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Evaluating The Performance Of Running Backs In The ’23 Class

This article will check in on every running back drafted in the first five rounds of the 2023 draft, as well as an impact player who went undrafted. Each player will be evaluated based on their performance including stats and game film review as well as some insight as to how these players’ roles might evolve over the next few years with their current team. At the end of the article, there will be a rankings list with all of the players mentioned. 

Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons – R1, Pick 8 

Performance: Bijan is currently the RB6 in Half-PPR formats. This is actually a few spots lower than his pre-season ADP of RB3 (Underdog), but it is hard to blame much of that on him. He is currently pacing 17.0 touches/game (excluding his one touch week 7 performance where he was not feeling well) which is solid but not quite true workhorse numbers. He has also only played over 70% of snaps in 6/11 games this year. He has certainly made the most of his touches though. Currently sitting at 5.0 Y/C, Bijan has looked very comfortable as a runner. His ability to make unexpected cuts and bounce off of tacklers makes him hard to bring down. He has also looked more and more comfortable as a pass catcher as the weeks have gone on. He ran a beautiful route to beat his defender for a touchdown this past week. If you happen to have Bijan on your dynasty roster, the best is yet to come. 

Future Outlook: It is common in the fantasy community to hold your breath a bit when dealing with players coached by Arthur Smith. The silver lining with this is that Bijan doesn’t always require a pass to get the ball (sorry Desmond Ridder). I believe his role will expand more as time goes on in the coming years. Cordarrelle has to age out of the league at some point. Tyler Allgeier is a good duo mate with Bijan but has seen his snap count dwindle since the beginning of the season. If they draft a QB early in the 2024 draft they should also see better production as an offensive whole next year. 

Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions – R1, Pick 12 

Performance: Jahmyr is currently the RB14 in Half-PPR formats, pacing slightly behind his RB9 pre-season ADP. He missed two games in the middle of the season. His average PPG puts him at RB7 which is actually higher than the pre-season ADP. Gibbs

is on the smaller size for RBs, but makes up for it with tremendous speed, contact balance and vision. Many were shocked when he was selected by the Lions at this draft position, but he has lifted this Lions offense to a new level. He doesn’t receive a huge workload, but that’s okay. This Lions backfield is reminiscent of the 2017 Saints with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. It’s hard to not say Gibbs reminds us of a young Kamara. Although unable to match Kamara’s ridiculous 1.39 Fantasy Points per Touch or FPTS/Touch (Half PPR) his rookie year, Gibbs is currently sitting at 0.90 FPTS/Touch, which is slightly below rookie CMC (0.95 FPTS/Touch) and Slightly above rookie Zeke (0.86 FPTS/Touch). Among all first round running backs since 2016, he ranks 3/9 in this category, even in front of his draft mate Bijan Robinson (0.82 FPTS/Touch). Although this stat might not be useful to compare real football performance between players due to the fact that RBs who catch higher percentages of passes will have this number inflated, it is still very useful to quantify fantasy performance because as we know in this day and age, receptions are much more valuable than rushes. 

Future Outlook: Gibbs will probably be sharing a backfield with David Mongomery for the next few years. This will cap his upside but might not be the worst thing. Gibbs is a guy you can get the most out of with the least amount of touches. This running back duo should allow him to stay fresh throughout seasons and limit his injury risk. 

Zach Charbonnet, Seattle Seahawks – R2, Pick 52 

Performance: Charbonnet is currently the RB41 in Half PPR formats. He is rushing at 4.3 Y/C. His most impressive work has come as a pass catcher. He ripped off a 39 yard reception against the Cowboys where he maneuvered well in some space. He has enjoyed the workload of a top back in the last few weeks with Kenneth Walker III out of the lineup. Even before this injury, Charbonnet saw his snaps on the rise week by week, even passing Walker. He has looked a bit hesitant at times, but week by week it appears he is becoming more aggressive like he was in college. 

Future Outlook: Charbonnet is capable of being a 3 down back. Unfortunately, he must share the Seattle backfield for a while unless something drastic happens with

Walker. Regardless, he will be able to produce and there is a solid chance he can round up a top 24 season in the next few years. 

Kendre Miller, New Orleans Saints – R3, Pick 71 

Performance: Miller is currently the RB72 in Half-PPR formats and is averaging just 3.0 Y/C. He actually has more yards on his 9 catches than he does on his 28 carries. It has been a disappointing season for Miller, plagued by a knee and ankle injury causing him to miss 4 games. He has looked very good when given space on his receptions. His 34 yard reception against the Patriots highlighted his ability to make defenders miss. He has not looked explosive running the ball but has not had much room to operate. 

Future Outlook: Miller currently sits 3rd on the Saints running back depth chart. This is no reason to completely steer away from him in the future. Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams will combine for about 22 million dollars next year in cap space. It won’t be surprising if the Saints decide to move on from one of these backs next year (more likely Williams). If Miller is sharing a backfield with Kamara, he could potentially see a sizable early down role as Kamara will still handle pass catching duties. 

Tyjae Spears, Tennessee Titans – R3, Pick 81 

Performance: Spears is currently the RB44 in Half-PPR formats. He is averaging an impressive 5.1 Y/C. Spears has grown into a great duo at running back with Derrick Henry for the Titans. Henry is big, physical and will run players over but Spears is a very different back. He is a quick one-cut player who can make opponents miss. He has great abilities as a pass catcher and works well in the flats. Spears has played pretty much between 40%-60% of snaps in every game this year. Although he might never be the type of guy who will handle a workhorse load in the NFL, he is someone who can have a top 24 season without being near the top 24 in touches. His RB44 mark this year comes off the back of about 7 touches a game. As Henry gets older, Spears should see that number go up. 

Future Outlook: The future outlook of all Titans offensive players including Spears was described perfectly by Titans expert Justin Graver on a recent podcast episode of “Beyond the Beat”, a 32BW podcast hosted by Zach Hiduk. Please check out the podcast for other great information.

De’Von Achane, Miami Dolphins – R3, Pick 84 

Performance: Achane is currently the RB29 in Half-PPR formats. That number does not describe the sensational season he has had. A knee injury has limited Achane to just 5 games. He is currently the RB3 in FPPG averaging a ridiculous 11.8 Y/C and an even more ridiculous 2.0 FPTS/Touch. Achane has blazing fast speed which makes him a perfect fit for the Dolphins outside zone running scheme. He displayed how hard he was to catch in his 52 point fantasy game against the Broncos. Achane is poised for great success in the NFL so long that he stays healthy. 

Future Outlook: Achane does so much damage per touch that you never really need him to become a workhorse back for him to provide stellar outputs. Raheem Mostert is currently his biggest competition for touches and he is 31 years old. Mostert has shown he has plenty left in the tank with his own blazing speed. Regardless of how the guys around him shape out to be in the next few years, Achane will always earn touches with his ability. 

Tank Bigsby, Jacksonville Jaguars – R3, Pick 88 

Performance: Bigsby is currently the RB78 in Half-PPR formats. It has become a brutal season for Bigsby. At the end of training camp it appeared he was going to split the backfield with Travis Etienne but in Week 13 he is operating as the 3rd string back behind D’Ernest Johnson. Bigsby’s 2 fumbles earlier in the season caused his coaching staff to lose trust in him. Now he has a long road ahead to earning that trust back. His 2.4 Y/C is also a concerning number. Hopefully he can find a way to get back on track. 

Future Outlook: Bigsby was not put in the greatest situation by joining the Jaguars behind another young back in Travis Etienne. It appears the Jaguars will be motivated to keep Etienne around leaving Bigsby in a tough spot. Hopefully next year Bigsby can solidify himself as the clear number 2 behind Etienne. 

Roschon Johnson, Chicago Bears – R4, Pick 115

Performance: Johnson is currently the RB50 in Half-PPR formats. He had a bit of a breakout week last week leading the Bears backfield with 74% of snaps. It has been hard to predict this rapidly changing Bears backfield. If Johnson continues to play well, he might be able to stabilize as the top back. Johnson is a bigger back who can put his head down and pick up chunk plays. He has also evolved as a pass catcher and blocker and the Bears seem to really trust him on 3rd downs. It will be interesting to see if he can carry this momentum going forward. 

Future Outlook: The Bears don’t seem overly committed to Khalil Herbert or D’onta Foreman, so there is real opportunity for Johnson to blossom in Chicago. It is far from a sure thing, but Johnson should be able to stay fantasy relevant for multiple years which isn’t super common from day 3 picks at this position. 

Israel Abanikanda, New York Jets – R5, Pick 115 

Performance: Abanikanda has only handled two touches in his NFL career. The Jets just waived Michael Carter to give him more looks. 

Future Outlook: With Dalvin Cook not likely to be in the picture for the Jets next season, Abanikanda should be able to compete for the backup role in New York next year. 

Chase Brown, Cincinnati Bengals – R5, Pick 163 

Performance: Brown has not seen much playing time in his first year as a Bengal. He has been operating as the teams 3rd back but last night got chances as the second back and didn’t disappoint with 61 yards on 9 touches. 

Future Outlook: There were many who thought that Brown could step into the RB2 role for the Bengals this year. He has not held that role but might have a shot to get it after his performance against the Jaguars. It would not be surprising if the Bengals draft a running back in the 2024 draft, leaving Brown the rest of this season to prove himself worthy of the backup position. 

Eric Gray, New York Giants – R5, Pick 172

Performance: Gray was given 13 touches against Miami in week 5, but was only able to churn out 26 yards with it. Since then, he has received just one touch. Part of this is because of an extended absence due to a calf injury he has now returned from. 

Future Outlook: There is hope that Gray can work his way to the backup role as the season progresses. Past this season, it is hard to project how the Giants backfield will shake out. News suggests Saquon Barkley is motivated to stay a Giant, potentially leaving Gray to battle for the backup role coming into next season. 

Evan Hull, Indianapolis Colts – R5, Pick 176 

Performance: Hull only saw two touches before he saw his season end with a knee injury in week 1. There was real hype that he was going to be in line for serious work as Jonathan Taylor was working his way back from injury. Hull looked good in preseason snaps and is on his way to recovering for next season. 

Future Outlook: The RB1 job in Indy is now locked up for years to come. Zack Moss might leave in free agency to look for a bigger role after the great season he has had so far. This could leave Hull a chance at the backup job next year. 

Keaton Mitchell, Baltimore Ravens – Undrafted 

Performance: Mitchell has set the league on fire over the past few weeks. Averaging a robust 9.3 Y/C, Mitchell has game changing speed similar to fellow rookie De’Von Achane. Mitchell elevates the Ravens offense and gives them a component they haven’t really had in the backfield next to Lamar Jackson. If he can continue to improve as a pass catcher as well, the sky’s the limit for this talented rookie. 

Future Outlook: There are so many factors in this Ravens backfield currently. When will J.K. Dobbins come back? Will Gus Edwards keep his stranglehold on goal line carries? Where does Justice Hill fit into all of this? It is very hard to predict how this backfield will shake out for week 1 next season, but if that scares one of your league mates, don’t be afraid to acquire him in the offseason. 

As promised, here is a ranking of the 13 players mentioned for dynasty purposes: 

1. Bijan Robinson 

2. Jahmyr Gibbs 

3. De’Von Achane

4. Zach Charbonnet 

5. Tyjae Spears 

6. Roschon Johnson 

7. Keaton Mitchell 

8. Kendre Miller 

9. Tank Bigsby 

10. Israel Abanikanda 

11. Evan Hull 

12. Chase Brown 

13. Eric Gray 

Bonus: Rookies not on this list to keep an eye on: 

– Chris Rodriguez 

– Jaleel McLaughlin 

– Sean Tucker 

– Emari Demercado

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