I am starting a new Thursday series where I re-rank the 2023 NFL Draft class by position group through the first half of the season. This week, I am reviewing the running back position, and while there are only three rookie running backs who are making a major impact for their team through the first nine weeks of the season, there are a few others who could make an impact later in the season or for Dynasty purposes in the next couple of years. So, for this position group, I will be ranking the top ten at the position for the mid-year review.
Re-Drafting The 2023 RB Class
1 Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
There was little debate going into the season that Bijan Robinson was the top running back in the 2023 NFL Draft. He has all the traits to be a three-down running back in the NFL. The only problem is he was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the eighth overall pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. You might wonder why that is a problem, and the answer is that Head Coach Arthur Smith does not know how to use offensive weapons like Robinson in his offense. Robinson should be an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate, but instead I almost ranked De’Von Achane and Jahmyr Gibbs over him in this mid-year review. I believe Robinson is still going to be a stud three-down running back in the NFL for years to come, but we might have to wait until the Falcons have a new head coach before that happens. He currently ranks as the RB13 in PPR scoring through the first nine weeks of the season. I will be shocked if he does not finish the season as RB15 or better this year, but his ceiling is so much higher if used correctly.
2. De’Von Achane, Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins selected De’Von Achane with the 84th overall pick in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and he looks like a special player at the running back position. He has outstanding speed, agility, and quickness and showed all of that and then some in the four games he played this season. He looked like a special player in those four games, racking up 460 rushing yards on just 38 attempts (over 12 yards per carry), catching nine passes on 11 targets for 67 receiving yards, and scoring seven total touchdowns. The only issue is he does not have the typical size to be a three-down running back in the NFL at 5’9” and 188 pounds, but he is an electric player when he touches the ball, and it will be hard for Head Coach Mike McDaniel to keep him off the field when he is healthy. I gave Robinson the slight edge over Achane in my rankings because Robinson is more of a workhorse running back and I believe can carry more of the workload throughout a full NFL season. Achane injured his knee in Week 5, showing that given his smaller frame he may not be able to handle a large workload in the NFL. Even though he only played four games this season, he still produced like a top-five fantasy running back in those weeks, so I still believe that if Achane had not gotten injured he would have finished as the RB10 or better this year. He is slated to come back in Week 11, so he still might finish as a top-10 RB. I would trade for him in Dynasty leagues because he is a special player who can win you a week almost by himself.
3. Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions selected running back Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th overall pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. The Lions were looking for a dynamic playmaker at the position to complement newly signed free agent David Montgomery. Gibbs is an electric player like Achane, although he is not quite as fast or as elusive as Achane. Gibbs is also a smaller back at 5’9” and 199 pounds, so I do not believe he could handle a three-down running back workload for a full NFL season. Gibbs was selected well ahead of Achane, but they have similar skill sets, and I am curious to see how their career paths go in the NFL. The smaller backs have a hard time staying healthy in the NFL, but they are so explosive and fast that it is hard to keep them off the field. Gibbs currently ranks as the RB25 on the season but has been trending upwards over the last few weeks. I believe if he can stay healthy, he will finish the season as a top 20 fantasy RB.
4. Zach Charbonnet, Seattle Seahawks
Zach Charbonnet was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round with pick number 52 in the 2023 NFL Draft. He was the third running back selected in the 2023 draft class. Unlike the first three running backs on this list, Charbonnet has not made a big impact so far this season. He has been the backup to starting running back Kenneth Walker. It was a surprise to me when the Seahawks selected Charbonnet in the second round, given they had just drafted Walker in the second round of the draft the year before. It is true that Head Coach Pete Caroll wants to run the ball this year, and he wanted two backs that can carry a three-down workload. I really liked Charbonnet coming into the 2023 draft. He is a bigger guy at 6’0″ and 214 pounds, so I believe he can be a three-down running back in the NFL. He is currently ranked as the RB59 in PPR scoring, but if Walker were to get injured, Charbonnet would be a top-20 running back. I believe Charbonnet has the ability to be one of the top three running backs from this draft class when we look back at it in ten years, but the question is whether he will get the opportunity to do so.
5. Tyjae Spears, Tennessee Titans
Tyjae Spears was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the third round with pick number 81 in the 2023 NFL Draft. Spears is my favorite running back from this draft class. He isn’t the most talented or the biggest back out of this draft class, but he is the most intriguing running back of the class. He has the ability to be a three-down running back in the NFL, as he can catch the ball well out of the backfield and is a shifty between-the-tackles runner. The only two issues for him coming into the NFL were that he was drafted by the Titans, so he will have to sit behind Derrick Henry at least for this season, and he reportedly has no ACL in his one knee. I do believe the Titans will move on from Henry after this season, so I am excited to see what Spears can do if they make him the starting running back. The only question is how long his knee can hold up with no ACL in the NFL. Spears has out-snapped Henry in about half of the games so far this season and he currently is ranked as the RB38 in PPR scoring. He has made an impact for the Titans this year and I believe he will finish as RB25 or better this season.
6. Jaleel McLaughlin, Denver Broncos
Jaleel McLaughlin is an undrafted free agent signed by the Denver Broncos after the 2023 NFL Draft, and he is making all the other teams wish they had selected him during the draft. McLaughlin is not a big running back, coming in at 5’8” and 187 pounds, so that is probably one of the reasons he went undrafted. But he has shown flashes of his playmaking ability throughout the first nine weeks of the season as the backup running back to third-year running back Javonte Williams. He is a good complementary running back to Williams. Williams is more of the between-the-tackles runner, and McLaughlin is more explosive and shifty out of the backfield. McLaughlin ranks as the RB35 in PPR scoring so far this year, and I can see him finishing as RB30 or better this season.
7. Kendre Miller, New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints selected running back Kendre Miller with the 71st overall pick in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, Miller has been injured for most of the season, so we have not been able to see what he can do in the NFL. He was drafted by the Saints to replace Alvin Kamara as the starting running back after next season. Miller has the size and ability to be a three-down running back in the NFL. He is 5’11″ and 215 pounds, and he ran bigger than that in college at TCU. Miller will be a top-25 fantasy running back if he gets an opportunity as the Saints’ starting running back.
8. Roschon Johnson, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears selected running back Roschon Johnson with the 115th overall pick in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, Johnson has been injured for most of the season, so we have not been able to see what he can do in the NFL. The Bears drafted him to compete for the starting running back position this year, but he showed early on that he needed to work on his pass protection, so he was the backup running back to start the season. Still, Johnson has the size and ability to be a three-down running back in the NFL. He is 6’0” and 219 pounds, and he can catch the ball well out of the backfield. I want to see if he gets an opportunity to see significant playing time down the stretch, how he performs, and if he can be the Bears starting running back next season.
9. Tank Bigsby, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected running back Tank Bigsby with the 88th overall pick in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, Bigsby has underwhelmed for most of the season. He has been the clear backup running back to Travis Etienne to start his career. However, at 6’0” and 210 pounds and with pass-catching ability out of the backfield, Bigsby has the size and skill set to be a three-down running back in the NFL. I want to see if he gets an opportunity coming out of the bye week to carve out a role in the Jaguars’ backfield. He has the potential down the stretch to steal goal-line opportunities from starting running back Travis Etienne Jr.
10. Keaton Mitchell, Baltimore Ravens
Keaton Mitchell is an undrafted free agent signed by the Baltimore Ravens after the 2023 NFL Draft, and he might make all the other teams wish they had selected him during the draft. Like fellow UDFA McLaughlin, Mitchell is not a big running back, coming in at 5’7” and 179 pounds, so that is probably one of the reasons he went undrafted. But he has shown flashes of his playmaking ability over the last two weeks of the season after being on injured reserve to start the season. With his explosiveness, Mitchell will likely settle in as a complement to Gus Edwards, who is a bigger, between-the-tackles runner. He had just one touch heading into Week 9 but could be a fantasy-relevant option down the stretch of this season following his breakout game.