2023 NFL Draft running back rankings: Bijan Robinson tops loaded class of RB prospects

The NFL Draft always offers teams with an opportunity to land an explosive, running back on affordable, rookie contracts. As the running back rankings will show, the 2023 NFL Draft is very strong at halfback this year.

It all starts at the top with Texas Longhorns star Bijan Robinson. The reigning Doak Walker Award winner and unanimous All-American is the best running back prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft. While he might be the only first-round talent in the class, there are a lot of prospects in our 2023 NFL Draft RB rankings worth getting excited about.

Whether your team needs a starting running back for next season, a pass-catching weapon who operates out of the backfield or is just missing that piece to complete a committee, the 2023 NFL Draft offers the players to fill those voids.

Related: NFL offseason calendar

Let’s dive into our 2023 NFL Draft running back rankings, with statistics courtesy of College Football Reference and Pro Football Focus. Of note, all ages for the 2023 running back prospects are for Week 1 of next season.

NFL Draft running back rankings 2023: Depth, versatility define class

10. Sean Tucker, Syracuse Orange

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Boston College
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Sean Tucker height: 5-foot-10
  • Sean Tucker age: 21 years old
  • Sean Tucker 40 time: 4.4 (estimate)
  • Sean Tucker draft projection: Round 5

Reliability matters when evaluating NFL running backs and former Syracuse star Sean Tucker certainly checks off that box. Production, size and speed are the three biggest things that he brings to the table.

  • Sean Tucket stats: 3,182 rushing yards, 27 rushing touchdowns, 5.4 yards per carry, 3,804 scrimmage yards on 653 career touches

Unfortunately for Tucker, he doesn’t offer a lot of upside. He posted one of the lowest Elusive Ratings (55.6) in the FBS last season and only 31 of his 204 registered carries went for 10-plus yards. Tucker doesn’t have the hands or route running to contribute on passing downs, limiting his role in the NFL. For NFL teams seeking a steady backup running back who can start in a pinch, Tucker is a safe bet.

Related: 2023 NFL Combine guide

9. Kendre Miller, TCU Horned Frogs

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Texas Christian at Michigan
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Kendre Miller age: 21 years old
  • Kendre Miller height: 6-foot
  • Kendre Miller 40 time: 4.58
  • Kendre Miller draft projection: Rd 5

Kendre Miller waited years for his opportunity to come and he took full advantage of it in 2022. While quarterback Max Duggan drew the attention, the TCU Horned Frogs running back was one of the biggest reasons for their breakout season.

  • Kendre Miller stats (2022): 1,399 rushing yards, 17 rushing touchdowns, 6.2 yards per carry, 16 receptions for 116 receiving yards

Miller graded as one of the top running backs in college football last season, receiving an 89.5 PFF grade. He also showcased how difficult he can be to tackle, posting the seventh-best Elusive Rating (123.8) in the country. It’s worth noting that 97% of Miller’s carries came from the shotgun (Underdog Network), but his instincts, balance and elusiveness will translate into any scheme as a player who can take the early-down role in a committee backfield.

Related: 2023 NFL Draft rumors

8. Roschon Johnson, Texas Longhorns

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice
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  • Roschon Johnson height: 6-foot-2
  • Roschon Johnson age: 22 years old
  • Roschon Johnson 40 time: 4.4 seconds
  • Roschon Johnson draft projection: Rd 4

It’s rare for one program to have two of the top running back prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft class, but the Texas Longhorns simply had an outstanding tandem. Being on a committee might also benefit Johnson, who has less proverbial tread on his tires than others in our NFL Draft running back rankings.

  • Roschon Johnson stats: 2,190 rushing yards, 23 rushing touchdowns, 5.6 yards per carry, 2,610 scrimmage yards on 448 career touches

A former four-star recruit, the 6-foot-2 and 223-pound running back plays up to his frame. Johnson uses every pound to outmuscle opponents, lowering his shoulder and seeking out contact on his runs. Just put him being an adequate NFL offensive line and Johnson can hold his own in his rookie season and can even be trusted to throw his weight around as a blocker in the backfield on third downs. Just don’t expect a ton of big runs from a running back who managed just 23 runs of 10-plus yards across 189 carries in the last two seasons.

Related: 2023 NFL Draft QB rankings

7. Tank Bigsby, Auburn Tigers

Syndication: The Montgomery Advertiser
  • Tank Bigsby height: 6-foot
  • Tank Bigsby age: 22 years old
  • Tank Bigsby 40 time: 4.5 (estimate)
  • Tank Bigsby draft projection: Rd 4

From the moment Tank Bigsby stepped on campus at Auburn, the Tigers made the four-star recruit an important element of their offense. He handled 149 touches as a freshman, turning them into 918 receiving yards. After that, he took over as the bell cow of the run game.

  • Tank Bigsby stats: 2,903 rushing yards, 25 rushing touchdowns, 5.4 ypc, 3,351 scrimmage yards on 602 career touches

A former star in track and field, both as a sprinter and long jumper, Bigsby shows all of that same explosiveness with the football. While it won’t show up in his 40-yard dash time or with an abundance of long runs, Bigby uses early burst and his size (210 pounds) when he initiates contact. He’s not going to do much on passing downs, but Bigsby is ideal for short yardage and can be effective with 10-14 carries per game.

6. DeWayne McBride, UAB Blazers

NCAA Football: Alabama-Birmingham at Marshall
Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
  • DeWayne McBride age: 22 years old
  • DeWayne McBride height: 5-foot-11
  • DeWayne McBride 40 time: 4.52
  • Draft projection: Round 4

Count DeWayne McBride among the sleepers in the 2023 NFL Draft. Playing for the UAB Blazers doesn’t generate a lot of national attention, but McBride has a future in pro football for a reason. Among his accomplishments last year, McBride finished with the second-highest yards per carry (7.3) among running backs with 150-plus attempts and he led the FBS in average yards after contact (4.6) in 2022.

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Because he played with lesser talent around him than some of his peers, McBride often had to use his instincts to create advantages near the line of scrimmage. Excellent field vision and discipline are just two of the reasons why he eclipsed 120 rushing yards in 10-of-11 games as a junior.

The frame (5-foot-11, 215 lbs.) will allow McBride to be an extremely effective runner on first and second downs. However, his lack of involvement as a receiving option at UAB (five receptions in 31 games) says a lot about his future role in the NFL.

2023 NFL Draft RB rankings: Top five running backs

5. Tyjae Spears, Tulane Green Wave

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
  • Tyjae Spears height: 5-foot-9
  • Tyjae Spears age: 22 years old
  • Tyjae Spears 40 time: 4.41 seconds
  • Tyjae Spears draft projection: Round 4

Tyjae Spears draws the one-year wonder label and the rationale is understandable. Before the 2022 season, when he eclipsed 1,800 scrimmage yards with 21 total touchdowns, he was a relative unknown. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that Spears eclipsed 1,000 scrimmage yards in 2021.

  • Tyjae Spears stats (2022): 1,581 rushing yards, 6.9 yards per carry, 256 receiving yards, 21 total touchdowns on 251 touches

Spears helped himself considerably at the Senior Bowl. NFL scouts and executives named him the practice player of the week, following multiple days of performances that caught the attention of teams.

As a runner, he does lack breakaway speed and it’s a bigger issue because his size limits his role in the NFL. However, he makes the most out of his size with toughness and physicality shown when he runs through defenders and he moves in space quite nicely. Given what he showed as a pass-catcher at the Senior Bowl, there’s enough reason to believe Spears can be a 1B running back.

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4. Zach Charbonnet, UCLA Bruins

NCAA Football: Arizona at UCLA
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
  • Zach Charbonnet height: 6-foot-1
  • Zach Charbonnet age: 22 years old
  • Zach Charbonnet 40 time: 4.41 seconds
  • Zach Charbonnet draft projection: Rd 4

After two seasons with the Michigan Wolverines, Zach Charbonnet left the program to prove he could be a workhorse back. The UCLA Bruins fulfilled their promises to him with 459 touches in two seasons, which he turned into 3,014 scrimmage yards and 27 touchdowns.

  • Zach Charbonnet stats: 3,346 rushing yards, 5.9 yards per carry, 39 total touchdowns, 3,935 scrimmage yards on 641 career touches

Charbonnet, 6-foot-1, was one of the best running backs in college football last season. He finished with the fourth-best average yards after contact (4.15) and was only one of three starting running backs to average over 7 ypc last season.

At the next level, Charbonnet will function perfectly as an early-down back. He shows top-notch vision for someone with his experience level and his combination of balance and power makes him an excellent runner. In a zone-based scheme, he could be an ideal 1a running back.

3. Devon Achane, Texas A&M Aggies

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Texas A&M
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
  • Devon Achane height: 5-foot-9
  • Devone Achane age: 21 years old
  • 40 time: 4.3 seconds (approximate)
  • Devon Achane draft projection: Rd 3

You can’t teach speed and Texas A&M running back Devon Achane is one of the fastest players in the 2023 NFL Draft. One of the few standouts on an underwhelming Aggies team in 2022, Achane thrived as the focal point of the offense.

Related: 2023 college football rankings

Achane finished with the 11th-highest average yards after contact (3.6) in college football last season, per PFF, with a 93.0 elusive grade. Eye-popping speed puts Achane in an immediate position to turn a potential 5-yard run into a 40-yard touchdown He’s also very comfortable running between the tackles, maintaining good body positioning to keep moving through contact.

  • Devon Achane stats: 2,376 rushing yards, 6.4 yards per carry, 26 career total touchdowns, 2,930 scrimmage yards on 434 career touches

He’s drawn NFL comparisons to Leon Washington and Raheem Mostert, but offering the upside to handle a sizable role in the passing game. Achane’s frame might prevent him from being a workhorse, but playmakers are always coveted.

2. Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama Crimson Tide

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Kansas State at Alabama
Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports
  • Jahmyr Gibbs height: 5-foot-11
  • Jahmye Gibbs age: 21 years old
  • Jahmyr Gibbs 40 time: 4.32 seconds
  • Jahmyr Gibbs draft projection: Rd 2

The Jahmyr Gibbs NFL comparisons to Alvin Kamara go back to his days at Georgia Tech. While two separate coaching staffs kept the 5-foot-11 offensive weapon in a committee role – never eclipsed 200 touches in a season – it’s what he does with those opportunities that matter.

  • Jahmyr Gibbs stats: 2,132 rushing yards, 15 rushing touchdowns, 5.6 ypc, 1,212 receiving yards, 11.8 yards per reception, 6.9 yards per touch on 484 career touches

At the next level, Gibbs is destined for a role where he gets approximately 10-18 touches per game. It’s all he needs to decimate a defense. He brings exceptional speed, seamlessly transitions from snap to sprint and he moves in the open field like some of the NFL’s best game-changers.

Gibbs will make an instant impact as a receiving weapon, both offering great hands and knowing how to run routes to create separation from linebackers and safeties. While he lacks power and isn’t a dependable pass-blocker, the things Gibbs does well can be used by a great coach and QB.

1. Bijan Robinson, Texas Longhorns – Best running back in 2023 NFL Draft

Syndication: USA TODAY
Aaron E. Martinez / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Bijan Robinson age: 21 years old
  • Bijan Robinson height: 6-foot
  • Bijan Robinson 40 time: 4.49 seconds
  • Bijan Robinson draft projection: Rd 1

Bijan Robinson belongs in his own tier for 2023 running back prospects. He’s also appealing because, unlike top running backs in draft classes years ago, there isn’t excessive tread on the tires. Robinson racked up 599 touches in three seasons at Texas, far fewer than the likes of Christian McCaffrey (731), Saquon Barkley (773), Derrick Henry (406 in 2015) and Jonathan Taylor (968).

  • Bijan Robinson stats (career): 3,410 rushing yards, 33 rushing touchdowns, 6.3 ypc

A former five-star recruit, Robinson (220 lbs.) runs with exceptional power and contact balance. He displays phenomenal vision, showing a veteran-like ability to find a hole and burst through it quickly as he muscles through arm tackles. He is also an excellent weapon out of the backfield (60 receptions, 805 receiving yards) for a running back.

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NFL teams becoming increasingly reluctant to spend a first-round pick on a running back hurts Robinson’s draft projection. He also lacks the breakaway speed that you see from home-run hitters like Saquon Barkley. With that said, Robinson can be a perennial Pro Bowl selection who challenges for rushing titles multiple times in his NFL career.

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