2023 NFL Draft: Highest-graded draft-eligible running backs by season

Texas running back Bijan Robinson runs the ball vs. Texas Christian University at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas on Oct. 2, 2021. Syndication Austin American Statesman

  • Bijan Robinson had an all-time season this past year: The Texas running back recorded a 95.3 grade in 2022, the second-best mark of the PFF College era.
  • Deuce Vaughn was the highest-graded in two seasons: The Kansas State running back may be small in stature, but he was the highest-graded running back from the 2023 NFL Draft in both 2021 and 2020.
  • Xazavian Valladay led the way in 2019: Before transferring to Arizona State, Valladay was the highest-graded running back in the 2023 draft in 2019 while at Wyoming.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The 2023 NFL Draft is nearly a month away, making it almost time for teams to start finalizing their grades on prospects.

Here’s a look back at the highest-graded running backs who are eligible to be picked in this year’s draft by season.

2022

Robinson is the best running back prospect since at least Saquon Barkley thanks to being one of the most prolific tackle-breakers PFF has ever seen. His 39% career forced missed tackle rate is tied with Javonte Williams for the best since we began charting college football in 2014. Robinson’s 104 forced missed tackles in 2022 were the most in a single season in the PFF College era as well. His 95.3 grade in 2022 was the second-highest we’ve seen by an FBS running back, trailing only Blake Corum that same season.

Highest-graded seasons by an FBS running back in the PFF College era (Since 2014)

Name School Season Grade
Blake Corum Michigan 2022 96.2
Bijan Robinson Texas 2022 95.3
Javonte Williams North Carolina 2020 94.3

He’s the top running back prospect on PFF’s big board and is the rare one worthy of a first-round selection.


2021

Vaughn was the second-highest-graded running back in 2021, only trailing Dameon Pierce. That year, Vaughn was an incredible chain-mover, as his 21 receiving first downs/touchdowns ranked second among all backs in the country while his 74 rushing first downs/touchdowns were tied for 11th. Despite standing just 5-foot-5 and 179 pounds, Vaughn is still a top-10 running back prospect on PFF’s big board and is considered a third-round prospect.


2020

Vaughn also led the way in 2020. As a true freshman, his 89.1 receiving grade trailed only Travis Etienne among all FBS running backs. His 369 yards after the catch and 136 receiving yards after contact were behind only Etienne and Najee Harris among Power Five running backs.


2019

Before transferring to Arizona State in 2022, Valladay spent four years at Wyoming. He posted the seventh-most yards after contact in 2019 among Group of Five running backs (851). Valladay’s 53 rushing first downs/touchdowns that season were the fourth-most in the Mountain West.

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