
    • Breakaway rate: 29th
    • PFF elusive rating: 48th
    • PFF receiving grade: 88th*
    • Yards per route run: 72nd*

*19 targets*

  • Career
    • 50th percentile college dominator
    • 51st percentile collegiate target share
    • Never eclipsed a 62.9 PFF receiving grade

Scouting report:

  • Evans has a good initial burst getting up to top speed quickly. The problem is when he reaches back for a second or third “home run gear,” he’s left wanting. He’s a one-speed linear runner. Sharp cutbacks against the grain are tough for him as he loses speed, but he does have good enough bend and agility for subtle cutbacks and jump cuts. 
  • Evans is at his best on stretch zone runs when he can get horizontal before bursting upfield through a cutback lane. He displays a good feel for these play designs versus inside zone runs, where he stutters at the line at times when a sizable hole isn’t readily apparent. 
  • Evans lacks creativity at the second level as he misses some cutback opportunities and lacks the lateral agility to put defenders on skates. He does display good finishing strength at the end of his runs fighting for extra yards while he isn’t a pile pusher. 
  • Evans is a dump-off option only in the passing game. When he’s been deployed outside or via angle routes, he has difficulty getting separated as he rounds his routes and lacks snap. 

Player Comp: Ronald Jones

Dynasty Outlook: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to draft Zach Evans in the final round of your dynasty rookie draft and then target the Evans’ truther in your league. Add him as a possible throw-in for a trade. There’s one Evans truther in every league, and while you’re reading this, you probably already know who they are or will hear from them during your dynasty rookie draft with “Hey, good pick” or “Oh crap! I didn’t think he would be selected ahead of me.” Evans is worth a final-round selection only as a taxi squad stash option. While yes, Kyren Williams is the only substantial back behind Cam Akers on the Rams’ depth, Evans sixth round capital this season still is less than the team spent on Williams last year. Akers could leave via free agency after this season, allowing you to ship him off next offseason before his value could tank again with the team addressing the position in the draft. It’s also possible the team could retain Akers, which would smother his dynasty value.

Beyond our fantasy football content, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our free mock Draft Simulator – which allows you to mock draft against realistic opponents – to our Draft Assistant – that optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football draft season.

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

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*All data utilized in this article is courtesy of PFF, Football Outsiders, and Playerprofiler.com unless otherwise specified.*

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