Running back rankings may have seen their value drop, especially financially, but for draft fans, they remain important. Fans and media are always looking for who will spoil the ball that is the NFL Draft by being a first-round running back.
In the 2023 installment of everyone’s favorite offseason activity, there were two selected. One was Bijan Robinson who was dubbed special enough to be selected eighth overall while Jahmyr Gibbs was selected 12th overall.
Will there be a running back who earns that high a grade to be selected that high?
Based on my Summer scouting, no, but that isn’t the end all be all. The 2023 college football season will be necessary for each of the guys inside my top five—time to meet the top five and discuss what they bring to the table.
Kicking off these running back rankings is the most explosive back in the class in Donovan Edwards. The Michigan Wolverine shares a backfield with Blake Corum, and a spotlight as well. However when he gets a chance to take on the work he never disappoints in making the most of it. Whether it be showing explosiveness as a runner or proving capable as a pass catcher, Edwards can do it all. That do-it-all ability is going to make him look very good to a lot of teams come April.
Another complete back with the build of a Rhino, Raheim Sanders could easily top running back rankings come next April. While Sanders can do work out of the backfield he would much instead use his size and burst to break through the line of scrimmage before turning on the jets for a long gain. According to his head coach Sam Pittman, Sanders is down to 242 this Summer, and “there is no fat left to shed.” The muscle of Sanders will look to work over SEC defenses again this Fall.
Trey Benson may lead off some summer running back rankings but don’t let the third spot fool you. The top three of these rankings graded out very close to each other and could be sorted in any order. Benson is the size of the other two but he is arguably the fastest and possesses the best breakaway speed. If he finds a corner he is gone leaving an entire defense behind him, with his size will be interesting to see him test through the process and play this fall.
The youngest and arguably most physically impressive player in these running back rankings, Braelon Allen has the most to gain this fall. Allen came out as a freshman and looked to be the next legendary Wisconsin running back but last year as a Sophomore he saw himself falter a bit. At his best, Allen looks to be a Derrick Henry clone both physically and on film but when he doesn’t it can be a head-scratcher. To his benefit, he will be 19 years old for most of the season and will be 20 when the draft rolls around, young fresh legs leave a ton of room for growth this year and beyond.
Speaking of players with something to prove, TreVeyon Henderson is in the same exact boat as Allen. The number one running back in his recruiting class, Henderson also had a great Freshman season before being hurt as a Sophomore. The talent is there, it won’t go away that easy, but he is facing a tougher task with his team’s running back situation. Miyan Williams also is in the Buckeye backfield and proved more than capable of replacing Henderson last year. He will have to be ready to grab back the reigns of the Buckeye offense the minute they become available this Fall.
Rounding Out the Top Ten
6. Blake Corum, Michigan
7. Miyan Williams, Ohio State
8. Will Shipley, Clemson
9. Bucky Irving, Oregon
10. Montrell Johnson Jr., Florida