- Best contact balance: Texas’ Bijan Robinson doesn’t just have the best contact balance in the class, but the best we’ve ever graded in college.
- Well-rounded: UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet is the only back to take home multiple superlatives.
- Excellent class: This year’s superlatives were hotly contested in one of the best running back class we’ve charted.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
In such a deep running back class, there’s no shame in not seeing a player’s name highlighted below. You better believe, though, that if a running back did crack through to be recognized as the cream of the crop in a particular aspect of the position, they’re pretty darn elite in that regard.
Best Home-Run Speed: Devon Achane, Texas A&M
4.32. Even that number that Achane put up in the 40-yard dash doesn’t quite do his speed justice given how it affects opposing safeties trying to judge their angles in the open field. Adding to his effectiveness is how easily he can change directions while running at nearly full speed. He's going to be an exciting weapon for a creative offensive coordinator at the next level.
Devon Achane has elite speed (10.26 100m).
Speed is not a valuable trait if you can’t navigate space to use it. Achane is patient, runs hard, and has a great pace to his game.
— Full-Time Dame ???? (@DP_NFL) March 24, 2022
Most Untouchable: Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
Vaughn is one of the most agile running back prospects you’ll ever see. It’s not surprising considering he has the lowest center of gravity that you’ll ever see on a running back at 5-foot-5. While he technically only “broke” 132 tackles on 646 carries over his career, there were numerous other times he made defenders miss so badly it couldn’t even register as a tackle attempt.
Deuce Vaughn makes cuts sometimes that break my brain pic.twitter.com/37fiQcsHm5
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) February 25, 2023
Best Contact Balance: Bijan Robinson, Texas
Robinson broke the PFF college single-season record for broken tackles with 104 in 2022, which came a year after he finished third in the FBS with 79 broken tackles in only 10 games as a sophomore. If you’re looking for reasons why Robinson is considered such a special prospect, start here.
Even if you don’t follow college football, Bijan Robinson is a name you need to know for fantasy in 2023. He’s the closest thing we’ve ever seen to Barry Sanders. pic.twitter.com/mkYHX73dkt
— Kyle Lindemann (@LuckIsMadeFF) October 15, 2022
Best Vision: Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
Charbonnet, as well as the man above him on this list, have pretty darn good vision that’s very projectable to the next level. You see Charbonnet operate routinely in tight quarters and look unfazed, which is why he has one of the most NFL-translateable skillsets in the class.
One player to watch today is Zach Charbonnet. Am told teams really like him as a runner, as well as how much he’s improved in pass pro and as a receiver. The looming question is this: just how fast is he? pic.twitter.com/FPKCtkpJ55
— Kyle Lindemann (@LuckIsMadeFF) March 5, 2023
Best Short-Yardage Back: Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
This goes hand-in-hand with the superlative above to a degree. Charbonnet converted 78.4% of his carries with three yards or less to go the past two seasons while recording the fourth-most conversions in college football over that span (69). He’s a physical runner at nearly 220 pounds who can also make guys miss. That’s the perfect blend you want in a short-yardage back.
Best Receiver: Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
This is where Gibbs really shines, which is why he’s RB2 on pretty much every public-facing draft board you can find. For his career, Gibbs has hauled in 103 passes for 1,215 yards and eight scores, and he did it all while letting only two passes slip through his hands his entire career. He’s one of the best pure receiving backs of the PFF era
Can’t help but feel like I’m watching an Alvin Kamara clone in #Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs. The slippery ability in the open field, the glide as he runs, insane contact balance, added boost in the receiving game.
Love the ability to set up his own blocks, create lanes w/vision. pic.twitter.com/1CQUaz65zB
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) September 28, 2022