2023 Rookie RB Rankings for Dynasty Fantasy Football


We hope you enjoy this FREE article preview! In order to access our other articles and content, including livestreams, projections and rankings, stat analysis and more, be sure to sign up today. We are here to help you #ScoreMore Fantasy Points!

2023 Rookie RB Rankings for Dynasty Fantasy Football

In this article, I will rank the top rookie running backs for your dynasty fantasy football rookie drafts. This is the same article I’ve written yearly — Barrett’s Rookie Model: Running Back Rankings (2022, 2021).

Today’s article will slightly differ from our recent pieces on rookie wide receivers and tight ends. Most of the content in today’s article was written before the 2023 NFL Draft. However, because draft capital and landing spots are crucial for running backs, this article is being published post-Draft. All rankings have been updated to account for both draft capital and landing spot.

In the “Analytics Profile” section under each name, I will discuss each running back's performance based on my model, which looks only at the most predictive metrics for the running back position. In the “Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR” section, I will then factor in draft capital and landing spot, and provide insights on how highly you should value each running back prospect for fantasy.

Important Position-Specific Background

My RB strategy for dynasty leagues is reasonably simplistic: I’m Team #BellCowOrBust.

I want bell-cow RBs — every-down RBs who are used as both runners and receivers, and who rank highly in snaps, carries, targets, and red zone opportunities. In most cases, non-bell cow RBs — early-down workhorse RBs, scatbacks, change-of-pace options, handcuffs, or backups — do little more than eat up valuable roster space.

Committee RBs like Nyheim Hines, Alexander Mattison, Jerick McKinnon, Michael Carter, and Gus Edwards — who are more one-dimensional, or lack starting-caliber traits — are just about free in dynasty leagues, as they should be, while RBs like Jonathan Taylor and Austin Ekeler are worth their weight in gold. My model mirrors that preference in many ways, although not intentionally.

In other words, if I had ranked a running back like Hines or Mattison well below consensus, my model wouldn't necessarily consider it a “miss.” And I believe that's accurate. In fantasy, you want immediate contributors and high-end fantasy producers at the RB position, or you want no RBs at all.

You may have heard many draft pundits refer to this year’s RB class as the “deepest” in recent memory. That’s probably true from an actual NFL perspective. I just don’t think it’s true from a fantasy perspective, because fantasy players should care more about “good” than “deep” — a class riddled with committee backs is a class in which you should be drafting other positions.

This year's running back class is particularly unique. There are hardly any exciting landing spots, and the bell cow running back seems to be a dying breed, thanks to a historically great free agency class and “the deepest RB class in recent memory.” For these reasons — lack of suitable landing spots, lack of true bell cows — it’s hard to get overly excited about this class, with the exception of Bijan Robinson, who appears to be the last of the true bell cows, and Jahmyr Gibbs, who could be the next Austin Ekeler with only a little bit of luck.

Perhaps some of the lesser-tier running backs in this class could earn an RB1 workload a few years down the road, especially as established stars like Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Austin Ekeler, Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, Aaron Jones, Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook, and Alvin Kamara near the age-cliff or the wear-and-tear cliff. However, even in that case, it's still advisable to wait and acquire them at a more reasonable price in a year or two rather than to overpay today.

Post-Draft Edit: Nailed it.

Note: Especially dank stats were highlighted in bold by the editor.

Scott Barrett’s Running Back Model and Rankings

1. Bijan Robinson, RB, Atlanta Falcons

Height: 5’11”, Weight: 215 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.46

SPORQ: 92.5, Former: 5-star, Age: 21.2

Draft Capital: RB1, Round 1, pick No. 8 overall

Analytics Profile

Robinson graduated from high school as Arizona’s all-time leader in rushing yards (7,036) and touchdowns (114) and ranked as the No. 1 RB in the 2020 recruiting class.

As an 18-year-old true freshman, Robinson led the Longhorns’ backfield in carries (86), averaging an obscene 8.17 yards per carry (YPC) — the 7th-most by any Power 5 RB since at least 2000 (min. 85 carries). His average of 6.09 yards after contact per attempt ranks as the best mark of any Power 5 RB since at least 2014 (min. 85 carries).

Over the next two seasons, Robinson would dominate as a bell cow, averaging 20.6 carries, 2.0 receptions, 150.7 yards from scrimmage (YFS), and 1.6 touchdowns per game. He finished his career with 136.0 YFS per game — the 10th-most by any Power 5 RB since at least 2000 (min. 25 career games), and on a top-15 list that includes Jonathan Taylor, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Adrian Peterson, Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, and Saquon Barkley.

All of this appears more impressive once controlling for Robinson’s offensive environment. Robinson was saddled with below-average run blocking throughout his NCAA career, although it did not seem to slow him down at all. Per Sharp Football’s Rich Hribar: “Robinson averaged 3.3 YPC on attempts when he was hit behind the line of scrimmage last season. Not only is that the highest rate in this class, but it is the 2nd-highest rate that Sports Info Solutions has recorded on 75-plus carries since they have tracked data in 2016." Additionally, Robinson leads all Power 5 RBs in this class in YPC on non-perfectly blocked runs.

His offense was also fairly inept without him. Unlike with Alabama’s Najee Harris, he rarely benefited from positive gamescript. But he was a monster whenever given that luxury — over the last two seasons, he averaged an obscene 181.3 YFS per game in victories, exceeding 110 YFS in all 12 games.

The most predictive metrics we have for RB prospects are missed tackles forced and yards after contact in all of its various iterations. These metrics help to divorce offensive line play from the equation and credit a player with yards they created on their own. And well, by all these stats, Robinson looks like the best runner we’ve seen in a decade or more.

By career yards after contact per attempt, he ranks behind only Travis Etienne since 2014.

He ranks 2nd in PFF College history by career missed tackles forced per touch (0.387), just one missed tackle shy of supplanting Javonte Williams for 1st on that list (0.389). His 112 missed tackles forced in 2022 was a PFF College (2014-2022) record, besting David Montgomery's 2017 season by 3. And he ranks behind only Montgomery in total missed tackles forced per season (77.3).

But of course, Robinson’s rushing prowess is only part of the equation. Remember, targets are worth roughly 2.5 times as much as a carry in PRR leagues.

And luckily for dynasty players holding the 1.01, Robinson also profiles as a high-end receiver. His raw volume and production were good, but what stood out to me most was his usage and efficiency as a pass-catcher.

Over the last two seasons, Robinson has earned a position-best 8 deep targets, well above Jahmyr Gibbs’ 0 and only 1 shy of Stanford WR Michael Wilson over the same span. And his 6.8 aDOT in 2022 wasn’t far off that of TEs Will Mallory (6.9) and Sam LaPorta (7.1). In other words, he offers a great deal more than your typical “good pass-catching back” who gains the bulk of their receiving yardage on short dump-offs when the QB is facing pressure; he’s a true multi-dimensional receiver.

Robinson also averages 10.4 YPT in his career — the 2nd-most by any RB since 2016 (min. 75 career targets), behind only Travis Etienne (10.9). And, keep in mind, that number is also above WRs like Jordan Addison (10.1), Josh Downs (9.2), and Zay Flowers (8.8).

Basically… Robinson looks like the best runner we’ve seen in a decade. Factor in his pass-catching upside, and he looks like the best overall fantasy RB prospect since Saquon Barkley — yes, above Jonathan Taylor, who averaged only 9.9 receiving YPG at Wisconsin. His analytics profile is that of a player who demands 20-plus carries and 4-plus targets the moment he steps foot on an NFL field. And his athletic profile only further cements that point — his 92.5 SPORQ Score ranks 16th-best since 2015.

And, truthfully, I think Robinson may actually be a better prospect than Barkley was — Barkley was slightly more athletic (94.2) and a more prolific pass-catcher in college, but Robinson definitely profiles as the better runner. Because of that, and because he appears to be the “last of the bell cows” (see: the importance of positional scarcity), he’s the obvious 1.01 of this rookie class, and probably already the overall dynasty RB1. Even if his landing spot is supposedly unideal, I have a hard time imagining that changes anything — he’s a guaranteed bell cow from Day 1, who is great as both a runner and receiver, so things like backfield competition, offensive line play, and projected gamescript don’t really matter all that much to me.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

Robinson was drafted No. 8 overall by the Atlanta Falcons. That is elite draft capital for a back in any era, let alone the modern one. This only further solidifies Robinson’s status as a “generational RB prospect.”

Since 2011, the six RBs drafted inside of the top-12 have averaged 295.8 touches and 1,510.2 YFS per game in their rookie seasons. For perspective, those numbers would have ranked 9th- and 8th-best last season.

Robinson was hand-picked by the most run-heavy play-caller in football – Arthur Smith’s Falcons led the NFL in rushing attempts last year (559) in spite of their 7-10 record. Smith strikes me as being “too old school for his own good” or, more simply, a moron. So maybe there’s some concern he doesn’t use Robinson quite as optimally as he should (e.g. Kyle Pitts). But truthfully, this feels like overanalysis because I’m skeptical Smith will even be with the team next season.

Anyway, yeah… Robinson is still the easy 1.01 in rookie drafts, and the overall RB1 in dynasty startups.

2. Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Detroit Lions

Height: 5’9”, Weight: 199 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.36

SPORQ: 72.8, Former: 4-star, Age: 21.1

Draft Capital: RB2, Round 1, pick No. 12 overall

Analytics Profile

Gibbs is easily the best pass-catching RB to enter the NFL in at least five years. I don’t think anyone can question that.

The big question with Gibbs, and a crucial one for fantasy is: can he ever come close to matching an Austin Ekeler, Alvin Kamara, or Christian McCaffrey in rushing volume? Or is he destined to become the next Reggie Bush, C.J. Spiller, or D’Andre Swift?

However, let's consider this: Gibbs has been just as efficient on the ground as the projected RB3 in this class:

To be fair, this is more of a critique of Zach Charbonnet than it is praise of Gibbs. I find it hard to envision Charbonnet as an NFL bell-cow RB, because this isn’t NFL-starting-caliber rushing efficiency. However, with Gibbs, teams will be more willing to overlook this point and keep him on the field due to his highest-end receiving abilities.

It's true that Charbonnet profiles as the better overall runner because he has seen more rushing volume — remember, volume is efficiency. And in three career seasons, Gibbs never handled more than 47% of his team’s carries out of the backfield. (Although, granted, his backfield competition was a little above average, working alongside Jordan Mason at Georgia Tech and then two of our top-20 Devy RBs at Alabama).

Furthermore, there are concerns about Gibbs' usage that exacerbate his volume concerns. According to Rich Hribar of SharpFootball, last season, only 25.8% of Gibbs' carries were inside runs, the lowest rate in this class. Only 8.6% of his carries came in short-yardage situations (non-first downs needing 1-3 yards), which was also the lowest rate in the class. On those carries, he averaged only 1.5 yards per carry, the lowest rate in the class. And Gibbs handled just 3 of the team's 16 RB carries when Alabama was inside the 5-yard line.

At the Combine, Gibbs measured at 5’9” and 199 pounds, and ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.36 seconds (13th-best since 2000). This yielded an impressive 72.8 SPORQ Score, and gave us Nyheim Hines, Reggie Bush, and Austin Ekeler as his closest athletic comparisons. While Gibbs' size is definitely not ideal, it doesn't necessarily mean he will be pigeonholed into a committee role, as players like Ekeler, Bush, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, Brian Westbrook, and Christian McCaffrey were all within 3 pounds of Gibbs' weight.

Ultimately, to me, it feels like, in an absolute worst-case scenario, Gibbs is a rich man’s Nyheim Hines or D’Andre Swift. In a neutral-case scenario, he’s Reggie Bush. In a best-case scenario, he’s Austin Ekeler. Weighing all of this together — and acknowledging the fact that upside is more valuable than downside is detrimental — Gibbs is absolutely well deserving of RB2 status, and a mid-Round 1 pick in superflex rookie drafts.

Also, I should note that Gibbs turned 21 just last month — he has a lot of tread left on his tires and room to add more playing weight. I would caution early investors to remain patient on Gibbs, as I could see him following the Ekeler trajectory, where it may take a few years until Gibbs earns true bell cow usage.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

The Lions shocked the world, drafting Jahmyr Gibbs with the No. 12 overall pick. And they were ecstatic to take him there.

Apparently, they were comfortable taking him at No. 6 overall (ahead of Bijan Robinson). And had they not taken him at 12, the Jets may have selected him at No. 15. They later traded D’Andre Swift to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Again, this is rare draft capital for a back, and especially so in the year 2023. (See: “the rookie RBs drafted top-12” stat from earlier.)

As much as everyone hated D’Andre Swift last year, his role really wasn’t all that terrible. Through 14 games, he played on just 42% of the team’s snaps but still ranked 16th in FPG (13.7). Collectively, Detroit’s RBs ranked 2nd among all teams in XFP/G (28.3), which means if Gibbs handles only two-thirds of the team’s backfield XFP as a rookie, he’d have one of the top-3 most valuable roles of any RB in fantasy.

In other words, I really kind of love this landing spot, even with David Montgomery there. Right now, I’m seeing this as a similar situation to Austin Ekeler in 2019, who split carries with Melvin Gordon but dominated targets, and managed to finish the season as the overall RB4 in PRR leagues. Perhaps Gibbs will be a bell cow in a few years. But for right now, it doesn’t even really matter.

Gibbs is not only the clear RB2 in this class, but probably the overall RB3 in dynasty startups as well.

3. Kendre Miller, RB, New Orleans Saints

Height: 5’11”, Weight: 215 lbs, 40-yard-dash: N/A

SPORQ: DNQ, Former: 2-star, Age: 20.9

Draft Capital: RB4, Round 3, pick No. 71-overall

Analytics Profile

Miller never really did much throughout his first two seasons at TCU, playing (slightly) behind Zach Evans, before Evans transferred. And he was a total non-factor in the passing game all throughout his career (career-best 1.2 receptions per game in 2021). So, I was pretty surprised by how much my model seemed to like him.

He’s one of the youngest RBs in this class — still over one month away from his 21st birthday. He may or may not have run Evans — the highest-ranked recruit in TCU history — out of town. He averages 6.68 YPC throughout his career, which ranks 20th-best among all Power 5 RBs since 2000 (min. 250 career carries). (That said, Evans ranks ahead of him with 6.89. So, he might have had some help via scheme or run-blocking.) Among all 20-qualifying Power 5 RBs in this class, he ranks 4th-best in career rushing missed tackles forced per attempt (0.31) and 6th-best in career yards after contact per attempt (3.83).

Although he was a non-factor in the passing game there may be (probably not, but “may be”) some upside here — on a probably too-small sample, he ranks 3rd-best since 2014 by career missed tackles forced per reception (0.52). In 2022, he had 9 receiving missed tackles forced on only 16 receptions. For perspective, Devon Achane and Sean Tucker combined for 9 receiving missed tackles forced on 73 receptions.

To be clear, Miller’s profile shows a player who wasn’t really elite anywhere but was “great” everywhere (well, minus in the passing game). And he was “good-to-great” enough for my model to have him above Zach Charbonnet and a number of other RBs who were projected to be drafted well ahead of him.

Unfortunately, his athletic profile is a bit of a questionmark — he was unable to test at the Combine and then again at his Pro Day due to an MCL sprain suffered in the College Football Playoff semifinals. But I did expect him to test well. By one (granted, highly suspect) method, he might have posted a comparable 40-yard-dash time to Jahmyr Gibbs (4.36), Keaton Mitchell (4.37), and Devon Achane (4.32), despite being 16-36 pounds heavier. At the very least, over the last two seasons, he’s led the class in YPC average when first contact came beyond the line of scrimmage (7.39). And that’s pretty well correlated with 40-yard-dash time, alongside a few other traits that translate well to the pros.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

Zach Charbonnet beat out Miller in terms of draft capital, but Miller’s landing spot was significantly better.

I think Miller is immediately the favorite to win over the “Mark Ingram role” in this offense, and the days of Alvin Kamara receiving 70-plus percent of the team’s snaps are long gone. Miller may split that Ingram role with Jamaal Williams to start, but it won’t be long before he takes over that role and starts leading the team in carries each week.

Since entering the league, Jamaal Williams ranks 12th-worst of 54-qualifying RBs in YPC average (3.99). Of the names below him on this list, only David Montgomery (3.94) and Najee Harris (3.86) are still on an NFL roster. And Williams has reached just 12.0 rushing attempts per game only once in six career seasons.

Alvin Kamara will probably lead the team in fantasy points, but there’s still quite a bit of upside for Miller in both the short and long term. Kamara will be 28 years old at the start of this season. He’s missed at least one game in each of his past 5 seasons. And over the past two, he averages just 3.88 YPC (5th-worst of 50 qualifying RBs). Further, he’s currently staring at a potential suspension of six or more games, if not prison time of up to five years.

Ultimately, Miller still isn’t quite a player I’m excited to take in rookie drafts (unless RB-needy), but he is my dynasty RB3 in this class.

4. Devon Achane, RB, Miami Dolphins

Height: 5’8.5”, Weight: 188 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.32

SPORQ: 50.1, Former: 4-star, Age: 21.5

Draft Capital: RB6, Round 3, pick No. 84 overall

Analytics Profile

As a freshman and sophomore at Texas A&M, Achane played second-fiddle to future Round 4 draft pick Isiah Spiller. But he was at least the far more efficient RB, averaging an obscene 7.36 YPC and 12.3 YPR to Spiller’s 5.58 and 8.49.

In 2022, after Spiller left, Achane saw a significant increase in usage, out-touching the next-closest Aggie RB by 204. He averaged 19.6 carries, 3.6 receptions, and 129.8 YFS per game.

Among all 21-qualifying Power 5 RBs from this class, Achane ranks 2nd-best in explosive play per touch rate (17.1%) and 5th-best in yards after contact per attempt (3.93). Over the last two seasons, he leads the class (by a wide margin) in YPC on runs when first contact was initiated at or before the line of scrimmage (3.36). And this all matches up with what you’ll see on tape — Achane plays bigger than his size, is unafraid of contact, is freakishly fast, and possesses legitimately rare big-play ability.

Achane measured out as a perfectly average athlete for me (50.1 SPORQ), but his athletic profile is a lot more complicated than that. His 4.32 40-yard dash was the 3rd-fastest time ever recorded by a RB at the Combine. That’s impressive, but not as important as his slight frame (3rd percentile weight, 8th percentile BMI), which implies heavily capped usage at the next level.

Achane showed up at the Combine weighing 188 pounds. Since 2000, there have only been three RBs to weigh less than 190 pounds and finish a season ranking as an RB2 or better — Warrick Dunn, Darren Sproles, and Tarik Cohen. All three had a higher BMI than Achane’s 28.2. Among all other RBs 201 pounds or less with a BMI below 28.5, I have only the following names listed as a fantasy “hit” — LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson, C.J. Spiller, and Reggie Bush.

And I think these are some of the better highest-end comparisons for Achane. Maybe he can be a glorified WR playing the RB position, a la Sproles, Bush, or Cohen. Or maybe his elite speed can help compensate for his less-than-ideal size, a la Charles, Johnson, and Spiller. Maybe.

But it always feels a little suboptimal to bet on a player being an outlier. And even among this elite cast of names, just about every name on this list drove their fantasy owners mad, as these players never seemed to get as many touches as they felt they deserved. Or, they dealt with multiple injuries throughout their careers.

To amplify these size concerns, I should also mention that Achane did appear less effective when given an increase in volume last year (an 81% increase in touches per game from 2021), and his usage was still fairly one-dimensional. For instance, his YPC average fell from 7.36 to 5.62, and his YPR average dropped from 12.3 to 5.4. And according to SharpFootball’s Rich Hribar, 66.1% of Achane’s carries came on outside runs (the 5th-highest rate in the class), and he averaged just 4.5 YPC on inside runs (the 2nd-lowest rate in the class).

But there’s a little more mystery to Achane than that — especially given the contact-related metrics we cited earlier. And my two favorite NFL Draft pundits have suggested there’s quite a bit more upside with Achane than we’ve given him credit for.

Per Dane Brugler’s The Beast: “Overall, Achane’s undersized build understandably creates doubt about him as an every-down NFL back, but his vision and rare acceleration allow him to access run paths most backs can’t. With his added value as a receiver (a few NFL scouts project him best as a receiver) and returner, he has high-upside potential, similar in ways to Jahvid Best as a prospect.”

So, maybe Achane does possess PPR-cheat-code upside similar to that of Sproles and Bush. But then again, it also feels pretty hard to justify that upside analytically — Achane averaged under 5.5 YPR in his final NCAA season. By depth-adjusted YPT over expectation, his 2022 season (-31%) ranks 15th-worst of 255 qualifying seasons since 2014.

But The Ringer’s Danny Kelly definitely deserves the award for the best pro-Achane argument. He told me privately:

“I don’t say this lightly because I know everyone compares any given fast guy to Tyreek Hill … but Achane comes the closest I’ve seen over the last five years to moving with the twitchy, turbo-charged acceleration and explosive “see-ya” speed of Tyreek Hill. (For what it’s worth, Hill’s wind-legal personal best in the 100m is 10.19 seconds, Achane’s is 10.14 seconds). It’s important to note, though, that Achane’s not just another shrimpy, straight-line track-dude moonlighting in football — he’s a compact, tough runner with the wiggle and juice to make defenders miss in small spaces. I know he’s 188 pounds and probably a fantasy pipedream, but he also might just be a special football player. If he lands with a team that lets him cook, the results could be magnificent.”

And well, damn… Yeah, it’s hard to pass up “the Tyreek Hill of RBs” in rookie drafts.

Unfortunately, it’s also pretty hard to make that argument based solely on his analytics profile.

Ultimately, he’s probably just a committee back — but he has more upside than most in this draft class, which seems riddled with committee backs, because there’s a small chance he’s the next Jamaal Charles or Chris Johnson, and/or there’s a small chance he’s a PPR-cheat-code RB like Darren Sproles or Reggie Bush. I could envision him skyrocketing up my rankings in the right landing spot (ideally Denver or Miami) or falling in my rankings just about anywhere else.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

When Danny Kelly first gave me that fire.emoji quote, I believe my exact words to him were, “If Achane lands in Miami, may God have mercy on our souls.”

Indeed, that landing spot just made way too much sense. You saw it. I saw it. The speed-obsessed and YAC-gluttonous Mike McDaniel saw it… That Achane is the perfect fit for his outside zone run scheme.

I’m still very skeptical of Achane’s bell cow potential (given his size), but then again… There’s not much in his way in terms of competition. Right now, the only other RBs on the roster are the old and oft-injured Raheem Mostert (age: 31), the unspectacular Jeff Wilson (acquired for a 5th-round pick last year), and the anti-spectacular Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.

Although I do still think it is very likely Miami is going to add another veteran to their RB room, this seems to be the perfect fit for Achane. And perfect enough for him to rank as my RB4 in this class.

5. Zach Charbonnet, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Height: 6’0”, Weight: 214 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.53

SPORQ: 70.6, Former: 4-star, Age: 22.3

Draft Capital: RB3, Round 2, pick No. 52 overall

Analytics Profile

Charbonnet’s box score numbers were incredibly impressive in 2022, although he still underwhelmed in most key (predictive) efficiency metrics. Reconciling both points, he was advantaged by elite run blocking throughout his career, and especially last year — UCLA ranked 2nd-best of all 64 Power 5 teams in PFF run blocking grade…

…and he was also probably aided by scheme. In nine career seasons as an NCAA head coach, Chip Kelly has coaxed hyper-productive seasons from a number of RBs, although few have found success at the NFL level.

Still, Charbonnet’s 168.0 yards from scrimmage per game in 2022 does lead all Chip Kelly-coached RBs. His 37 receptions were also a Chip Kelly record. And although his 6.97 YPC average ranks behind LaMichael James’ 2011, that number also ranks 17th-best by any Power 5 RB since 2000 (min. 195 carries). Combine all these points, and you can see why my more basic model really liked him.

But my more advanced model — the more predictive one, the one I use to compile these rankings — did not. Or at least not quite as much as consensus.

Charbonnet failed to impress at any other point in his career. And he may or may not have fled Michigan for Los Angeles because he couldn’t see playing time stuck behind Hassan Haskins. (Granted, Haskins is 1.0 years older and a Round 4 NFL draft pick.) And when looking at his collegiate career in its totality, his analytics profile appears incredibly underwhelming.

Among all 20-qualifying Combine-invite Power 5 RBs from this class, Charbonnet ranks: 8th in yards after contact per attempt (3.54), 9th in career missed tackles forced per touch (0.275), 13th in yards per target average (6.36), and 14th in yards per route run (0.87). And these rankings don’t dramatically improve if only looking over the past two seasons.

Ultimately, my model sees Charbonnet as a player who might be good, but not great; not great enough to become a true fantasy difference-maker at the next level. I know this may seem like I hate him, but I truly don’t. I just hate his current cost — 1.06 in non-superflex pre-Draft rookie drafts. I’m lower on him than consensus, but not by a lot — he’s my pre-draft RB5 — although granted, this is also a draft class I find to be fairly uninspiring as a whole.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

Well, it looks like Seattle liked Charbonnet a lot more than I did, selecting him in Round 2 as the 3rd RB off the board. In a more neutral landing spot, I would have been happy to bump him up to RB3 in my rankings. But in this disaster of a landing spot, he remains my RB5.

I think what happened here is… Pete Carroll is an old-school HC who values the RB position more than just about anyone else in football. He took one look at his depth chart — consisting of Kenneth Walker, DeeJay Dallas, and literally no one else at the time of the pick — and was reminded of all of the injuries suffered by Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and C.J. Prosise, and so, he felt he needed to address what he saw as the most glaring “need” on his roster.

Some will see it as encouraging that Kenneth Walker’s draft capital (No. 41 overall) wasn’t much better than that of Charbonnet (No. 52 overall), but not me. I just see it as Charbonnet being overdrafted.

Walker was a significantly better prospect and an immensely better runner than Charbonnet — (you can read what I had to say about Walker last year, here). And he was legitimately great as a rookie. So, I have a hard time imagining Charbonnet can be a player you feel comfortable starting for fantasy in any given week (so long as Walker stays healthy).

Since 2018, Seattle RB collectively average 21.2 carries per game. I’d imagine Walker averages something like 14-16 carries per game to Charbonnet’s 8-10. But even then, the math doesn’t quite add up – Seattle RBs average 21.2 carries per game since 2018.

Ultimately, this pick appears to be an abject disaster for both RBs. And then, making things worse, they also selected RB Kenny McIntosh (a player I really like) in Round 7, to (presumably) handle pass-catching duties.

6. Tyjae Spears, RB, Tennessee Titans

Height: 5’10”, Weight: 201 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.52*

SPORQ: 44.9*, Former: 3-star, Age: 21.9

Draft Capital: RB5, Round 3, pick No. 81 overall

Analytics Profile

Like many prospects in this class, Spears failed to dominate touches until his final season. But unlike some others, at least Spears was hyper-efficient leading up to his bell cow year.

Spears has averaged at least 6.0 YPC in all four of his seasons at Tulane. In 2021, he ranked behind only DeWayne McBride in PFF’s Elusive Rating (161.3). And his 6.69 YPC average was well ahead of all other RBs on the team (4.79).

In 2022, Spears’ hyper-efficiency was rewarded with bell cow-like volume. And that decision paid dividends for the team. Tulane improbably improved from 2-10 to 12-2, finishing the season as the No. 9 team in the AP Bowl following a Cotton Bowl win over USC — the Green Wave’s first top-25 finish since 1998. And Spears must have been a big reason why — LB Dorian Williams is the only other Tulane player in Dane Brugler’s 7-round mock draft, and he’s projected to go mid-Round 4.

This is all sort of reminiscent of Kenneth Walker’s dominance at Michigan State.

In 2022, Spears averaged 16.4 carries, 1.6 receptions, and 131.2 YFS per game. His 21 total touchdowns tied Israel Abanikanda for most in the FBS. His 6.87 YPC average again ranked well ahead of all other RBs on the team (4.64). And his 4.55 yards after contact per attempt ranked 2nd-best in this class, again behind only McBride.

Across his full career and among all Combine-invite RBs from this class, Spears ranks 5th-best in missed tackles forced per touch (0.35). He ranks 2nd-best in yards after contact per attempt (4.54), which also ranks 3rd-best by any RB (min. 250 career carries) since 2014. And his 6.81 career YPC average ranks 20th best by any FBS RB since at least 2000. Although Spears never saw much volume as a receiver, he was at least hyper-efficient in that area. He ranks 4th-best in the class in career YPT average (8.9) and his 0.63 receiving missed tackles forced per receptions ranks best by any RB since at least 2014 (min. 35 career receptions).

However, keep in mind — Spears is the first non-Power 5 RB we’ve discussed thus far. And my model has a serious bias against small-school RBs, as do I. Spears’ efficiency metrics look incredible, but a little less so when factoring in that these numbers came against lesser competition.

But in his defense, at least he was dominant against the best team he faced, scoring 4 TDs and gaining 219 YFS on 18 touches against USC in the Cotton Bowl. And he also dominated NFL-worthy competition one month later at the Senior Bowl.

Spears’ Pro Day was… interesting. He flashed elite explosion (92nd percentile vertical jump, 87th percentile broad jump), but his size (12th percentile by weight and by BMI), size-adjusted speed (33rd percentile Speed Score), and agility (8th percentile 3-Cone) were all more than a little concerning. This altogether yielded a slightly-below average 44.9 SPORQ Score.

Further complicating matters, Spears also has some long-term health concerns, similar to but potentially worse than that of Todd Gurley, Jay Ajayi, and Sony Michel when they were coming out. Per Go Long’s Bob McGinn, "According to several team sources, [Spears] doesn’t have an ACL in one of his knees after a pair of surgeries. And he has some cartilage damage as well."

I’m not really sure what this means — I didn’t know it was even possible to jog without an ACL, let alone play football at this level — but at the very least, this is very likely to cause Spears to fall in the Draft, and is likely to cap his NFL lifespan.

Ultimately, I really wanted to like Spears. It felt like I was rooting for him — his numbers are still incredible even after accounting for the fact that it came against lesser competition, and he really flashed for me at the Senior Bowl. But I do question his upside and his bell-cow potential — due to unideal size, lack of passing game usage in college, and the fact that he may or may not be missing a freaking ACL in one of his knees.

Post-Draft Note: It seems the lack of an ACL didn’t scare Tennessee too badly, and maybe we shouldn’t be too scared either – Steelers legend Hines Ward played his entire career without an ACL.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

Spears’ draft capital was good – selected as the 5th RB off the board, although only several picks ahead of Devon Achane and Tank Bigbsy – but the landing spot was pretty terrible, getting stuck behind Derrick Henry in Tennessee.

I think he’ll be buried behind Henry to such an extent that you’re never going to feel good starting him in one of your fantasy leagues this year. But I also think he’ll be far less buried than we’ve seen from any other Derrick Henry backup.

Henry is 29 years old with 1,567 touches over the last five seasons. It wouldn’t surprise me if Tennessee actually seriously finally attempted to scale back Henry’s usage and force Spears into the gameplan.

So, there’s maybe a 3-7% chance Spears can be the Tony Pollard to Henry’s Ezekiel Elliott. But more than likely, we should value him as a handcuff with minimal standalone value, but with some slight long-term upside as Henry approaches the age cliff and the wear-and-tear cliff.

7. Roschon Johnson, RB, Chicago Bears

Height: 6’0”, Weight: 219 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.58

SPORQ: 60.4, Former: 3-star, Age: 22.2

Draft Capital: RB8, Round 4, pick No. 115 overall

Analytics Profile

My model didn’t love Johnson, because it doesn’t like RBs who failed to dominate touches throughout their NCAA career. It viewed his career-best 107 touches (2021 and 2022) as a major red flag.

But in Johnson’s case, this is fairly understandable. He played QB all throughout his high school career — he was the No. 6 dual-threat QB in the 2019 recruiting class. In his freshman season, he was listed at QB (by PFF) and TE (by CFBR). Over the next three seasons, he played behind Bijan Robinson, our No. 1 RB in this class. And given what I think of Robinson (the best RB prospect since at least Saquon Barkley), 107 touches feels like a major coup — I’m not sure any other RB in this class would be able to manage much more than that playing behind Robinson.

My Model views this as a damning red flag, but I also think it goes a little too far — it’s not terribly uncommon for a RB to play second-fiddle in college only to later explode in the pros. Josh Jacobs never out-touched Damien Harris in three seasons at Alabama. Alvin Kamara, in his final season at Tennessee, was handed 19 fewer carries than Jalen Hurd and only 5 more carries than John Kelly. Priest Holmes was also famously buried behind Ricky Williams, also at Texas, before later becoming an NFL fantasy superstar (26.5 FPG from 2001-2003).

Again, my Model didn’t love Johnson. But it also liked him a whole lot more than I ever expected.

If you’re not going to dominate touches at the NCAA level, you better be hyper-efficient on those touches. And at least Johnson clearly was. By our favorite stat — career missed tackles forced per touch — Johnson not only beats Robinson, but he ranks best of any Power 5 RB since at least 2014:

Johnson possesses ideal size, but only average levels of athleticism. He was dominant by our favorite stat, but on only a small sample of touches. Ultimately, I feel pretty agnostic about Johnson. I’ll let the NFL tell me exactly how highly we should value him for fantasy.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

Johnson’s draft capital wasn’t great, falling to Round 4 (the only RB selected in Round 4) as the 8th RB off the board. But the Chicago landing spot was pretty terrific, or at least one of the “least bad” of among all rookie RBs.

The only other RBs on the Bears roster are Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman, and Travis Homer.

Homer has never eclipsed 25 carries in a single season. Foreman was signed to a one-year, $2M prove-it deal.

To me, this means Johnson — handpicked by this Matt Eberflus/Ryan Poles regime — should be the betting favorite to be the team’s RB2, with an outside chance of serving as the RB1 in the “David Montgomery role” to Herbert in the aptly-named “Herbert role. After all, Brett Whitefield did tell us pre-draft that Johnson looked to him like a near-perfect Montgomery clone.

Last season Montgomery averaged 13.0 carries and 2.6 targets per game to Herbert’s 10.1 and 0.8. Keep in mind, this was in spite of the fact that Herbert ranked best of 37-qualifying RBs in YPC (5.67), while Montgomery ranked 8th-worst (3.99). On one hand, that sort of efficiency signifies that perhaps Herbert is deserving of bell-cow usage. On the other hand, that usage suggests that (for whatever reason) Chicago may not trust the former Round-6 pick with more volume. Although, truthfully, it’s hard for me to see why – Herbert averages 96.7 rushing YPG in the 7 career games he’s received more than a dozen carries.

I don’t see much upside in this backfield overall – Montgomery ranked 29th in FPG last year (11.1), and Herbert ranked 39th (9.1) in spite of his hyper-efficiency. But there is enough upside here, at least, for Johnson to beat his draft capital and rank as my rookie RB7.

8. Tank Bigsby, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Height: 6’0”, Weight: 210 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.56

Combine SPORQ: 37.1, Pro-Day SPORQ: 81.4, Former: 4-star, Age: 21.7

Draft Capital: RB7, Round 3, pick No. 88 overall

Analytics Profile

My model really didn’t love Bigsby. He was middling in most key efficiency metrics and failed to dominate touches in his final season.

And those “middling” efficiency metrics appear far worse when contrasted with that of his teammate Jarquez Hunter:

YPC average isn’t a great stat on its own, because it’s very possible that Bigsby was tasked with higher level-of-difficulty runs in comparison to Hunter. But all attempts to control for that still have Hunter well ahead.

Over the last two seasons, Hunter averages +0.93 rushing yards over expectation per attempt to Bigsby’s -0.33. Hunter also comes out well above Bigsby by adjusted-YPC average. And these numbers don’t appear influenced by a few relatively long runs skewing our sample — Hunter had only one carry gain 50 or more yards over the past two seasons (to Bigsby’s 2).

Digging even deeper into these numbers, Hunter was also wildly more efficient against both stacked boxes (6.4 YPC vs. 5.4) and light fronts (8.6 YPC vs. 4.9) over the last two seasons. And Bigsby’s numbers here are fairly unique — it’s incredibly strange to see a RB who is actually more efficient against stacked boxes.

Bigsby was also less efficient than Hunter when first contact was initiated at or before the line of scrimmage (2.7 YPC vs. 1.6). And wildly less efficient when first contact came beyond the line of scrimmage (8.5 YPC vs. 4.9). In fact, Bigsby ranked worst in the class by this latter stat.

So, it didn’t at all matter to me that Bigsby was more efficient by yards after contact per attempt in 2022 (but not 2021). I assumed he brought that on himself by being overly hesitant or too slow out of the gates, and by seeking contact more than was necessary. I assumed all of this also meant he lacked top-end speed — “he’s the sort of guy who can win a fistfight in a phonebooth, but he lacks juice” — and so, wasn’t at all surprised when he returned a pedestrian 51st percentile Speed Score at the Combine (97.1).

But Bigsby would later prove me wrong at his Pro Day, improving his 40-yard-dash time from 4.56 to 4.45 despite adding 5 pounds of body weight in the interim. That was good for an 84th percentile Speed Score (109.7), bringing his initial SPORQ Score of 37.1 up to 81.4 — a massive improvement.

So, after that, I felt more compelled to argue in his favor.

And there are a few compelling counter-arguments to be made: His run blocking was legitimately atrocious (15th-worst in the Power 5 by PFF run block grade last year). Sure, Hunter was significantly more efficient with the same offensive line, but he’s also our own Devy RB10.

Bigsby also flashed some serious bell-cow potential last season (in spite of his 25th percentile BMI), actually leading the team in receptions (although he wasn’t at all efficient in that area). And although he was middling in most key metrics, his 2022 season was actually pretty impressive, ranking 5th-best among all Power 5 RBs (min. 150 carries) in missed tackles forced per touch (0.34) and 5th-best in yards after contact per attempt (4.16). To be fair, this was a major departure from his first two seasons — 0.25 missed tackles forced per touch, 3.46 yards after contact per attempt — but it did help him make up some ground.

So, that’s the bull-case argument if you want it. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it compelling enough to get too excited about him.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

I imagine Pederson took one look at his RB depth behind Travis Etienne – D’Ernest Johnson, Qadree Ollison, Snoop Conner, and JaMycal Hasty – and recognized that RB2 was one of his most glaring needs. So, Bigsby’s Round 3 draft capital doesn’t mean all that much to me.

Still, I expect him get enough touches this season to seriously piss off Etienne owners. Because Doug Pederson is as big of a fan of committee backfields as I am of bell cows.

I’m imagining this backfield is reminiscent of the 2020 Philadelphia Eagles, where Travis Etienne is Miles Sanders (16.0 touches per game) and Bigsby is Boston Scott (6.5 touches per game). But it’s definitely possible I’m wrong. It’s possible Pederson just doesn’t like Etienne — Bigsby actually profiles as closer to the archetypal Pederson workhorse (plodders like Jordan Howard, LeGarrette Blount, Ryan Mathews, Jay Ajayi). It’s possible, but — based on Bigsby’s analytics profile relative to that of Etienne — I think far from likely.

9. Chris Rodriguez, RB, Washington Commanders

Height: 6’0”, Weight: 217 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.51*

SPORQ: 60.0*, Former: 3-star, Age: 22.6

Draft Capital: RB13, Round 6, pick No. 193 overall

Analytics Profile

Rodriguez is the prototypical wrecking-ball RB who gets better as the game goes on. Throughout his career, he averages 8.52 YPC in the fourth quarter and overtime as opposed to just 5.25 YPC in the first three quarters.

Sure, he’s not going to bring anything as a receiver (career-best 1.0 receptions per game in 2021), but I could see him as a sort of destitute man’s Derrick Henry or Nick Chubb. Or, a more constructive comparison would be James Robinson or Tyler Allgeier.

Rodriguez’s rushing efficiency metrics were legitimately elite in 2022. He averaged 0.366 missed tackles forced per attempt and 3.94 yards after contact per attempt. Among all instances of a Power 5 RB carrying the ball 175 or more times since 2014, those numbers rank (respectively) 7th-best and 26th-best.

Among the Power 5 RBs in this class, he ranks 4th-best by career yards after contact per attempt (4.00) and 5th-best by rushing missed tackles forced per attempt (0.30).

Athletically, Rodriguez offers prototypical workhorse size (73rd percentile BMI), underwhelming explosion (sub-30th percentile in the jumps), and underrated speed (4.51 40-yard dash). This altogether yielded a SPORQ Score of 60.0.

Ultimately, he’s another player I’ll like more than the NFL Mock Draft Cognoscenti… but yet another RB I’m not going to be very excited to draft.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

Rodriguez’s draft capital was pretty bad (Round 6), but the landing spot was pretty terrific. And at least it seems Washington was a lot higher on him than his draft capital suggests.

Rodriguez will immediately compete for carries against Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson in what will inevitably be some sort of committee. But, I like his chances against those names.

Gibson spent a great deal of last offseason on Rivera’s doghouse – Rivera was frequently critical of his play and basically relegated him only to kick-return duties before Robinson suffered an injury. Sources told us privately prior to the decision to draft Robinson that the team had “seriously soured on Gibson.” And at the moment, Gibson is still working his way back from foot surgery.

Robinson has Round 3 draft capital on his side, although that doesn’t really give him a major edge on Rodriguez, if Nicki Jhabvala’s report is true. And besides, he wasn’t handpicked by new OC Eric Bienemy like Rodriguez was. And Robinson’s play wasn’t all that inspiring last year – among 50-qualifying RBs, Robinson ranked 7th-worst in rushing yards over expectation per carry. (That’s all we have to go on, but of course a major caveat is that Robinson was recovering from being shot in August, so he might not have been 100% all year.)

10. Chase Brown, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Height: 5’9.5”, Weight: 209 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.43

SPORQ: 85.9, Former: 2-star, Age: 23.1

Draft Capital: RB10, Round 5, pick No. 163 overall

Analytics Profile

Brown is a freakish athlete, boasting the 4th-best athletic profile from within this class (85.9 SPORQ).

My model liked that, but didn’t really love that he’s an older player, and a fifth-year senior who never really did much until that fifth year. But to be fair, that fifth season was fairly insane, or at least insane enough for my pre-Draft model to still view him as a fringe top-12 talent.

Brown was a massive bell cow in 2022 — an outlier for HC Bret Bielema — averaging 27.3 carries, 2.3 receptions, and 156.9 YFS per game. His 1,883 YFS ranked most by any Illinois RB since 2011, and +49% better than the next-closest Illinois RB over this span. He accounted for an absurd 38% of his team’s total YFS, which led all RBs in this class.

Basically, he was the entirety of the Illinois offense, and that was probably smart. His 5.30 yards per touch average was well ahead of all other Illinois RBs (combined 4.30 yards per touch). And Illinois improved from 5-7 to 8-5 in 2022, posting their best record since 2007.

My model really liked Brown’s counting stats — Bijan Robinson was the only Power 5 RB with more total missed tackles forced last season. But his numbers were also far less impressive when looking at any of these numbers on a per-touch basis either last year or if over the full scope of his career. (In both instances, his numbers ranked behind Gray, and near the bottom of the class.)

And, ultimately, that just matters more. His bell-cow usage in 2022 was somewhat inspiring, but his per-touch efficiency metrics weren’t quite good enough to suggest he posseses realistic bell-cow potential at the NFL level.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

Although Cincinnati did draft a back (Brown), they didn’t take him until Round 5 (pick No. 163). To me, that signifies that Joe Mixon is going to remain with the team for at least one more year.

But even with that being the case, there’s still some upside for Brown as a handcuff — in the two games Mixon missed last year, Samaje Perine averaged 19.0 carries and 7.0 targets per game.

And maybe there’s some more upside beyond that — Mixon was pretty terrible last year by just about any rushing efficiency metric you want to look at. Unfortunately, I just didn’t like Brown’s analytics profile quite enough to find that argument all too persuasive.

11. Israel Abanikanda, RB, New York Jets

Height: 5’10”, Weight: 216 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.44*

SPORQ: 97.2*, Former: 3-star, Age: 20.6

Draft Capital: RB9, Round 5, pick No. 143 overall

Analytics Profile

Abanikanda is the youngest RB prospect in this class, and an absolute freak athlete, recording an unofficial 97.2 SPORQ Score at his Pro Day. For perspective, that number — had it come at the Combine — would have ranked 5th-best since 2015, behind only A.J. Dillon (99.3), Breece Hall (98.9), Derrick Henry (98.4), and Jonathan Taylor (97.9).

Digging deeper into his athletic profile, we’d find that Abanikanda offers ideal size (82nd percentile BMI) and ideal size-adjusted speed (87th percentile Speed Score). His explosion is elite — 98th percentile in the vertical jump and 95th percentile in the broad lump. But he’s somewhat lacking in terms of agility — 36th percentile in the shuttle and 35th percentile in the 3-Cone. This altogether paints the picture of a prototypical “one-cut-and-go” RB, which is exactly what you’d see from Abanikanda if you watched his tape.

I’ve sometimes worried that my model might have a blind spot for this archetype of runner — which doesn’t necessarily rely on yards after contact and missed tackles forced to gain positive

yardage. And, well, Abanikanda advocates really should hope that that’s the case. His numbers weren’t just bad in this regard, they were easily UDFA-caliber. Among all 20 qualifying Power 5 RBs in this class, he ranks 4th-worst by missed tackles forced per attempt and 2nd-worst by career yards after contact per attempt (2nd-worst).

But to leave us with a glimmer of hope, he did pop in a number of other slightly-less-important efficiency metrics.

Over the last two seasons, he leads the class in box-adjusted efficiency rating. And he was significantly more efficient than all other Pittsburgh RBs over the last two seasons (5.71 YPC vs. 4.78).

Abanikanda didn’t lead his team in touches until last season, and he wasn’t even the team’s lead back in Week 1 — Rodney Hammond out-touched him 18 to 9, before suffering an injury which would cause him to miss the team’s next five games. So, he may have been thrust into a workhorse role in part due to Hammond’s poor injury luck. But at least he was dominant in that role. Despite losing both Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison, Abanikanda helped lead Pittsburgh to a 9-4 record, averaging 21.7 carries, 1.1 receptions, and 144.4 YFS per game. His 144.4 YFS per game was the most by any Pittsburgh RB since 2012, narrowly beating out James Conner’s 2014 (141.2). And he led the class in total touchdowns (21), touchdowns of 10 or more yards (13), and touchdowns per touch (8.4%).

Abanikanda’s pass-catching profile is a little suspect. He averaged just 1.8 receptions per game in 2021, before seeing that fall to 1.1 in 2022. And his drop rate over the last two seasons (1 drop every 9.4 targets) ranks worst in the class.

Ultimately, my model more or less hated Abanikanda, even after factoring in his elite levels of athleticism. And even if I try to adjust for the fact that my model may have — (but truthfully I don’t think it does*) — a blindspot for this style of runner, I still didn’t really love him. Instead, I suspect he lacks the necessary elusiveness to earn starter reps at the NFL level. And given his pass-catching concerns, I’m heavily skeptical of his fantasy upside long-term. To me, he’s just a poor man’s Tevin Coleman.

* Since 2014, there’s been 111 instances of a RB carrying the ball 175 or more times in their final NCAA season, and averaging <2.95 yards after contact per attempt and <0.25 missed tackles forced per attempt in that final season. (Keep in mind, Abikanda’s numbers were well below both marks.)

Among all 111 names, you’ll fail to find any real fantasy success stories — only T.J. Yeldon, Alexander Mattison, and Phillip Lindsay might just barely qualify as “hits.” And among all RBs drafted within the first four rounds — Yeldon, Mattison, Kerryon Johnson, Tyrion Davis-Price, Jeremy Langford, Joshua Kelly, Tyler Ervin, and Javorius Allen — you’ll find an inordinately high number of “misses.”

On this list of 111 names, Abanikanda does rank 4th-best in YPC average (5.92) — which may imply some outlier potential, although he was also two spots below Wendell Smallwood (6.37). And his YPC average drops to just 5.41 if we exclude one big game against Virginia Tech.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

Over Breece Hall’s last three healthy games, Michael Carter averaged 8.3 carries and 2.0 targets per game (to Hall’s 18.3 and 3.3). I’d guess that’s what Abanikanda’s usage will look like in a best-case scenario should Hall stay healthy.

Among 51 qualifying RBs, Carter ranked worst in rushing yards over expectation per carry, while Zonovan Knight ranked 2nd-worst. So, I do think Abanikanda immediately supplants both RBs as the clear RB2.

And then of course, Abanikanda will offer more upside beyond that if Hall’s recovery timeline is delayed, or if he suffers another injury.

12. DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB

Height: 5’10”, Weight: 209 lbs, 40-yard-dash: N/A

SPORQ: DNQ, Former: 3-star, Age: 21.8

Draft Capital: RB16, Round 7, pick No. 222 overall

Analytics Profile

McBride was a 3-star prospect coming out of high school, who opted to remain close to home at UAB, eschewing offers from several Power 5 programs. My model penalized him for that decision but still really liked him — his efficiency metrics are about as good as any non-Power 5 RB we’ve seen in a decade.

As a 19.1-year-old true freshman with the Blazers, McBride averaged an obscene 9.34 YPC on 47 carries.

He was gifted workhorse usage the following year, and remained absurdly hyper-efficient. He led all RBs in missed tackles forced per attempt (0.38) and yards after contact per attempt (4.72). Among all RB seasons since 2014 (min. 200 carries), those numbers rank 5th-best and 4th-best, respectively. Among the top-7 on both lists, you’ll find only these backs: Bijan Robinson, Jonathan Taylor, Travis Etienne, David Montgomery, Zack Moss, Pooka Williams, Darrell Henderson, and Josh Adams. Montgomery and McBride are the only RBs with multiple seasons within the top-7 by either metric.

Somehow, McBride took his game up another notch in the following season, averaging 19.4 carries, 142.8 rushing yards, and 1.58 rushing touchdowns per game. His YPC average jumped from 6.72 to 7.35, good for the 17th-best season by any RB since at least 2000 (min. 200 carries). He wasn’t quite as efficient by our more predictive elusiveness metrics, but he did again lead the FBS in yards after contact per attempt with 4.60, which was also the 5th-best season since 2015 (min. 200 carries).

His career YPC average of 7.28 ranks 9th-best among all RBs since at least 2000 (min. 300 career carries). He leads the class in explosive play per touch rate (0.19). Since 2014, he ranks 2nd-best among all RBs (min. 300 career touches) by career yards after contact per attempt (4.93), and 4th-best by career missed tackles forced per touch (0.36). And the only names above him on either list are Bijan Robinson, Javonte Williams, Roschon Johnson, and Darrell Henderson.

Impressively, he hit 95 rushing yards in 17 of his final 18 career games, averaging an absurd 149.4 rushing YPG and 7.55 YPC over this span. Although, that one game in which he missed our benchmark came against his lone Power 5 opponent over this stretch — when he posted a modest 13/34/1 rushing line (2.62 YPC) against LSU.

But that’s a key point. My model has a major bias against small school prospects, and I think rightly so. McBride is coming from C-USA, a less competitive conference than Tyjae Spears’ AAC, which will have 3 teams joining the Power 5 in 2023. McBride’s rushing metrics appear elite, but so did Ito Smith’s (also in the C-USA).

McBride’s athletic profile is a bit of a question mark — he wasn’t able to participate in any events at the Combine or his Pro Day due to a hamstring injury… although Bruce Feldman listed him as one of his “freaks,” telling us in August that he runs the 40 in the “low 4.5s” and “cleans 345 pounds, bench-presses 385, and has squatted 550.”

From a fantasy perspective, I don’t think we can expect anything from McBride as a receiver — he has 9 career fumbles vs. 5 career receptions. His analytics profile paints the picture of someone along the lines of fellow UAB alum Jordan Howard, but with more big-play ability. Like Howard, McBride is a non-factor in the passing game, but also a bulldozer in the running game — over the last two seasons, he faced stacked boxes on 46% of his carries (2nd-most among all Combine-invite RBs), averaging 6.34 YPC on these runs (best in the class). That’s what his production profile implies, but not his athletic profile — Howard was 2 inches taller and 21 pounds heavier at the Combine.

Ultimately, I do like McBride. His numbers were insane. But if bucketing for only non-Power-5 RBs, his closest analytics comps are names like Kareem Hunt, Aaron Jones, Darrell Henderson, Rashaad Penny, Elijah Mitchell, Devin Singletary, Tyler Allgeier, Josh Adams, Donnel Pumphrey, and Ito Smith. There are some big misses here, but McBride is also near or at the top of this list by every predictive rushing metric we have. The lack of pass-catching usage, or the one-dimensional nature of his profile certainly caps his upside. But I still like him quite a bit more than many of the RBs likely to be drafted ahead of him.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

McBride was drafted in Round 7, which means it’s highly unlikely he’s ever going to be a meaningful fantasy contributor. But that’s true for just about all Day 3 RBs, so his draft capital disadvantage (relative to names like Eric Gray and Evan Hull) isn’t all that significant to me.

Instead, he gets the edge over them due to a superior analytics profile and a superior landing spot.

With reports that Dalvin Cook could still be moved at any minute, McBride’s only competition for touches would be Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu (22 career carries), and Ty Chandler (6 career carries). Mattison did just sign a new contract in free agency (a modest 2-year deal with only $3.9M guaranteed), but he’s also been the single-least efficient RB in football over the past two seasons:

13. Zach Evans, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Height: 5’11”, Weight: 202 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.50*

SPORQ: 65.2*, Former: 5-star, Age: 21.9

Draft Capital: RB15, Round 6, pick No. 215 overall

Analytics Profile

On one hand, my model really liked how absurdly hyper-efficient Evans was:

Evans averages 6.89 YPC throughout his career. That ranks 11th-most by any Power 5 RB since at least 2000 (min. 250 career carries). He leads the class in career explosive run rate (21.3%), and — among all Power 5 RBs in this class — ranks 2nd-best in career yards after contact per attempt (4.20).

But my model felt this was a little less impressive when compared to the efficiency of his teammates. (The implication being that perhaps these numbers are heavily biased by usage, offensive line play, or scheme.)

From 2020-2021, Evans averaged 7.12 YPC across the 15 games he played with the Horned Frogs. But over the same span, Kendre Miller averaged 8.20 YPC. In 2022 at Ole Miss, Evans was more efficient than his teammate Quinshon Judkins, but Judkins also had 1.9X as many touches. And that’s a pretty big red flag on multiple levels.

My model never likes it when a RB prospect fails to dominate touches from within his own backfield. But in Evans’ case, it’s also a little bit scarier than that. Evans detractors can say something like: “Well, presumptively, Evans fled TCU because he wasn’t confident he could beat out Miller for touches. The team didn’t seem to miss him at all, improving from 5-7 to 13-2 with a National Championship appearance. Instead, Evans goes to Ole Miss, where he was more or less neglected behind only a 3-star 18-year-old true freshman — Judkins had 130 more carries, 3 more receptions, 650 more YFS, and 7 more touchdowns.”

In Evans’ defense, my model thinks Miller is really good, and Judkins does rank as Fantasy Points’ own Devy RB3. And Evans may have simply left TCU over the coaching change (which also may have been the catalyst behind TCU’s miraculous turnaround) rather than fear over Miller taking his job.

Ultimately, my model didn’t really love him, and neither do I. Some of his efficiency metrics were really good — although he was about average in missed tackles forced per touch — but those numbers all look a lot less impressive in comparison to his teammates. And he never dominated touches, which implies capped usage at the next level, as does his 9th-percentile BMI.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

Apparently, the NFL disliked Evans even more than I did, as he was selected as just the 15th RB off the board. Nonetheless, the landing spot (Rams) is pretty good. He’ll be Cam Akers’ handcuff and may possibly offer a little more upside beyond that – through the first 10 weeks last season, Darrell Henderson handled 49% of the team’s backfield XFP.

14. Eric Gray, RB, New York Giants

Height: 5’9.5”, Weight: 202 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.62*

SPORQ: 20.2*, Former: 4-star, Age: 23.5

Draft Capital: RB11, Round 5, pick No. 172 overall

Analytics Profile

Gray is an older prospect, who transferred as a junior, and failed to fully dominate a backfield until his fourth season. But, to be fair, it was a helluva fourth year.

Through 12 games, Gray averaged 17.8 carries, 2.8 receptions, and 132.9 YFS per game. Most impressively, his 6.41 YPC average ranked well ahead of all other RBs on the team (who combined for just 4.42 YPC).

My model liked all that. It liked his bell-cow usage. It liked his teammate-adjusted efficiency. And it liked his 86 catches over the last three seasons. But it still wasn’t quite enough to get excited about him as a prospect, or to project bell-cow usage at the next level.

Gray heavily benefited from the scheme, and that shows up in our more advanced metrics. Over the past two seasons, he’s faced light fronts (6 or fewer box defenders) on 59% of his carries, which ranked 3rd-most in the class. Last season, and among all 21 RBs from this class with at least 150 touches, Gray ranked just 10th in missed tackled forced per touch (0.28) and only 12th in yards after contact per attempt (3.43).

And then he more or less bombed his Pro Day. Sure, he impressed in the short shuttle (89th percentile) and the vertical jump (83rd percentile). But his Speed Score (15th percentile), bench press (3rd percentile), and 3-Cone (29th percentile) were all alarming enough to yield a near-death-knell-equivalent SPORQ Score of 20.2.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

Gray is your Saquon Barkley handcuff, with minimal long-term upside. Given his Round 5 draft capital, it’s likely the Giants will find a more suitable Barkley replacement whenever they decide to move on.

15. Deuce Vaughn, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Height: 5’5”, Weight: 179 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.56*

SPORQ: 0.4*, Former: 3-star, Age: 21.5

Draft Capital: RB14, Round 6, pick No. 212 overall

Analytics Profile

Vaughn absolutely smashed in a number of key metrics that my model really cares about.

But he also bombed a number of key metrics. For instance, among all 20-qualifying Power 5 RBs in this class, he ranks worst in career yards after contact per attempt (2.71), and 3rd-worst in career missed tackles forced per touch (0.21).

Had this article been written several months ago, I might have felt compelled to craft a fairly persuasive bull-case argument in his favor. But, fortunately, it was not. We’re writing after the Combine and then his Pro Day. And both were an abject disaster for Vaughn.

At the Combine, we received Vaughn’s official measurements — he is 5’5” and 179 pounds. Since 1995, there have been exactly zero RBs at that height (or less) or at that weight (or less) to gain at least 600 YFS in a single NFL season.

And then, at his Pro Day, Vaughn ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds, good for a 2nd percentile Speed Score (82.8). He also disappointed in the 3-cone, running in 7.10 seconds (11th percentile if weight-adjusted). If you’re going to be slow and small, you better be agile and shifty. And unfortunately, Vaughn was neither. This altogether yielded a true death-knell-equivalent SPORQ Score of 0.4. To give better perspective, this is basically saying that since 2000, and among 650 qualifying RBs in my database, only three have a worse athletic profile than Vaughn (Duron Croson, Kenneth Darby, and Dicenzo Miller).

In his defense, he does profile as an exceptional pass-catcher — he has 48 career receptions coming from the slot (over twice as much as the next-closest Power 5 RB from this class). And my athletic model (SPORQ Score) says athleticism is fairly irrelevant for scatbacks — Theo Riddick, Jacquizz Rodgers, Tarik Cohen, Andre Ellington, and Darren Sproles were all in the sub-25th percentile by SPORQ Score, while James White, Dion Lewis, and Brian Westbrook were sub-33rd percentile. So, that’s your glimmer of hope if you want it — there’s a very-extremely, teeny-tiny, impossibly-small chance he’s the next Darren Sproles, if you like scouting helmets in addition to profiles.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

In a heartwarming moment on Day 3, Cowboys scout Chris Vaughn called his son Deuce to tell him the Cowboys were drafting him.

He’ll compete for touches alongside Tony Pollard, Ronald Jones, Rico Dowdle, and Malik Davis. His (potentially nepotism-influenced) Round 6 draft capital would (in theory) give him a leg up on Dowdle and Davis.

I wouldn’t expect much from him in Year 1. But hey, who knows — maybe he really is the next Darren Sproles.

16. Kenny McIntosh, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Height: 6’0”, Weight: 204 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.62

Combine SPORQ: 10.9, Pro Day SPORQ: 22.6, Former: 4-star, Age: 23.2

Draft Capital: RB18, Round 7, pick No. 237 overall

Analytics Profile

Given the lack of buzz surrounding McIntosh, I was really surprised by how much my Production Model seemed to like him. But digging deeper, it’s easy to see why.

Although McIntosh never dominated the backfield in terms of touches, that’s also true for just about every Georgia RB — even the ones with Day 1-2 draft capital. Rather, McIntosh did dominate high-value touches. His 43 receptions and 505 receiving yards in 2022 are the most ever by a Georgia RB (ahead of names like Todd Gurley, D’Andre Swift, Knowshon Moreno, and James Cook, all of whom went in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft).

And, by just about every metric we have — especially the predictive ones — McIntosh was legitimately elite as a receiver. In 2022, he led all Power 5 RBs in both YPRR (2.20) and yards after the catch per reception (12.3), ranked behind only Bijan Robinson in YPT average (10.4), and put together an all-time great season by YPTOE:

My model didn’t love McIntosh’s lack of raw carries but did see significant upside there in the event he gets more work in the pros. Among all Power 5 RBs in this class, he ranks behind only Roschon Johnson and Bijan Robinson in career missed tackles forced per rushing attempt (0.33). Combine that with his pass-catching efficiency metrics — for instance, a class-best 0.43 career missed tackles forced per reception average (min. 50 career receptions) — and you can start to see why my model was incredibly optimistic regarding his bell-cow potential.

Sure, he never dominated touches at Georgia. But he was an elite tackle-breaking machine on those touches. So, maybe he’s the next Josh Jacobs — who was similarly elite by missed tackles forced per touch, but who also couldn’t separate from a crowded backfield at Alabama (a backfield that includes NFL RBs Damien Harris, Najee Harris, and Brian Robinson, all with Day-2-or-better draft capital.) Remember, Georgia typically employs a committee backfield. And McIntosh was also playing alongside two of our top-25 Devy RBs last year, and then NFL RBs James Cook and Zamir White before that.

Unfortunately, after a disastrous performance at the Combine and then his Pro Day, I find this argument a little less compelling. And instead, I began to side more with the NFL Mock Draft Cognoscenti that, “Ehhh… He’s probably not much more than a scatback at the next level.”

McIntosh recorded a 22.6 SPORQ Score at his Pro Day (which was better than his Combine score). At the Combine, he gave us a 5th percentile BMI and a 15th percentile Speed Score. At his Pro Day, he posted a 24th percentile vertical jump, 15th percentile broad jump, and a 1st percentile 3-Cone (weight-adjusted or not). Had his 7.69 3-Cone come at the Combine, it would rank tied for 2nd-worst (weight-adjusted or not) of 365 qualifiers since 2000.

A 22.6 SPORQ Score is a death-knell-equivalent score, so he did fall a sizable distance from where my Production Model originally had him. Granted, there are some outliers in this range — Arian Foster, Ricky Williams, Brian Westbrook, Darren Sproles, Justin Forsett, Theo Riddick, Dion Lewis, Devin Singletary, Jacquizz Rodgers, Tarik Cohen, and Andre Ellington. But by my count, only 4 of the 158 total names on this list (30th percentile SPORQ or below) were true fantasy difference makers (implying 2.5% odds). It never feels good to bet on a player being an outlier ex ante. But even with his athleticism concerns factored in, I do still like him significantly more than the NFL Mock Draft Cognoscenti.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

McIntosh’s draft capital was terrible, and the landing spot is pretty unideal as well — I’m assuming McIntosh is now the favorite for the Travis Homer/ DeeJay Dallas pass-catching role, which (historically) has been fairly worthless.

Nonetheless, I still think McIntosh is a lot more talented than draft capital and dynasty drafters will give him credit for. And, at least, I’m not the only one who thinks so.

17. Sean Tucker, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Height: 5’9”, Weight: 207 lbs, 40-yard-dash: N/A

SPORQ: DNQ, Former: 3-star, Age: 21.5

Draft Capital: UDFA

Analytics Profile

My more basic model really liked how Tucker was able to immediately cement himself as the RB1 of a Power 5 team — as an 18.9-year-old true freshman, he out-touched the next-closest RB by 95. And it really liked how dominant he was in his follow-up season, posting a 246/1496/12 line as a runner (6.08 YPC) and a 20/255/2 line as a receiver. And this all becomes more impressive when appropriately contextualizing that this Syracuse offense was more or less a flaming trash heap minus him. For instance, he ranked 2nd on the team in receiving yards, and he accounted for 39.8% of the team’s total YFS — an elite mark.

Unfortunately, my more advanced model — the more predictive one, which I use to compile these rankings — didn’t really see a special talent. In that great 2021 season, he ranked only 21st among Power 5 RBs in missed tackles forced per touch (0.26), or 7th among all Power 5 RBs in this class (min. 150 touches). And then he was disastrously bad in 2022, ranking 14th-worst of 55-qualifying RBs in the same stat, and 12th-worst by yards after contact per attempt (2.79). This puts him in the same bucket as Israel Abanikanda, only his YPC average wasn’t anywhere near as impressive.

One could argue there is some upside for him as receiver, given that Bijan Robinson, Deuce Vaughn, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Evan Hull are the only other RBs in this class to have hit 250 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons. But that feels more than negated by the fact that he averaged one drop every 9.5 targets over the past two seasons (2nd-worst in the class). And last season, he forced a missed tackle only once every 18.5 receptions (worst of 230 qualifying RB seasons since 2014) and recorded a -31% YPTOE (6th percentile).

To further complicate matters, Tucker wasn’t medically cleared to participate in the Combine, due to an unspecified medical issue. This led some well-connected names (such as ProFootballNetwork’s Tony Pauline) to speculate that Tucker would likely go undrafted as NFL teams struggled to determine whether or not Tucker would even be allowed to play professional football. According to one NFL executive (via Go Long’s Bob McGinn): “Because of an ongoing heart issue that was revealed at the combine, his football future is in jeopardy… Essentially, he could be done.”

Tucker did eventually earn medical clearance and had his Pro Day a few days before the draft, but decided not to run the 40-yard dash, which my model views as a damning red flag.

Ultimately, I like Tucker a lot less than the dynasty community but maybe a little bit more than his projected draft capital. He seems like a decent player to gamble on in Round 4 of a pre-Draft rookie draft, but not any earlier than that. Of course, there’s a chance he never plays an NFL snap, but he also possesses more upside than your typical late-Day 3 prospect.

Landing Spot / Draft Capital / TLDR

As expected, Tucker did not hear his name called over the weekend. But he was able to pick his own team. And in this case, the landing spot is pretty good.

Tampa Bay will likely add a veteran to their roster by Week 1 — but then again, maybe not, as they try to win the Caleb Williams sweepstakes. As it stands, Tucker will be competing for touches with only Rachaad White, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Chase Edmonds, and Patrick Laird.

And that feels like pretty soft competition to me. White – the heavy favorite for bell-cow duties – ranked 5th-worst of 50-qualifying RBs by rushing yards over expectation per carry. Although I was somewhat high on White in this space last year, I’ve since soured on him – his prospect profile looks a lot less impressive now after Sun Devils RB Xazavian Valladay (UDFA to the Houston Texans) nearly duplicated his 2022 numbers in 2023.

Scott Barrett combines a unique background in philosophy and investing alongside a lifelong love of football and spreadsheets to serve as Fantasy Points’ Chief Executive Officer.