Ranking the Best Rookie Running Backs

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Seattle Seahawks running back Zach Charbonnet (26) holds the football during drills Monday, May 22, 2023, at the team's NFL football training facility in Renton, Wash.
(AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Aug 11, 2023, 11:56 AM

The NFL has never placed more emphasis on young, cheap, and expendable running backs than it does right now.

Whether you’re interested in NFL betting lines, fantasy football, or simply knowing all 32 depth charts inside and out, it’s important to know the best rookie running backs coming into the league in 2023.

Best Rookie Running Back Rankings

RankPlayerTeam
1Bijan RobinsonFalcons
2Jahmyr GibbsLions
3Zach CharbonnetSeahawks
4DeWayne McBrideVikings
5Tyjae SpearsTitans
6Tank BigsbyJaguars
7Chase BrownBengals
8Deuce VaughnCowboys
9Kendre MillerSaints
10Mohamed IbrahimLions

Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons

Robinson is one of the top blue-chip running back recruits to enter the league over the last few years, and he’s landed with a team that will have arguably the best offensive line in football in 2023. This is a rare blend of talent and roster that should produce staggering, immediate results.

Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions

Detroit may have overdrafted Gibbs with the No. 12 overall pick, but there’s little question about the talent he’ll bring to the Lions both as a runner and a pass-catcher. How many touches he’ll see with David Montgomery also in the backfield, though – that’s a whole other story.

Zach Charbonnet, Seattle Seahawks

Between Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet, UCLA football was very watchable over the last couple of years. Charbonnet brings a physical, downhill running presence to Seattle that will inevitably draw some comparisons to Marshawn Lynch, though it’s unclear what his snap count will look like when Kenneth Walker III is fully healthy.

DeWayne McBride, Minnesota Vikings

You needed to be more than just a college football casual in 2022 to watch the Vikings’ seventh-round pick, but McBride averaged an FBS-best 155.7 yards per game for UAB. That’s 7.35 yards per carry. He’s younger and cheaper than Alexander Mattison. If you believe Mattison’s success has been more a product of volume and scheme than raw ability, McBride could be a name to watch going forward. 

Tyjae Spears, Tennessee Titans

Derrick Henry will turn 30 near the end of this year’s regular season. He’s logged more than 1,200 carries since the start of the 2019 season. That kind of unsustainable workload is why Tennessee used a third-round pick on Tulane’s Tyjae Spears, who averaged just under seven yards per carry for a team that ended its 2022 season with a win over USC.

Tank Bigsby, Jacksonville Jaguars

Auburn never made the most of Bigsby while they had him, but he’ll almost certainly catch on as a contributor in the NFL. Bigsby is strong and fast, and he possesses great vision as a runner. Most importantly, though, anyone named Tank is virtually guaranteed an NFL running back job as their birthright. 

Chase Brown, Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals dramatically renegotiated their contract with Joe Mixon this summer, shrinking the deal from an inflated and outdated $48 million to a lighter, $11.5 million contract that spans the next two seasons. Running back value probably has a lot to do with that, but so does fifth-round running back Chase Brown, who piled up a whopping 1,643 rushing yards at Illinois last season. 

Deuce Vaughn, Dallas Cowboys

As any Kansas State fan can tell you, it probably helps to think of Vaughn as less of a running back and more of a general playmaker. He compares a little bit to Christian McCaffrey or Alvin Kamara in that way. In terms of pure rookie running back rankings, he deserves to be on the list; in terms of rookie impact players, he could finish near the very top.

Kendre Miller, New Orleans Saints

Was Miller’s 2022 pop the product of personal growth or TCU’s wild success story? Big 12 skeptics may be inclined to believe it’s the latter, but Miller averaged at least six yards per carry in all three of his seasons in Fort Worth. He should serve as an excellent complement to Kamara in New Orleans.

Mohamed Ibrahim, Detroit Lions

No one in FBS football scored more rushing touchdowns than Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim, which is why the Lions nabbed him as an undrafted free agent. The problem, of course, is that a stacked depth chart is working against him, as he’s not even the top-billed rookie tailback on the team. If the Lions end up cutting him because of their embarrassment of riches at the position, I suspect it could be someone else’s gain.

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.