I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but it sounds like many people believe that every NFL team had an amazing draft. The lowest grade given to any team by NFL.com was a C+ (Lions). Fox Sports gave the Denver Broncos their lowest grade with a C-, while Bleacher Report agreed with them, giving Denver the only D grade I’ve seen for any team get in a draft grade article. Even The Pat McAfee Show asked, “Did Every Team Win in The 2023 NFL Draft?” The harshest draft grades I’ve found anywhere were from CBS’ Pete Prisco, who handed out several C- grades, but none lower than that. Even fellow DLFer John Hogue thought everyone hit it out of the park this year.
Very few landing spots I dislike this year. WRs with the draft capital they need, RBs with clear paths to volume… yet Twitter is in mourning. What am I missing?
— John Hogue (@SuperFlexDude) April 29, 2023
So, did everyone really nail the draft? As a miserable pessimist to my core, I sat through the draft, scrolling through my phone, looking at each selection, and I found a reason for each pick to make me sick. In this four-part series, I’ll look at each position group individually and tell you why I think every pick stinks. So, while everyone else on the planet is ranting and raving about the incredible results of the 2023 NFL Draft, let me take you for a walk on the dark side.
In the first edition, I looked at quarterbacks; this time, I’m destroying the narratives on the darlings of the fantasy football community – the running backs.
1.08, Bijan Robinson, RB ATL
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The Falcons have gone with an offensive skill position player in the first round of the last two drafts, and as a result of their efforts, they were picking in within the top ten again. See you back here next year, folks. Robinson is uber-talented, but his supporting cast stinks and will drag him down with them.
1.12, Jahmyr Gibbs, RB DET
DLF’s Mike Havens tweeted out this fun little chart of all the sub-200-pound running backs over the last decade. For Gibbs to succeed, he’ll be a 1-in-64 outlier. Spoiler alert, Gibbs isn’t the only back in this class who appears on this list.
List of every RB since 2014 who weighed in at the combine under 200 pounds. Gibbs is at 199. pic.twitter.com/p1JyBAnpCS
— Mike E Havens (@MikeEHavens) April 28, 2023
2.21, Zach Charbonnet, RB SEA
Nothing screams fantasy volume like this year’s second-round pick sharing touches with last year’s second-round pick Kenneth Walker. Gotta love Pete Carroll.
3.08, Kendre Miller, RB NO
Enjoy this for the two-to-four games Alvin Kamara is suspended before he returns to RB3 status behind Kamara and the newly signed Jamaal Willimas coming off of an insane 17-touchdown campaign.
3.18, Tyjae Spears, RB TEN
Derrick Henry has averaged 303 touches over the last five seasons in which he has played 16 games. I’m sure the rookie from Tulane will eat into those heavy volume totals, especially after it was revealed that Spears is rumored to have suffered two torn ACLs in the past, in addition to full-thickness cartilage loss and arthritis. We’ve never seen a running back’s career derailed by knee injuries, so Spears should be good to go.
3.21, Devon Achane, RB MIA
Remember that chart of the sub-200-pound running backs? Achane is on that list too. I’d be super impressed if the Dolphins were assembling a track meet squad. However, since they’re assembling a football team, I’m less than impressed.
3.25, Tank Bigsby, RB JAC
Of course, there’s a significant role in the same backfield with 2020 first-round pick Travis Etienne and the newly signed D’Ernest Johnson and pass catcher JaMycal Hasty already in place. The Jags had the sixth-fewest passes to running backs in 2022 and were 19th in rushing attempts. That would be a small pie to split up, even if it were split two ways.
4.13, Roschon Johnson, RB CHI
Johnson was considered valuable due to his leadership, popularity in the locker room, special teams acumen, and experience as a former quarterback. Unfortunately, I’ve heard more about those things than I’ve heard about him actually being a running back. It’ll be a lot of fun watching Justin Fields score rushing touchdowns with Johnson clapping for him from the backfield. Get your leagues converted to point-per-watching-someone-else-score formats.
5.08, Israel Abanikanda, RB NYJ
This might be the worst landing spot among all the 2023 rookies. Buried behind the incredible Breece Hall, the reliable Michael Carter, and out-of-nowhere breakout Zonovan Knight, there is no conceivable path to Izzy seeing meaningful playing time, barring multiple catastrophic injuries ahead of him. Brutal. I loved his tape and was hoping for a much better landing spot.
5.28, Chase Brown, RB CIN
Rex Burkhead, Brandon Wilson, Mark Walton, Trayveon Williams, and Chris Evans; that’s the list of your Cincinnati Bengals’ day three running back selections over the last decade. Just add Brown to the end of that list, and now what do you think? A who’s-who of multiple names we all got excited about on draft day that are now clogging up waiver wires everywhere. Welcome to the club, Chase Brown.
5.37, Eric Gray, NYG
Saquon Barkley led all running backs in snaps last year. I’m sure the fifth-round compensatory pick will eat into that number this year.
5.41, Evan Hull, RB IND
Two years ago, when healthy, Jonathan Taylor was third among running backs with 767 snaps. I’m sure the fifth-round compensatory pick will eat into that number this year.
6.16, Chris Rodriguez Jr, RB WAS
I can’t make any sense of this pick at all — purely a depth move and nothing more. The rumors circling the Twitterverse say that the Commanders had a third-round grade on him too. I wish they took him in the third so I could hate it even more.
6.35, Deuce Vaughn, RB DAL
Do you remember that chart of the sub-200-pound running backs? Vaughn is tied for the sixth-lightest weight at the position since 2014. No reason the 5’5″, 179-pound Vaughn can’t fill the role of the recently departed 6’0″, 225-pound Ezekial Elliott. He’s lucky his Pops is an employee of the team, so he’ll have someone in-house to talk to when he gets placed on the practice squad during the pre-season.
6.38, Zach Evans, RB LAR
I almost slipped and wrote something positive. First, Evans was replaced by Kendre Miller at TCU, then by Quinshon Judkins at Ole Miss. Getting outplayed at two college programs is almost always a great indicator of success at the NFL level.
7.05, DeWayne McBride, RB MIN
McBride caught five balls on 36 targets during his entire collegiate career. Not quite sure how that translates to today’s pass-happy NFL game. As we all know, there are tons of two-down backups who are fantasy relevant.
7.18, Lew Nichols, RB GB
The Packers love adding a third running back to their two-running back rotations late in drafts. Kylin Hill, Dexter Williams, and Devante Mays were all late-round additions to the Pack’s seemingly always-crowded backfield. Nichols should have just as big of an impact as those guys.
7.20, Kenny McIntosh, RB SEA
If you thought Charbonnet was in a tough spot, imagine being a seventh-rounder getting added into the mix while also being behind former fourth-round pick DeeJay Dallas. But I guess being on a practice squad is better than not being in the NFL.
Fantasy owners love themselves some running backs. This year will be no different. Many managers will do whatever they can to acquire several of the names above, only to find themselves cutting them when it’s time to add players off of waivers in week three. Good luck stuffing the back end of your rosters with day-three picks. See you next time with wide receivers.
- Optimisery: The Case For and Against JuJu Smith-Schuster in New England - August 19, 2023
- Optimisery: The Case For and Against Lamar Jackson in Baltimore - August 13, 2023
- Optimisery: The Case For and Against Derek Carr in New Orleans - August 5, 2023