Updated: Mar 12
The 2023 combine running backs looked FAST and VERSATILE in Indianapolis as these runners showed off their skills for NFL talent evaluators. As a football EXPERT and former running back in the National Football League, the RB position is very intriguing to me. On one hand, the position is being very much de-valued, financially, due to the beating running backs take and most backs tend to lose their explosiveness the older they get. I believe runners need their own version of a Collective Bargaining Agreement due to the nature of the position. The RB position is the only position where when we get the football, 7 yards deep behind the line of scrimmage, ALL 11 DEFENDERS are assaulting the line of scrimmage to stop the play. No other position is like this! When a QB drops back, usually its only 4 maybe 5 guys trying to tackle him! When a receiver catches the football downfield, usually its only a few defenders making the tackle, not ALL 11! On the other hand, in championship moments, in the playoffs and Super Bowl, the physicality of the running game tends to be more effective in those championship moments. Even the mighty Kansas City Chiefs! Winning Super Bowl 57 was driven by the best player in the world in Patrick Mahomes but it was Isaiah Pacheco and this offensive line that averaged 4.8 yards per rush in the second half on 10 carries, essentially running the Chiefs to another championship. Using the passing prowess of Mahomes to open up leveraged run lanes for the Chiefs. RUNNING BACKS MATTER!
One interesting aspect of the game that I saw from this years crop of runners were that ALL OF THESE GUYS CAN CATCH! I may have only counted like 3 to 4 footballs that hit the ground in the passing game. All of this year's runners possess (even if its small) the ability to effect the passing game and with the size and speed of this year's backs, just getting them into space gives them the ability to have a positive impact on an offense early. Collectively, this group of combine prospects are a bit older than usual. You have a lot of players that stayed in school due to Covid and was granted extra years of eligibility in college. When speaking to lots of guys through the days I was there I was impressed by how much personality guys showed and even in the running back group guys spoke to me about the importance of special teams and having pride playing on special teams. Showing me these young men have the maturity to make it in the business of football because you can be physically ready for the NFL but most don't always understand the business side. Check out my top backs after seeing them up close and personal in Indy. My guy DeWayne McBride out of UAB didn't work out and yes he was pissed about it lol BUT he showed leadership staying around and helping the other backs. He plans to run at his pro day, if healthy and if his movement matches his college tape, this kid has a bright future. Overall, this is a solid group of ball carriers this year.
My top RBs in the 2023 Draft
Bijan Robinson, Texas
--this kid showed all the tools in his time at Texas and showed why he is almost unanimously the best back in this class. Great vision, speed and power with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes this kid a first rounder. Wanted to see him catch the ball out of the backfield--my guy showed soft hands and explosion! Ran the ball all the way to the end zone on all of his reps and ran a 4.46 40 yard dash. Bijan has physical traits that are very similar to a good friend of mine, BEAST MODE, Marshawn Lynch. Both guys have great size being 5'11 215lbs and for Bijan, running a 4.4 (Beast ran a 4.5) could he be more explosive?!?! Time will certainly tell but he definitely solidified his status as THE premiere backs in this years draft class. Spoke to Beast Mode about Bijan the other day. He was impressed.
Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
--probably my favorite offensive weapon in this years draft. This silky smooth runner out of Alabama put on a SHOW for the talent evaluators in Indy running a 4.36 40 yard dash while showing tremendously soft hands. As I was hosting Players Only at the Combine for NFL+, Maurice Jones Drew and I actually said on air how quiet this guy was when he ran! Real Talk, you had to strain to listen to his feet hitting the ground and his hands were just as quiet. He also stayed after and ran receiver routes out of the slot showcasing his ability to track the ball downfield as well as across the field. Jahmyr reminds me of Alvin Kamara with his tempo to the hole and his acceleration through tight spaces as well as how he effects the passing game. But don't get it twisted, this kid will run you over if he has to! A creative play caller in the NFL will have fun exploiting matchups with this kid! Can't wait to see it. Should be a first round pick! Definitely a first round talent.
Devon Achane (A-Chain), Texas A&M
--GAAAASSSS!! This young man out of Texas A&M can fly! This kid ran a 4.32 and put NFL defenders on notice! Get your mind right once this guy gets his hands on the football. At only 5'9 185 lbs, I was surprised at how much space he filled up while I was standing next to him. He is tough player to tackle, not only for the speed factor, but for the fact that this kid has ran the ball his entire life. Contact balance and possessing the toughness to run through arm tackles makes this guy a weapon. Can you imagine if Andy Reid or Sean Payton gets their hands on this guy?!?! Crazy.
Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
--probably my biggest positive surprise of all the RBs at the combine this year! This powerful runner out of UCLA (come get this BIG TEN work lol) showed his a$$ at this years combine! Dude is almost 6'1 and at 214lbs ran a low 4.5 (4.53) and let me tell you guys, in person, it looked scary to see a man that big running that powerful. For a bigger runner I was surprised to see when he got to top speed, his body sunk into the ground and he ate up more yards! Most bigger runners wanna fly! Lol meaning that when they get to top speed their shoulders tend to get high and you get that running with a tight back look hahah. Not good as one touch from a defender would send him into the sideline! Charbonnet caught the ball from the backfield and showed he can track the ball in the air on wheel and rail routes. Solid back who has starter potential in this league
Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
--most people immediately see the fact that this kid is 5'5 in height. I wouldn't call the Kansas State product short, he is just naturally leveraged to run the football!! Lol. Now Deuce did not run the 40 but he did all the RB drills and looked smooth and EXPLOSIVE! There are obvious comparisons to Darren Sproles due to height and return ability but Deuce looks more explosive! With a vertical of 35 1/2 inches and a broad jump of almost 10 feet (9'8), I cannot wait to see this guy catching a bubble or jet sweep and allowing all that speed to do work in space. I told him to work on pass pro and holding on to the football and this kid can have a long and EXPLOSIVELY successful career! He is another one that if the NFL allows Andy Reid or Sean Payton to get this kid, it's cheating.
Other RBs that Impressed Real Mike Rob
Chase Brown, Illinois
Eric Gray, Oklahoma
Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota
DeWayne McBride, UAB (injured but mind in right place)