August usually signals the start of the draft season. However, for some, it also marks the start of college football, which offers Dynasty managers the opportunity to track a new group of prospects who could declare themselves for the 2023 NFL Draft. never too early to look ahead, over the next two weeks i will be previewing some of the best prospects in what is shaping up to be a very impressive rookie class. We’ll start things off with the Running Back position! For each player, I’ll provide a brief overview of their skills, production profile, and closest comps using my Rookie Perspective Model. Keep in mind that the model will use a player’s current production level as a baseline, assuming they maintain their averages to end their career. Additionally, I will also be using dummy drafts (via the NFL Draft Database) as an approximation of the capital project. But given that there are multiple variables at play, a player’s trajectory could still change depending on how their senior year unfolds. At the very least, this article should give you a high-level look at how the Class of 2023 compares to the last decade of NFL prospects.
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Jahmyr Gibbs – University of Alabama
While we didn’t have a single first-round running back selected in this year’s draft, the 2023 class could have two selected on day one. One of these players is Jahmyr Gibbs from the University of Alabama. Gibbs is a true junior who has already played his first two seasons with Georgia Tech, displaying a dual-threat skill set that makes him such a unique prospect. When you watch him on the pitch, the first thing that stands out is his sneakiness and his ability to make defenders miss. And after avoiding that initial tackle, Gibbs showed the breakaway speed to take it home from anywhere on the pitch. We see those skills on full display as a thrower, receiver, and returner, making this a truly versatile weapon. By By far the most intriguing stat on his profile is his receiving production, averaging an impressive 20.8% receiving yard market share over his first two seasons.. To put that number into perspective, the only first- and second-day RB prospects since 2013 to average more than 15% market share of college receiving yards are Christian McCaffrey and david johnson.
What makes Gibbs an even more impressive prospect is his continued dominance since day one of his college career. We’ve seen time and time again that an early breakout and sustained production will usually lead to a more successful NFL career. The fact that he broke at the age of 18, a true first season, already puts him in elite business as a potential first-round prospect. Therefore, when I plug his numbers into my running back model, he immediately stands out as one of the best prospects of the last decade. Assuming he is drafted at the end of the first round (according to the NFL Mock Draft Database), Gibbs is classified as a 95th percentile running back, strongly driven by its high production and efficiency in terms of market share. Unfortunately, the glaring negative of his profile is his height, as Alabama currently lists him at just 200 pounds. Anyway, when I filter on RBs with a similar production profile in the 200-210lb range, the compositions closest to Gibbs are:
Right now his trajectory is probably closer to Bernard, especially if he slips at the start of the second lap. However, CMC would be the best-case scenario, which should be a reachable ceiling, especially if he can put together a truly elite year in Alabama. And as part of an intriguing offense led by Bryce Young, it wouldn’t surprise me if he set career highs across the board in his junior year.
First glimpse of the RB 2023 class through my prospect model:
• Bijan Robinson: 97th percentile
• Jahmyr Gibbs: 95th percentile
This assumes first round capital for both + they maintain their current production profile
Can’t wait to see that RB class in the NFL 🔥
— Marvin Elequin (@FF_MarvinE) August 17, 2022
Bijan Robinson – University of Texas
If you’re looking for a running back that ticks all the boxes, look no further than the University of Texas. Bijan Robinson. Similar to Gibbs, Robinson was an immediate contributor to his team, though not necessarily the undisputed RB1. He first shared reps with Roschon Johnson and Keontay Ingram — a recent 6th-round draft pick by the Cardinals. But once he had his chance, Robinson never looked back. In his last two games as a true freshman, he converted 24 touches for 443 yards and 6 touchdowns. No, it’s not a typo. Robinson averaged an absurd 18.5 yards per touch in his last two games as an 18-year-old rookie. Fast forward a year, and Robinson had an impressive breakout season as a sophomore, totaling over 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns as an RB1 for the Longhorns. What makes Bijan so special is his combination of size, strength and elusiveness. Listed at 220 pounds, he’s very light on his feet and changes direction effortlessly, allowing him to create yards even when the line goes down. He also rarely falls on first point of contact due to his incredible strength and contact balance. You combine all of that with a very capable receiving skill set and Bijan should immediately fit in as a three-way running back in the NFL.
If we dig a little deeper into Bijan’s production, one of the impressive aspects of his profile is the significant leap he made in his sophomore year. Averaging over 2.00 yards per team played in his second season not only signals elite production, but also puts him in rarefied company. Of all the prospects drafted in rounds one and two since 2013, only seven running backs have reached that mark in their second collegiate season:
Outside of Breece Hall, who is still an unknown commodity, that would put Bijan in elite company assuming he is drafted in the first two rounds. And based on recent mock drafts, it’s almost guaranteed to get caught on day one, which would only solidify an already impressive prospect profile. If we combine his projected capital project with his production, my running back model ranked Bijan as a 97th percentile perspective. As a result, ball carriers who get the same rating are:
And hypothetically, if Bijan were to slip in the second round, his closest comps would become Jonathan Taylor (98th percentile) and Nick Chubb (95th percentile). Needless to say, Bijan is shaping up to be one of the best RB prospects we’ve seen in the last decade. And assuming he continues to improve in his junior year, he should be the undisputed 1.01 in the Dynasty rookie draft next season.
Sean Tucker – Syracuse University
Why is this running back class so intriguing? Because, unlike the last two drafts, we could have up to five running backs ticking most of the boxes we look for in a prospect. In other words, if you have a top 5 rookie pick in 2023, you could land a hard-hitting running back for your Dynasty team. One of these perspectives is Sean Tucker from Syracuse, who is my favorite running back outside of Robinson and Gibbs. Powerful runner with track-level speed, it only takes a slight opening for Tucker to enter the open space. He shows patience on the line of scrimmage and possesses an impressive burst from his cuts. And despite weighing just 205 pounds, Tucker is not an easy runner to beat. He keeps his feet moving through contact, allowing him to frequently extend plays. From a production perspective, the most telling number on his profile is the 39.2% weighted team dominance rating in its second season. As a true sophomore, Tucker made up nearly 40% of his team’s offense, demonstrating his ability to be a star running back. And while he’s not the most versatile receiver, his 13.9% market share on receiving yards indicates he can be a capable option in the passing game as well.
Remember the impressive list of sophomore running backs who got at least 2.00 yards per team play and were drafted in the first and second rounds? A list put forward by Saquon Barkley, Jonathan Taylor and Christian McCaffrey? Bijan Robinson isn’t the only prospect who could join this group as Tucker has had an equally impressive Sophomore campaign. As a result, the only potential issue in his profile is his height. At just 205 pounds, Tucker is closer to Gibbs’ frame than Bijan’s. Also, unlike the two running backs I mentioned above, Tucker is more likely to be a second-round pick unless he has an even better campaign in his junior year. But even with second-round capital, he still has an intriguing prospect profile. If I filter out all running backs since 2013 who were drafted in the second round, weigh 205-215 pounds, and have a similar production profile, the closest lineups for Tucker are:
Injuries aside, Cook and Dobbins are two of the best prospects we’ve seen in recent history. If Tucker can get close to his potential, we could be looking at a running back with the fantastic top 12 on the rise. And while he’s unlikely to receive day one capital, Tucker’s production profile, athletic ability, and early-declaration status (assuming he declares after the 2022 season) point to a very bright future. successful in the NFL.