The 2022 running back class finds itself lacking a headliner, yet it’s one of the deepest classes for potential bellcow value. From early down thumpers to pass-catching specialists, surely the 2022 class will end up producing its fair share of standouts four-to-five years down the road, but teams in need of an immediate gamechanger in the backfield could be taking a redshirt year from addressing any needs considering the talent set to enter the fold next year.
The 2023 class of running backs is an embarrassment of riches and superstar talent at the position – it really is just that simple. Many inside the league believe you will be able to grab high-impact, three-down athletes moving into Day 3 of the NFL Draft, so let’s take a look at some of those players.
BIJAN ROBINSON, TEXAS
If Robinson were eligible, he’d be the first running back off the board this spring. While it’s not a discredit to the race for the top back in this year’s class between Breece Hall, Kenneth Walker III and Isaiah Spiller, Robinson is just in a different class. When healthy, he will immediately provide an NFL roster with power to wear down defenders in between the tackles, the burst to escape to the outside, and sure hands and playmaking ability on passing downs. The headliner for Texas’ offense this fall, he, quarterback Quinn Ewers and wide receiver Xavier Worthy make for a heck of a trio that will light up Big 12 defenses all season long.
JAHMYR GIBBS, ALABAMA
Gibbs is set to be the next transfer to have a major impact within the Crimson Tide offense. After lighting up the ACC at Georgia Tech, Gibbs made the move to Tuscaloosa following the departure of Brian Robinson Jr., and should challenge Robinson (Texas) as a potential Heisman candidate. Similar to the success wideout Jameson Williams enjoyed this year after transferring in from Ohio State, Gibbs’ featured role adjacent potential top 2023 overall pick in quarterback Bryce Young could form the country’s most lethal backfield tandem. An electric talent whose quickness and agility makes him impossible to wrangle down in the open field, Gibbs is everything teams look for in a potential bellcow.
TANK BIGSBY, AUBURN
Molded similarly to Gibbs (6-foot, 200 pounds), rushing for 1,100 yards in his sophomore campaign had scouts flooding to Auburn to get a glimpse of another potential day one selection next spring. With multiple changes within the Tigers’ offense, Bigsby will be tasked once again to lead Auburn through the treacherous waters of the SEC. An impressively-framed talent with the necessary body armor to holster a massive touch workload from week to week, he’s only getting better, and will be must watch TV once again this fall.
ZACH CHARBONNET, UCLA
After a standout campaign in 2019 at Michigan, Charbonnet fell victim to the injury bug in 2020 and subsequently into the shadows of Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins as they were thrust into bigger roles moving into the 2021 season. A transfer to UCLA followed and similarly to 2019, Charbonnet was unstoppable for the Bruins, amassing over 1,100 yards with 13 touchdowns on the ground this past season. A bowling ball with juice whose contact balance and vision makes him a tall task to take down in open space, don’t be surprised next winter when Charbonnet is receiving looks as the top running back in the class. At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, he’s NFL-ready right now.
SEAN TUCKER, SYRACUSE
Flashes of Jim Brown during his time with the Orange, anyone? Ok, I digress, but man, is Tucker an impressive athlete. In what was a down season for the ACC as a whole, little publicity has been directed towards Tucker. But after totaling nearly 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground last year, overlooking his game should be a thing of the past. He’s as talented as they come.
ZACH EVANS, OLE MISS
A highly-recruited talent, and another transfer on this list, Evans’ game – and draft stock — should skyrocket this fall working within Head Coach Lane Kiffin’s offense. A five-star prospect out of high school with the ability to do it all, having a high-impact 2022 campaign should place Evans firmly in the conversation to be no lower than a day-two pick. The reins placed on him at TCU are no longer and he has the chance to put up gaudy numbers for the Rebels in the coming months.
MO IBRAHIM, MINNESOTA
Many scouts believed Ibrahim would have challenged to be the first running back off the board this spring but a torn Achilles delayed that notion. Now, he’s back and healthy for the Gophers in what should result in his third 1,000-yard season for Minnesota. The lone bright spot within a sub-standard offense, it won’t take long for Ibrahim to flash and make his way up draft boards as a result.
ERIC GRAY, OKLAHOMA
The Robin to Kennedy Brooks’ Batman for the Sooners last season, it’s full steam ahead for Gray as the de facto bellcow for the new-look Sooners this fall. A stoutly built talent at 5-foot-9, and a tick over 200 pounds, the spotlight on Gray’s game will be the brightest it’s been entering his senior season. He’s got all the tools in the bag to be special and if all comes to fruition, teams won’t hesitate to snatch him come draft day.
KENDALL MILTON, GEORGIA
Yes, Georgia is still loaded. A five-star talent who should garner a ton of touches with James Cook and Zymir White gone, Milton is a star in the making. He won’t be considered in the same class as the aforementioned names in this list but with a standout season for the defending National Champs, Milton could progress into the next standout NFL-caliber back to come out of the Athens pipeline.
*HONORABLE MENTION: DEVON ACHANE (TEXAS A&M), BLAKE CORUM (MICHIGAN), DEUCE VAUGHN (KANSAS STATE)
- Sep 29, 2023
- Sep 22, 2023