Come this time of year, NFL draft evaluations begin to get trickier and trickier. Guys flash, some falter, measurements are released, and players declare while some return. It’s controlled chaos wrapped into the best time of the year: draft season. This exercise, however, is another look into the 2023 running back class, one deep with talent and athletes of all different sizes.
With track speed, running back Devon Achane has been one of the fastest players in the nation during his tenure at Texas A&M. At 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, speed is his ‘A trait’, yet the questions surrounding his overall game have reared its ugly head this fall. While being a linear athlete is nice and touting the open-field burst to sneak past the closing safety is an unteachable intangible, it takes more to succeed at the NFL level than just a blazing 40-yard dash—just ask Dri Archer.
For Achane, who is still a true junior, if he indeed declares, his name adds another prospect to the laundry list of ball carriers worth noting come time for the 2023 NFL Draft. His last few weeks of games have raised eyebrows across the industry, with 120-plus yards against Ole Miss and Florida, and 215 yards and two touchdowns last week against LSU.
#SECFB 𝐏𝐋𝐀𝐘𝐄𝐑 𝐎𝐅 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐖𝐄𝐄𝐊
Devon Achane • @AggieFootball
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) November 28, 2022
While the start of his true junior season left much to be desired in games against the likes of Appalachian State and Sam Houston State, he’s played his best ball at the most opportune time during the meat of conference play. It’s seen his stock rise. How much? Well, it remains to be seen with the Aggies’ season completed.
As other athletes prepare for conference title games, bowl season, the College Football Playoff, and All-Star events during the pre-draft process, Achane’s tape from this fall will hold weight if he relinquishes his eligibility in the coming months. While his aforementioned speed draws a crowd, gaining muscle mass and improving his game as a pass-catcher will allow him to reach his performance ceiling as a prospect.
While his size has pigeonholed him into a third-down change-of-pace talent—his quickest path to snaps on Sundays—succeeding in the SEC is no small feat when considering the lack of aerial attack from Jimbo Fisher’s group this fall. It placed a large workload on Achane’s shoulders, and while certain offenses tend to deploy a bellcow larger in physical nature to armor against the physicality of the SEC, Achane battled his tail off becoming one of the conference’s premier playmakers as an underclassman.
While they’ll be doubters—Achane has heard many this fall as A&M drastically failed to meet expectations—there’s a role that remains for players like him on Sundays. A blazing athlete who has also totaled more than 160 snaps on special teams since he arrived in College Station, Devon Achane will remain one of the more complex prospects to project during the pre-draft process.