Dynasty League Football is the premier source for dynasty fantasy football analysis, and its contributors are the top minds in the industry. So, we needed to figure out how the team at DLF feels about the 2023 class of rookies! We surveyed the team, and we’ll analyze the results in a four-part series, continuing here with the running backs!
Bijan Robinson is the undisputed, consensus number-one running back in this class and the number-one pick in dynasty rookie drafts. We’ll analyze just how good Robinson is, and try to find the best of the rest in this running-back class.
Let’s see what the DLF team has to say about this draft!
The only thing that could take some helium out of Bijan Robinson’s balloon is a bad landing spot. Nobody wants to see Robinson land on a team where he’ll be used in an ugly committee. The teams with the biggest need at running back either have bigger needs, or don’t have the draft capital necessary to select him. More than half of the DLF crew believes Robinson will land in the NFC East, either to the Eagles or the Cowboys.
The Eagles have multiple first-round draft picks, but the tenth pick seems too high for them to take Robinson, and the 30th pick is likely too late. If the Eagles do use one of those picks on him, or move up from 30, it would certainly be an outstanding landing spot. Miles Sanders is gone and the Eagles only brought in Rashaad Penny on a minuscule contract to replace him. This is a high-powered offense that will score a ton of points and leans on the running game often. Robinson would be an absolute stud in Philly.
After the Eagles and Cowboys, the Chargers and Falcons each received 10.5% of the vote. The Bengals, Texans and Bills also received votes.
We also asked the DLF team “Is there a landing spot for Robinson that would push him out of the number one spot in rookie drafts? If so, which team or teams would push him out of the number one spot?” 63% of responders said no, there isn’t a landing spot that would knock Robinson out of the 1.01 pick. Some teams mentioned by the other 37% were the Bills, Lions, Colts, Patriots, Eagles, Ravens and 49ers.
With all the hype surrounding Robinson, one asks themselves how “generational” is this generational talent? 63.2% of responders said Robinson is an outstanding running back prospect, but he isn’t the best we’ve seen since the 2014 draft.
Most contributors surveyed mentioned Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley as high-regarded prospects than Bijan Robinson. Jake Domoskos explained his selection saying: “I’d put Saquon Barkley ahead of him. He’s neck and neck with Elliott for number two.” I personally said he ranks four or five overall, ranking Christian McCaffrey ahead of him along with Elliott and Barkley, but I certainly hope he ends up being the best.
Believe it or not, there are other running backs who will be drafted this year aside from Robinson. Two of the best of the rest are Jahmyr Gibbs out of Alabama and UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet. They’re the consensus number two and three running backs, but what will they do at the NFL level?
The DLF staff believes Gibbs and Charbonnet will both have a top-ten running back season in their career, voting at 68.3% and 63.2% respectively. A top-ten season is nice, but a top-five season is even better. 26.3% of the DLF staff believes Gibbs will have a top-five season while only 5.3% believe Charbonnet can do it. “SuperFlexDude” John Hogue voted for Gibbs to have a top-five season and for Charbonnet to top out at an RB 6-10 season. On Gibbs, he said: “He needs someone to trust him with a full workload, not just pigeonhole him as a pass-catching specialist. But with a lead back role, top-five is within reach.” When explaining his Charbonnet pick, Hogue said: “I’m actually not a big fan of Charbonnet; he’s way too patient and indecisive for me… but all it takes is a full healthy season to finish top-ten.”
We have established DLF’s thoughts on the top three running backs, but after that, consensus rankings go in several different directions. Checking out the official DLF Consensus Rankings, Devon Achane is the fourth-ranked running back, but individual rankers place him as high as three and as low as seven. Tyjae Spears is fifth, with a high of four and a low of 11th. Kendre Miller is next, with a high of fourth and a low of 13th! With so much confusion about the next running back, we had to bring in more DLF contributors to determine who the fourth running back should be in our rankings.
Tulane RB Spears got the slight edge in our survey over Texas A&M’s Achane. They received 26.3% and 21.1% of the vote respectively. Spears (5’9” 201 lbs.) and Achane (5’8” 188 lbs.) are two of the smaller running backs in the class, but also two of the fastest. Achane ran a 4.32 at the NFL Combine, the fastest in the class, while Spears ran a 4.47, seventh fastest amongst RBs. Spears was my pick for the number four running back. I wrote his pre-draft profile and loved what I saw from him. He used his small frame to get lost in the offensive line, make a cut, and break out some huge plays! Eric Hardter chose Achane and explained: “He should at least fill a niche and threaten yearly RB2 numbers.”
Israel Abanikanda and Roschon Johnson take the crown for the most underrated running backs this year, according to the contributors at DLF. Johnson was on the same team as Bijan Robinson and suffered for it playing behind a transcendent talent. Aaron St. Denis chose Johnson for this question and said: “If he had transferred when Robinson arrived at Texas, he would be the RB2 in this class.” He certainly isn’t being drafted as the number two back in this class. DLF Rookie Rankings have him ranked at tenth among running backs! Draft capital could be crucial for Johnson’s fantasy football value, but the team at DLF believes he should be higher ranked.
Abanikanda was my pick for this question, as I’m surprised he isn’t getting more hype in the pre-draft process. He led the entire nation in touchdowns last year with 21 of them, and averaged six yards per carry with a large workload. Kent Lee Platte gave him a 9.61 RAS score after some elite testing at his Pro Day. The former high school track star ran a 4.45 40-yard dash. The DLF Rookie Rankings have Abanikanda at RB9, I’d take him ahead of several players that are ranked ahead of him there.
Chase Brown was another popular pick with 15.8% of the survey, followed by Tyjae Spears at 10.5%. Devon Achane, DeWayne McBride, Evan Hull, Kendre Miller, Sean Tucker and Tank Bigsby also received votes.
Achane makes an appearance once again in this piece, this time as the most overrated running back in the class. Much of the concern comes from his minuscule frame for an NFL running back. He weighs 188 pounds and measures 5’8”. That made him the third lightest running back at the NFL Combine, and the fourth shortest. “Small RBs get dinged up quick and often… He needs to be on the field in order to produce. I worry that his size may not hold up consistently,” says DLF contributor Nick Muzzillo. While his size is a concern, his speed certainly is not. He ran a combine-best 4.32 40-yard dash in Indy, and showed his track speed translates to the football field as well. Draft capital will be important, if a team falls in love with his speed and uses an early pick on him, they’ll find ways to get him on the field.
Former five-star recruit Zach Evans got 15.8% of the vote for most overrated running back, while Jahmyr Gibbs was next up at 10.1%. Deuce Vaughn, Kenny McIntosh, Sean Tucker, Tank Bigsby, Tyjae Spears and Zach Charbonnet all received votes.
When all is said and done, the DLF staff generally loves this class of NFL running backs. Jake Domonkos put it this way: “2017 is the best class we’ve seen in that span. I think 2023 could be as good if things break right.”
Bijan Robinson is one of the best running back prospects we’ve seen in a decade, there is a solid second tier of Jahmyr Gibbs and Zach Charbonnet, and then there are about a dozen players who have a chance to make a major impact at the NFL level. “While there have been some good running backs in each class, they have mostly been top-heavy. I think this class has the ability to be one of the deepest classes of the last decade,” says Justin Taylor of DLF.
DLF contributor Eric Flynn says, “I think this year is and will be a useful gauge on the positional value of RBs in today’s NFL. I can’t wait to see some of these ‘top’ guys fall to day three and see how it affects our fantasy drafts.” Draft capital is certainly important for running backs in dynasty, and it could be more important than ever this year. With so many players who could make an impact, the amount of investment a team pays will be crucial information for our upcoming rookie drafts.
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