The NFL Draft is less than 10 days away, and you should know by now who the best running back is coming into the league. He might be the best overall player from a talent perspective, and that's Texas running back Bijan Robinson.
Barring a terrible landing spot for a team, Robinson should be the No. 1 player selected in all rookie-only drafts for Dynasty leagues. And he has the potential to be a high draft pick in redraft leagues as well -- maybe even Round 1.
While Robinson has the chance to be special, he is part of a talented rookie class. Jahmyr Gibbs from Alabama and Zach Charbonnet from UCLA join Robinson as the top three incoming rookie running backs prior to the NFL Draft, and other guys who could make an impact include Kendre Miller (TCU), Devon Achane (Texas A&M), Tank Bigsby (Auburn), Tyjae Spears (Tulane), Zach Evans (Ole Miss), Rochon Johnson (Texas), Israel Abanikanda (Pittsburgh), Sean Tucker (Syracuse), Chase Brown (Illinois), DeWayne McBride (UAB) and Kenny McIntosh (Georgia), among others.
It's going to be fun analyzing all of these running backs following the NFL Draft. But here's a preview of the position prior to them entering the NFL.
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Teams with the biggest Fantasy opportunity
- Tampa Bay
- Las Vegas
- New Orleans
Put Robinson on the Eagles or Bengals (with Joe Mixon gone), and he might be a first-round pick in seasonal Fantasy leagues. Those are two explosive offenses with a potential need at running back, especially if Mixon is no longer in Cincinnati. It's highly unlikely Philadelphia will open the season with Rashaad Penny, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott as the only running backs on its roster.
The Chargers, for now, seem reluctant to pay Austin Ekeler, so they could be in the market for a running back. Minnesota also could be moving on from Dalvin Cook this offseason (next year for sure), and the Vikings could be looking for a running back to pair with Alexander Mattison. Buffalo added Damien Harris this offseason and has James Cook, but the Bills wouldn't surprise anyone if they went with another running back in the draft.
Denver (Samaje Perine) and Miami (Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert) filled holes at running back in free agency, but both teams could still be looking at long-term options in the NFL Draft. The Broncos don't know when Javonte Williams (knee) will be healthy, and the Dolphins under Mike McDaniel are likely to use late draft capital at running back just like the 49ers have done for years.
Arizona and Tampa Bay have potential starters in James Conner and Rachaad White, but both teams could be looking for depth in the backfield. Conner is also 28 in May, and the Cardinals could be headed for a full makeover at multiple positions.
The Cowboys (Tony Pollard), Giants (Saquon Barkley) and Raiders (Josh Jacobs) all used the franchise tag on running backs this offseason, but all three teams could be in the market for a long-term answer at the position, as well as added depth. Robinson to Dallas is a possible scenario, which would stink in the short term for 2023, but could be amazing in 2024 and beyond if Pollard isn't retained.
Tennessee already reportedly tried to trade Derrick Henry, 29, this offseason, so the Titans could be looking at a running back for the future in the NFL Draft. I'm not sure if Hassan Haskins is the long-term answer, so don't be surprised if the Titans target another running back in the draft this year. And New Orleans might look for another running back in the draft, especially with Alvin Kamara facing a potential suspension.
Robinson has the chance to be a star wherever he goes, and he looked the part at Texas in 2022. He ran for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns and caught 19 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns. Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian told NBC Sports' Peter King that Robinson could be a legitimate slot receiver in the NFL. "I probably made a couple of receivers on our team mad last season," Sarkisian said, "but he had the best hands on our team." He also forced 104 missed tackles last year and averaged 6.3 yards per carry in college. He should be a three-down running back and the type of player who could help win multiple Fantasy championships in his career.
Ideally, Robinson goes to a team where he could play right away, and I like the Eagles and Bengals the best if Mixon is released. As long as he doesn't end up in a timeshare as a rookie (see the Cowboys), he could be a first-round pick in the majority of leagues in 2023. He's that good and has that much upside.
Gibbs will remind anyone who watches him of Alvin Kamara, and he could make an impact in the passing game similar to Kamara, Austin Ekeler or Christian McCaffrey with enough opportunities. He played one season at Alabama in 2022 and led the Crimson Tide with 926 rushing yards and a team-leading 44 catches for 444 receiving yards. He scored a combined 10 touchdowns and averaged 6.1 yards per carry and 10.1 yards per catch. Gibbs is on the smaller side for a typical featured back at 5-foot-9, 199 pounds, but he should make a significant impact as a receiver. He could be a star in PPR for many years to come.
Imagine if the Chargers managed to trade Ekeler and just put Gibbs in his place? Or if the Saints decided to replace Kamara with Gibbs? The Eagles and Bengals are also good landing spots, and I would love Gibbs in Minnesota as a complement to Mattison. And if Javonte Williams isn't healthy this season, or if Sean Payton wants a different long-term running back, going to Denver could also be ideal.
It's going to be fun to see where Charbonnet lands in the NFL, and he might end up ahead of Gibbs for some Fantasy managers. He was a true workhorse for UCLA over the past two years with 398 carries for 2,496 yards and 27 touchdowns, and he also added 61 catches for 518 yards. He's a physical presence at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, and he averaged 4.15 yards after contact per attempt in college. Charbonnet could be a great fallback option for a team that wanted Robinson but didn't get him.
I would have no problem if the Eagles or Bengals went after Charbonnet and used him as an option on first and second down, and he might surprise some people in the passing game. The Chargers and Buccaneers could be ideal landing spots, and the Chargers have a history with UCLA running backs after selecting Joshua Kelley in Round 4 in 2020. With the Chargers, Charbonnet could play in tandem with Ekeler in 2023 and then replace him as the starter in 2024. And in Tampa Bay, Charbonnet could become the starter, with White remaining in a complementary role in the passing game.
Kendre Miller, TCU
Miller was a big reason why the Horned Frogs had a big season in 2022 when he had 1,399 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. In three seasons at TCU, he averaged 6.7 yards per rush. He only had 29 catches for 229 yards and a touchdown in college, and we'll see if can make a bigger impact in the passing game in the NFL. Miller did not test at the NFL Combine after recovering from postseason knee surgery, but he should be fine for training camp. While the lack of testing might impact his draft stock, Fantasy managers should be excited about Miller if he ends up with the right team.
According to reports, Miller had visits with the Cowboys, Saints, Rams, Cardinals and Giants. Of those teams, the Cowboys would be his best bet for Fantasy fortune in the future if Pollard is gone in 2024. The Saints could also work if Kamara is suspended and then out of New Orleans next year. And if the Giants and Barkley can't work out a long-term deal, Miller could be great as the lead running back for Brian Daboll after 2023.
Last year, the running back who started to gain the most buzz following the Senior Bowl was Dameon Pierce. This year, it's Spears, and we'll see if he can make a similar impact in the NFL as a Day 2 or 3 surprise. He's coming off a great 2022 at Tulane with 1,581 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging 6.9 yards per carry, and he added 22 catches for 256 yards and two touchdowns. He's on the smaller side at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, but he has incredible quickness and agility. For his size, you'd like to see better production in the passing game, but he should be fine in that area and dangerous once he gets the ball in space. He should be a good complementary back and should make an impact in PPR.
Spears could be ideal as an early Ekeler where he excels as a third-down back and picks his spots as a rusher. It would be great to see Spears end up with the Chargers as well, and New Orleans, Denver, Miami and Minnesota would also work. I'm not sure if he'll ever become a featured running back, although I wouldn't rule it out, but he could be a great dual threat with his receiving ability if used properly with the right team.
Israel Abanikanda, Pittsburgh
Abanikanda broke out in 2022 with Pittsburgh when he had 1,431 yards and 20 touchdowns and averaged 6.0 yards per carry. He only had 12 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown last year, but in 2021 he had 24 receptions for 197 yards and a touchdown. The 5-foot-10, 217-pound Abanikanda ran the 40-yard dash around 4.3 seconds at Pitt's pro day, and he could be one of the better surprise players of this draft class at any position. He could end up being one of the best steals for the NFL team that selects him, similar to what happened with Isiah Pacheco in 2022 with the Chiefs.
I'm not sure if Abanikanda comes close to what Robinson can be in the NFL or even Gibbs or Charbonnet, but he's in the discussion to be right behind those guys. Where he ends up will ultimately determine his Fantasy value, but I would love him in all the top situations -- Philadelphia, Cincinnati, the Chargers or Minnesota. He might not make a huge impact as a rookie, but given enough touches, he will make you take notice of him. And if given the chance to start he could prove to be a potential starting Fantasy running back in all leagues.