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Thor’s Dynasty Rookie Running Back Rankings & Player Comps (2023 Fantasy Football)

Thor’s Dynasty Rookie Running Back Rankings & Player Comps (2023 Fantasy Football)

After following the 2023 rookie class through the most recent college season and the NFL Draft process, I’m ready to put together a few names for you to watch as you prepare for your fantasy football leagues. Based on my evaluation, landing spot, opportunity, and more, here are players to know as you get ready for fantasy football drafts. Here are my dynasty rookies running back rankings and player comps.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

Dynasty Rookie Draft Rankings: Running Backs

1. Bijan Robinson | Falcons | 5110/215 | RAS: 9.83

Player comparison: Edgerrin James

Robinson’s make-you-miss ability is nearly unprecedented in modern college football at his size, with sudden and smooth cuts in the open field. He interestingly compares himself to Barry Sanders. Robinson’s 39% career missed tackle rate forced is tied with Javonte Williams for the highest in the PFF charting era dating back to 2014. Incredibly, over the past two seasons, Robinson had nearly 1,000 yards more after contact than before it (862 yards before contact, 1,840 yards after contact)! And of course Robinson is a fabulous receiver who can be deployed anywhere in the formation. He dropped zero balls last season.

Dynasty Value: Robinson is the clear 1.1 dynasty prospect in this class. The only nitpick in his profile is durability – he suffered a few nagging injuries in college. Make sure to draft Tyler Allgeier as insurance if you’re lucky enough to get him.

2. Jahmyr Gibbs | Lions | 5090/199 | RAS: 8.04

Player comparison: Dalvin Cook

The movement is special. Gibbs boasts joystick agility, along with 4.36 wheels that ranked No. 2 among RBs at the NFL Combine. Gibbs hits the gas pedal and is at top speed in a blink. Gibbs is so very clearly more comfortable in space than between the tackles. In 2021, his last at Georgia Tech, Gibbs averaged 3.1 YPC on carries to either side of the center and 6.3 YPC on every other run. The year before, 3.5 on the former, and 5.7 on the latter. Gibbs is an extremely smooth receiver who can also catch in traffic despite his smaller frame. Gibbs caught eight-of-10 contested targets over his career. Gibbs took 87 snaps as a receiver last year. Expect to see him doing a lot more of that kind of work at the next level.

Dynasty Value: Gibbs is going to get the space work and the receiving reps, while David Montgomery will get the meat-and-potatoes stuff. Gibbs is a sub-200 pound back who will also return kicks, in addition to heavy receiving usage. For that reason, and because I think Detroit will have him off the field around the goal line, I think Gibbs is more of a PPR guy, and not a prospect that conventional owners should covet in the slot he will require.

3. Roschon Johnson | Bears | 6004/225 | RAS: 8.09

Player comparison: Brian Robinson Jr.

Johnson is a one-cut power back in the vein of my comp Brian Robinson. He has the footwork to make over-leveraged defenders miss in the hole, and the power to put them on their back if they don’t bring the lunch pail. Johnson is also extremely reliable – he only had one career fumble. Johnson doesn’t run crisp routes as of yet, but he’s a reliable dump-off guy who’ll run after the catch. Either way, he’ll ingratiate himself into an NFL passing game immediately because he’s a rock-em, sock-em pass-blocker who drops linebackers.

Dynasty Value: When the Bears selected Johnson, it reminded me so much of when the Texans picked Dameon Pierce last year. Johnson can not only steal the bellcow role as a rookie, but he could also establish himself as Chicago’s long-term starter. One other important similarity to Pierce: Johnson doesn’t have the tread on his tires that most collegiate runners entering the NFL do. Prioritize him in your dynasty draft.

4. Zach Charbonnet | Seahawks | 6000/214 | RAS: 9.65

Player comparison: Todd Gurley

Charbonnet is so dang clever in cramped quarters, with subtle movements that create off-angle tackle attempts that he’s able to run through. And since his contact balance is outstanding, Charbonnet piles up broken tackles. Per PFF, Charbonnet ranked No. 3 with 122 forced missed tackles since 2021. He’s also a skilled receiver who had only five drops over 90 collegiate targets. Once he corrals the ball, Charbonnet’s a handful to wrestle down chugging upfield, with 9.1 career YAC.

Dynasty Value: I was sky-high on Charbonnet in the pre-draft process, ranking him RB2. But Seattle was a terrible landing spot for him. Charbonnet profiles as a bellcow back – just like Kenneth Walker did and does. Between the two, Charbonnet figures to get the receiving work. But how much value will that have? Charbonnet is going to need to displace Walker to truly take off as a fantasy asset, or else we’re going to have a quagmire situation. I believe in Charbonnet. But don’t overpay.

5. Tyjae Spears | Titans | 5095/204 | RAS: 8.04

Player comparison: Travis Etienne

Spears had an enormous final year on campus. Then he went out and had one of the best pre-draft processes of any player this spring regardless of position. He was named Senior Bowl Practice Player-of-Week by NFL executives & scouts. Then he showed out at the NFL Combine and his pro day workout, at a near-threshold 204 pounds (up 10 pounds from his collegiate listing). On the field, Spears is ridiculously explosive and instinctive. And after not being used as much as a receiver at Tulane as he probably could have been, Spears impressed with his pass-catching and route-running chops at the Senior Bowl.

Dynasty Value: Spears’ knee issues may shorten his career. But he’ll be a home-run hitter for as long as he can go. I think he could flash enough to potentially incentivize the Titans to move on from Derrick Henry in the near future.

6. Kendre Miller | Saints | 5110/215 | RAS: N/A

Player comparison: Jamaal Williams

A bellcow on last year’s TCU team that made a run to the title game, Miller’s presence helped to convince Zach Evans to bolt Fort Worth for Lane Kiffin’s Mississippi Rebels last offseason. A good-but-not-great athlete, Miller runs very hard. He’s blessed with very good contact balance, able to regain his momentum from glancing shots to continue along his path. He was reliable in the screen game when used as a receiver at TCU, and consistently chipped in run-after-the-catch value. But the Horned Frogs didn’t get him involved as much as they probably should have.

Dynasty Value: The Saints prioritized Miller on Draft Weekend, despite the fact that he couldn’t work out during the pre-draft process due to a right knee injury, and despite the fact that his game isn’t quite fully-formed yet. Miller will get situational work as the 2023 RB3 behind Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams. If he impresses, he’ll inform next offseason’s decisions on Kamara and Williams. Best-case scenario, Miller ascends into the 2024 starting lineup.

7. Tank Bigsby | Jaguars | 6000/210 | RAS: 7.81

Player comparison: Sony Michel

Bigsby can make the first man miss in a phone booth, run through arm tackles, and find an escape hatch by jutting laterally off a violent cut. He’s not a dancer. Bigsby posted an elite 90.4 PFF run grade despite running behind an Auburn offensive line that ranked No. 93 in PFF run-blocking last year. I believe his game will play up behind a strong offensive line due to his vision. Bigsby probably didn’t get enough credit for his running chops during the process. That said, he’s a terrible receiver. Over his career, Bigsby had eight drops for an 11.6% drop rate on catchable balls despite an aDOT of -1.7.

Dynasty Value: I think Bigsby is going to get on the field immediately on early-downs. It’s likely that Bigsby will never become a competent receiver. If so, he simply must improve in pass-pro to become an every-down back. He has the skillset to do so – but he’s not there yet. But to his credit, Bigsby did make strides in that area last year, giving hope he could get there.

8. Devon Achane | Dolphins | 5084/188 | RAS: 7.00

Player comparison: Jahvid Best

Achane’s calling card is legitimate world-class speed. His 4.32 forty at the NFL Combine paced the RB field. Achane is unique for a small back in that he doesn’t dance. When he has the ball, Achane is an arrow pointed towards the goal line. Angles start to get erased one-by-one if he gets into the open field. He’s an underrated receiver who was underutilized in that phase in college. Achane is also a dangerous return man.

Dynasty Value: Achane will likely play around 185 pounds, and his touches will be limited. He won’t be used around the goal line. Still, he found a very nice landing spot, with a coach in Mike McDaniel that comes from the Shanahan Tree that knows how to use home-run hitting backs exactly like him. Achane is a fun prospect, but don’t overpay on Draft Day.

9. DeWayne McBride | Vikings | 5100/209 | RAS: N/A

Player comparison: Tyler Allgeier

Extremely productive in college – with a career 7.6 YPC – and bar-none one of the top early-down grinders in this class. McBride’s career 36% forced missed tackle rate trails only Bijan Robinson and Javonte Williams in PFF’s nine-year charting history. Total unknown as a receiver. McBride was targeted only 10 times over his three-year career. He caught five, with no drops. McBride has the attitude and the play strength for pass-pro, if nothing else.

Dynasty Value: Assuming Dalvin Cook isn’t on the 2023 Vikings roster, McBride’s fantasy contributions could begin as early as this coming season. He just needs to learn to prioritize ball security. Once he does, he’s going to find himself on an NFL field on early downs. More of a standard-league target than a PPR guy.

10. Evan Hull | Colts | 5101/214 | RAS: 9.22

Player comparison: Joseph Addai

Hull’s special sauce is his receiving skill. Last year, Hull ranked near the the top of the 2023 RB class in targets, receptions, aDOT, and snaps in the slot or out wide. Quick acceleration and violent route-breaks make him tricky to stay with, and he has soft hands. He’s also an underrated runner, a ball of muscle with 4.47 speed and one-cut suddenness.

Dynasty Value: I think Hull’s receiving utility will naturally force its way onto the field early. Hull’s floor is a strong complementary back. But don’t put it past Hull to develop into an NFL starter.

11. Zach Evans | Rams | 5110/202 | RAS: N/A

Player comparison: Elijah Mitchell

Former five-star recruit with a famously strong lower-body – film of his squats in high school went viral. Evans started only 16 games in college. But TCU didn’t seem particularly dismayed to see him leave for Ole Miss. And the Rebels, in 2022, used Evans as 1B back behind three-star true frosh Quinshon Judkins.

Dynasty Value: If the light turns on, I could see Evans becoming a strong platoon back. But we’ve been waiting on that for years already.

12. Israel Abanikanda | Jets | 5100/216 | RAS: N/A

Player comparison: Tevin Coleman

Abanikanda was a complimentary piece in Kenny Pickett‘s pass-first offense in 2021 before going off for 1,431 yards and 20 TD in 2022 last season as the offense fully embraced him as the bellcow. Abanikanda’s narrow center-of-gravity courtesy of his upright style makes it easy to knock him off his feet. Just don’t let him get into the open field, or you can wave him goodbye. He’s looking to hit dingers every time he steps to the plate with his 4.44 wheels.

Dynasty Value: I like Izzy’s odds of hopping Bam Knight and Michael Carter on the Jets’ hierarchy behind Breece Hall. But he’s going to need another serious Hall injury to ever have serious fantasy value.

13. Eric Gray | Giants | 5094/210 | RAS: N/A

Player comparison: Brian Westbrook

Non-assuming runner with a well-rounded skillset. Sets defenders up to fail. Runs clean, snappy routes. Doesn’t have the play strength for pass-pro and is taken down on first contact.

Dynasty Value: Gray’s receiving utility and ability to win in space will keep him on a roster for a long time. But he’ll be a valued platoon back, not a workhorse.

14. Deuce Vaughn | Cowboys | 5052/179 | RAS: 4.32

Player comparison: Tarik Cohen

In only 37 career games in the Little Apple, Vaughn – all 5’5/179 of him – had 4,884 yards from scrimmage and 43 TD. Like Tarik Cohen, Vaughn flips the size disadvantage on its head with a hide-the-ball-in-the-cup routine behind his offensive line. Staying beneath radar until the last instant in conjunction with his ludicrous agility helps him get into the second-level more often than you’d assume. Arm tackles get him down, and he won’t run away from NFL athletes, but Vaughn’s game should translate situationally.

Dynasty Value: With the obvious caveat that Vaughn’s collegiate bellcow days are likely now over – the NFL has room for guys who can catch the ball and are difficult to tackle. Expect him to stick around for years.

15. Chase Brown | Bengals | 509/209 | RAS: N/A

Player comparison: Myles Gaskin

Chase Brown went ballistic in 2022 by feasting in the second- and third-levels. But he doesn’t make many defenders miss, he doesn’t break many tackles, he isn’t much of a receiver, and he isn’t a good pass-blocker. Brown’s trick of speed isn’t going to carry him to the same level of success in the NFL unless he fleshes out the rest of his skillset.

Dynasty Value: Brown’s one-note game is not likely to return dynasty owners the value on their investment that they’re hoping for.

16. Chris Rodriguez Jr. | Commanders | 5116/217 | RAS: 7.71

Player comparison: Benny Snell

LeRoy Hoard once said, “Coach, if you need one yard, I’ll get you three yards. If you need five yards, I’ll get you three yards.” Chris Rodriguez responded: “Dad?” Dictionary definition of a grinder.

Dynasty Value: He isn’t much of a pass-catcher, and he likely will never be an NFL starter, capping his upside in even the deepest dynasty formats to the hope of touchdown pilfering.


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