When looking back at summer scouting lists of the top 2024 NFL Draft running backs, there were a handful of names that were always at the top -Treveyon Henderson, Trey Benson, Blake Corum. One name you would rarely seem to see though was that of Notre Dame running back Audric Estimé.
It’s safe to say that four games into the Fighting Irish’s 2023 season, this situation will have changed. Estimé has not just been one of the best players for Notre Dame this season, he’s been one of the best running backs in the entire country.
Estimé’s season so far in numbers
Notre Dame have started their season 4-0 and Estimé has been a pivotal part of that success. Through four outings he has earned 62 carries, which he has turned into 521 yards and five touchdowns. In the process, he has become the first Fighting Irish running back to have three straight 100+ yard games since Tony Jones in 2019.
He is averaging an absurd 8.4 yards per attempt, which ranks third amongst running backs with at least 30 attempts. When you compare his production to the rest of Notre Dame’s backfield, he has logged a Relative Yards Per Carry (rYPC) total of +3.5. That is good enough to rank eighth in the FBS.
Estimé’s production also compares favorably to other top draft-eligible prospects. His 1.27 RYOE puts him ahead of the likes of Treveyon Henderson and Trey Benson, two of the names often talked about as the RB1 of the 2024 class.
The numbers don’t stop there. Per PFF, Estimé leads the FBS in missed tackles forced (28), explosive carries (15), and rushing first downs (22). He also ranks second in breakaway carries, with seven.
Whilst he is rarely utilized as a receiver, he has even shown some promise there. Estimé has caught all five of his targets, averaging 11 yards per reception. His total of 1.77 yards per route run ranks 27th of 122 running backs with at least five targets.
Projecting Estime’s game to the NFL
Producing well at the college level is one thing, but being able to translate that success to the NFL field is another thing entirely. The good news is that Estimé’s skillset is eminently suited to the pro level.
At 5’11” and 227lbs, he has an impressive size profile that compares well to Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb. He plays with good pad level and the kind of power profile you would expect too. You won’t often see Estimé taken down on first contact.
Another trait that is essential to succeed at the NFL level is vision, and Estimé ticks that box too. He shows good patience behind the line of scrimmage and knows how to pace his runs in order to let his blocks develop in front of him. His quick processing ability also shows up when plays break down, with the requisite intelligence to find alternative running lanes.
Estimé is rarely used in the passing game, but he has shown good hands when called upon and has the play strength and effort to put in a shift as a pass protector on third downs. There’s every reason to think that with a little more exposure, Estimé could develop into a solid receiving option at the next level.
The main questions are going to be about Estimé’s athletic profile. He doesn’t boast great long speed, and he can look a little stiff-hipped at times when asked to elude defenders in the open field. Nevertheless, he’s got more than enough in this department to be able to hold his own in the NFL.
There are still plenty of games to be played between now and the end of the season. A lot can change in that time frame, but with the way Estimé is playing right now, he deserves to be mentioned amongst the top backs in this year’s class.