Shaw Local’s 2023 NFL draft preview: Running backs

Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman highlight Bears’ current RBs

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet fends off Southern California defensive back Max Williams during a 2022 game in Pasadena, Calif.

Not a single running back went in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Teams continue to invest fewer and fewer high draft picks in what might be the most physically demanding position in football.

Texas running back Bijan Robinson seems poised to return running backs to the first round. Beyond Robinson, who else is available?

Here’s a look at some of the running backs available in the draft.

Day 1 prospects

Bijan Robinson, Texas

Robinson (5-11, 215) looks like a three-down back who will help an NFL team immediately. Robinson rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons, including more than 1,500 last year. He earned the Doak Walker award as the nation’s top running back in 2022. He is a fast and physical back who likely will become the first running back selected in the first round in two years.

Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama

If two running backs go in the first round, Gibbs (5-9, 199) might be the second. He also could slip into Round 2. He’s not necessarily the all-around back that Robinson is, but he could contribute for an NFL offense right away. He’s a speedy back who has no problem hauling in passes. Gibbs ran for 926 yards and seven touchdowns in his lone season at Alabama after transferring from Georgia Tech.

Day 2 prospects

Devon Achane, Texas A&M

At 5-foot-8, 188 pounds, Achane is small by NFL standards, but he plays with speed and toughness. He runs like a much bigger back, unafraid to plow through the middle among the big fellas. He caught only 20 passes in three seasons at Texas A&M. His size and durability will be a concern for teams.

Zach Charbonnet, UCLA

Charbonnet (6-0, 214) recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons after transferring from Michigan to UCLA. Among the backs available on Day 2, Charbonnet might have the best size. He can pass block and catch passes with ease, which could make him valuable on third downs. His acceleration isn’t as quick as others, but he picks up steam when he finds an opening.

Tyjae Spears, Tulane

Spears (5-10, 201) finished last season with 21 total touchdowns and more than 1,800 yards from scrimmage. He ended his college career by running all over USC in the Cotton Bowl. He’s fast once he gets a head of steam but doesn’t have an elite burst. That being said, he averaged 6.8 yards per carry in college.

Tank Bigsby, Auburn

Bigsby (6-0, 210) produced good numbers for three straight years at Auburn. He has the body frame that NFL teams are looking for. He shows creativity as a runner in the trenches. He didn’t provide a ton as a pass catcher in college.

DeWayne McBride, UAB

At UAB, McBride (5-10, 209) put up incredible numbers, totaling more than 3,000 combined rushing yards in 2021 and 2022. He scored 32 touchdowns over those two seasons. He’s a powerful back who could fit in almost any scheme. He caught only five passes in college.

Day 3 prospects

Kendre Miller, TCU

Miller (5-11, 215) rushed for 1,399 yards and 17 touchdowns last season for TCU, helping the Horned Frogs reach the national championship game. He was consistently productive as a runner during his college career. He needs to improve as a pass blocker, and he needs a bit more patience waiting for his block to develop ahead of him.

Chase Brown, Illinois

Brown (5-9, 209) put up huge numbers because of his sheer volume of touches. He totaled 1,643 yards on 328 carries last season alone and proved he can be a workhorse. He found the end zone on only 10 of those 328 carries. He was more effective between the tackles than out wide.

Sean Tucker, Syracuse

Although he doesn’t possess elite acceleration, Tucker (5-9, 207) runs well after contact. He posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at Syracuse in 2021 and 2022. He has impressive lower-body strength and can keep his legs churning. He will have to improve as a pass blocker.

Additional Day 3 options: Roschon Johnson, Texas; Zach Evans, Ole Miss; Kenny McIntosh, Georgia.

Best fits for the Bears

The Bears have running backs Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman, Travis Homer and Trestan Ebner under contract for next season. They probably aren’t going to invest a Day 1 or 2 pick in a back.

But it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if they drafted someone on Day 3. Miller or Brown might fit what they’re trying to do. Texas’ Roschon Johnson is also an intriguing back who has been stuck behind Bijan Robinson for several years.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.