by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports & J.T. Toth.
As this year comes to a close, Draft 412 will take a look at the 2023 and 2024 draft classes by position. The following is a current “Best Of” list for both offense and defense, taking a look back at the top players from last year’s draft party and ahead to the coming NFL selection process in April.
From Draft 412 to you…Happy Holidays and get your mock drafts ready!!
Even though the running backs may not be as coveted as they once were, teams are finding a way to make them a part of their offenses in different ways. Gone are the days of 25 plus carries a game for a team’s feature back. NFL clubs are using running backs as part of a committee and have a running back for every situation.
The 2023 NFL Draft had 18 running backs selected and here are the best of last year’s selections:
1- Miami- De’Von Achane
The Miami Dolphins have one of the league’s most explosive offenses in 2023 and De’Von Achane, a 3rd round pick out of Texas A&M, has given the Dolphins a big threat running back the offense lacked. He is averaging 8.5 yards per carry and has 9 touchdowns on the season. All in all, he has 613 yards rushing and has also chipped in with 21 receptions out of the backfield. Achane was the 6th running back selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.
2- Detroit- Jahmyr Gibbs
Jahmyr Gibbs is what a running back looks like in the new NFL. Drafted 12th overall by the Detroit Lions, Gibbs can line up anywhere and has to be accounted for on every play. He is a big reason the Detroit Lions are 10-4 and lead the NFC North. A big play running back who has already amassed 792 yards rushing, Gibbs has been a big part of the Lion’s passing attack, grabbing 47 receptions already and tallying 296 yards in the air. On the season, Gibbs has scored 8 touchdowns and it always feels like he is one tackle away from taking it to the house. At the time, some might have thought this was a reach to select him with the 12th pick, but Gibbs has proven otherwise.
3- Atlanta- Bijan Robinson
Robinson was the 8th overall pick in the NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He has not had the production some might have thought in his rookie campaign, but he has been steady when called upon. The Falcons have not overused him and have brought him along slowly and to date he has rushed for 801 yards and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He has also been a weapon out of the backfield, catching 41 passes for Atlanta. He has scored 7 touchdowns total for an offense that can’t seem to get in sync, even though they have a wealth of young talent.
As we move from the 2023 draft to the 2024 NFL Draft, here is Draft 412’s Top Ten Running Back prospects:
1- Blake Corum - Michigan
In a draft with no clear cut #1 running back, Draft Nation gives the nod to Blake Corum. His compact build and low running style along with his catch and run ability make him a valuable running back in today’s NFL. He scored 24 touchdowns this season for the Maize & Blue, showing his penchant for finding the end zone.
2- Jonathon Brooks - Texas
In his first full season as a starting running back, Jonathon Brooks improved his mid-to-late round draft stock and is now being considered a first round pick by some. His vision and cutting ability were on display all year long for Texas. He is another running back capable of hauling in passes and could have been the first running back selected in April if it were not for a season-ending knee injury suffered in November against rival TCU. His status may drop him on boards, but he’s clearly in the discussion for best runner in this class once he recovers.
3- Trey Benson - Florida State
On a team filled with high end NFL talent, Trey Benson was the glue that held it all together. His cutback ability is the best in the draft class and he is the type of runner who is almost impossible to corral behind the line of scrimmage. He ran for 906 yards for Florida State, but more importantly, averaged 5.8 yards per rush. He is going to make some team happy on day 2 of the draft.
4- Audric Estime - Notre Dame
Nobody helped themselves more in 2023 than Audric Estime. Estime is more of an old school running back who wants the ball and knows where he is going with it. At 233 lbs., he is a handful to bring down and can be an integral part of a running back committee.
5- Tre’Veyon Henderson - Ohio State
Henderson has as much talent as any back in this draft class, but he has had one problem—injuries. He has not played a full season since joining Ohio State and will need to prove to the NFL brass that he can stay healthy and play long term.
6- Donovan Edwards - Michigan
Edwards saw his production dwindle in 2023, mostly because of Blake Corum staying healthy all season long. Edwards did show he can be an effective receiver out of the backfield this past season by hauling in 30 catches. He has had some of his biggest games on the biggest stage and teams will not let him fall out of round 4.
Edwards has the option to return to Ann Arbor next year and become the feature back for the Wolverines. Draftniks will need to wait until after the college football playoffs to learn if he enters the draft or plays one more year for Michigan.
7- Bucky Irving- Oregon
Irving’s versatility is his calling card for the Ducks. He ran for over 1,000 yards and caught an astounding 53 passes in the high octane Oregon offense. He will be a running back that, given the right situation and/or scheme, could be a huge weapon in the NFL.
8- Marshawn Lloyd- USC
Lloyd is a change of pace back who the Trojans used in different situations. He has good vision and cut back ability and will be a quality pick on day 3 of the draft. He has some upside for a prospect at this point in the draft.
9- Devin Neal- Kansas
Neal is a prospect who can change his draft stock with a solid combine or big performance in a postseason bowl. He is coming off a huge season for Kansas and has steadily shot up draft boards.
10- Braelon Allen- Wisconsin
Allen has been a model of consistency during his time at Wisconsin. He is a large back (6’2” 238 lbs.) and is as powerful as they come in this draft class. This is early in the process for ranking running backs and Draft Nation would not be shocked if his spot is higher than this after the combine.