2023 NFL Draft Skill Player Preview

RB1: Bijan Robinson, Texas

Bijan Robinson is, far and away, the slam-dunk top running back in this class. Put on his tape from basically any game of 2021 and it’s easy to see why. Robinson has a special ability as a 6’0, 220-pound human being to move like he’s being possessed by some sort of tackle-breaking spirit. At least once per game, he rips off some long run, and just as you think he’s going to get caught, bang, he stutter-steps, or hits a juke, or generally makes his man look downright silly, and is gone in a flash. And you’re left there, with a clump of Texan turf in your mouth, and you’re wondering just where you went oh, so wrong with your life choices.

Robinson is both an extremely productive pure runner, and a player who can do a variety of things across the offensive side of the ball. He can catch out of the backfield and move in space with ease, and he has the vision to always hit the correct hole on a run play. I’m pretty sure if you asked him to play quarterback, he’d give you a 40-touchdown season. Production is simply part of who Robinson is as a football player and a person. It’s in his DNA.

I have very few gripes with Robinson’s game, and by season’s end, he’ll probably be a top-10 player in my overall class rankings. That being said, I’d like to see just a bit more balance in his game. Robinson has tacklers bouncing off of him game in and game out at the college level, but NFL defenders are not so easily shaken. He’ll need to add the home-run hitter ability to just run away from guys. Not to say that he’s not fast, but Robinson’s only true fault in my eyes is he lacks that second gear you see from truly elite running backs, like a Nick Chubb or Jonathan Taylor. Even then, it’s hard for me to envision a world where Robinson isn’t an absolute stud as a pro.

RB2: Devon Achane, Texas A&M

Now for something completely different. Where Bijan Robinson wins with physical domination and tackle-breaking prowess, Texas A&M’s Devon Achane succeeds with pure lightning speed. Robinson has about three inches and 40 pounds of pure muscle over him, and it simply does not matter. He may not get the shine (or have the production Robinson did in high school) but Achane gets the job done just as efficiently, and has wowed scouts with extreme quickness while doing so.

Achane was sat behind rookie Chargers running back Isaiah Spiller in 2020 and 2021, and to be fair, he must prove himself as a full-time starter now. But in limited action, Achane was stunning against high-level SEC competition. His natural speed led to a change of pace that defenses simply could not keep up with. If his body is durable enough to withstand being a first-string runner for a pro team, Achane is a lock to be picked in the top two rounds of the draft.

That’s just the thing, though. There are too many unknowns for me to crown Achane as a “sure thing” either this season, or as a professional running back. His body type isn’t one that typically holds up against NFL tacklers, and while his vision is stellar, he is going to get hit eventually. Over, and over, and over again. Time will tell, since A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher seems intent on featuring Achane in his offense. If he can hold up, it’s all systems go. If not, I’m apprehensive about his future in the league. Even with that blazing speed.

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