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The NFL Draft is not yet near, but this is the perfect time for dynasty managers to evaluate rosters and give themselves an advantage over league mates. The dynasty running back landscape is quite murky, with an entire generation of running backs (Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, and Dalvin Cook, for example) approaching the dreaded age cliff that rapidly decreases their value. The 2023 class should reinforce rosters, filling the void that the former generation will leave. Which ones will find themselves in the first round of dynasty rookie drafts?
Bijan Robinson, Texas
Junior | 6'0, 220 lbs
Most dynasty managers know Bijan Robinson's name, but becoming familiar with his game is essential. Robinson has accumulated over 2,000 scrimmage yards since arriving at Texas in 2020, and that production has come in just 19 games. He's a true workhorse running back, with an ability to split out wide or in the slot and run routes that emulate those of wide receivers. Robinson is elusive; his change of direction will make incoming tacklers miss in a phone booth. He has the size to handle a high volume of touches. He can be relied upon in between the tackles or out in space. He has dealt with injuries in his first two seasons, so an entirely healthy season would go a long way for NFL evaluators. Robinson is the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley, and he will likely hear his name called on the first night of the 2023 NFL Draft. He's likely to be a top-three rookie draft pick in every format.
Zach Evans, Ole Miss
Junior | 6'0, 215 lbs
While Robinson has had the massive production, Evans may have the highest ceiling. The former TCU Horned Frog amassed 1,063 yards on the ground in his first two seasons, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt and making the most of his touches. Evans' best ability comes with his athleticism. The former five-star recruit looks like a five-star recruit; the ankle flexion, hip flexibility, change of direction, and burst are everything dynasty managers seek in a running back. He runs with instinct, and while his footwork in the backfield can become sloppy at times, he is scheme versatile. He's a good pass catcher, though he hasn't been used as such yet. His transfer to Ole Miss will place him in an offense that just put two running backs in the NFL (Snoop Conner and Jerrion Ealy), and Evans has the talent to be a first-round NFL Draft pick. Dynasty managers should view him as a potential top-five rookie pick in 2023 drafts.
Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
Junior | 5'11, 200 lbs
Gibbs is the fantasy football stud of the bunch. After stacking nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage at Georgia Tech, Gibbs will find himself in a Bryce Young-led Alabama offense that knows how to take advantage of talented backs. Gibbs excels as a pass catcher, displaying natural hands reminiscent of a wide receiver and understanding how to maximize his yards after the catch. He's a shifty back with room to grow as a runner, though he displays more contact balance than expected when considering his size. The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft isn't out of the question. Still, it's more likely that he is a day-two pick. Gibbs will be incredibly valuable in PPR leagues, though he looks more like a complementary back than the players listed above.
Sean Tucker, Syracuse
Junior | 5'10, 210 lbs
Sean Tucker has earned a lot of buzz from draft analysts with his play at Syracuse, and rightfully so. He is a two-sport athlete, also running track and field at the school, which assists in his NFL Draft ambitions. Tucker has game-breaking speed, consistently cutting down angles and gaining chunk yardage for the Orange. He rushed for 1,496 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 20 receptions for 255 yards in 2021. Tucker was the focal point of the offense. He should look to improve his contact balance and pass-blocking ability in 2022, as those could cause concern for NFL evaluators. But he'll likely become a day-two draft pick, placing him near the middle or end of the first round of rookie drafts.
Kendall Milton, Georgia
Junior | 6'1, 220 lbs
Kendall Milton won't have an alluring production profile heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. He has only accumulated 484 scrimmage yards and a touchdown in his first two years at Georgia. Milton has battled injuries and has only played in 14 games, but his film is impressive. He runs with tenacity, consistently breaking the first tackle attempt with burst and strength. Milton is a good athlete, too, displaying more lateral agility than expected based on his size. He will need to prove he can stay on the field, but a more prominent role is in store for Milton this fall. The jump must be vast, but the NFL will covet a profile like his. While his future is hazier, he could become a late-first-round pick in rookie drafts next spring.
Tank Bigsby, Auburn
Junior | 6'0, 215 lbs
Tank Bigsby likely won't have crazy testing numbers like most of the players mentioned above, but he's a talented running back. He has rushed for 1,933 yards in two years at Auburn behind inconsistent offensive lines and a mostly abysmal passing attack. The offense relied on him heavily, and Bigsby performed. He is the definition of short-area burst. Bigsby fights for extra yardage, and while he doesn't have elite long speed, he can still reel off explosive runs. He lost efficiency with more touches in 2021, but he'll aim to grow as a receiver and show he can handle a three-down workload.
Devon Achane, Texas A&M
Junior | 5'9, 185 lbs
Devon Achane is small. That's important to remember because the NFL tends to push small players down boards. But his speed is as game-changing as anyone in the class, and NFL evaluators are constantly searching for players that create explosives. Achane does that, averaging 7.4 yards per attempt on the ground in 2021. His fantasy upside is as a pass-catching, change-of-pace back, and he looks like an early second-round pick provided he gets at least day-two capital in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Under the Radar
John Emery Jr., LSU
Senior | 5'11, 218 lbs
Emery Jr. has had a unique career, being ruled ineligible for the 2021 season before returning to the team in hopes of leading the backfield under Brian Kelly in 2022. He is a former five-star recruit, and while he never capitalized on those expectations, he has five-star athleticism. His movement skills are that of a player 30 pounds lighter, and while the off-field stuff may keep him down on boards, he should produce in 2022.
Pat Garwo III, Boston College
RS Junior | 5'8, 208 lbs
An injury to the quarterback, Phil Jurkovec, opened the door for Garwo III to show his talent in 2021, and he aims to build on those performances. He displays excellent burst, contact balance, and patience as a runner. Garwo III currently profiles as a day-three pick, but another massively productive year could put him in discussions for teams in the third round next spring.