The 2023 NFL Draft is fast approaching and we'll soon have new additions to our dynasty fantasy football lineups. If you missed it, I previously broke down the NFL Draft top running back prospects as we highlighted Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs, and others. Let's now take a look at the NFL Draft RB prospect sleepers to know. We're talking about the running backs who could be drafted in the 3rd Round or on Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft – like Tank Bigsby, Israel Abanikanda, Zach Evans, and more. It's never too early to prepare for fantasy football mock drafts and update dynasty fantasy football rankings as the NFL season is right around the corner. As you look at 2023 NFL mock drafts, keep these future RB rookies in mind as they could be eventual fantasy football sleepers. Let's now dive into the top 2023 NFL Draft Running Back prospect sleepers flying under the radar before the first round gets underway on April 27th.
If you missed it, check out more positional scouting reports for the 2023 NFL Draft:
- Quarterback Top Prospects
- Running Back Top Prospects
- Wide Receiver Top Prospects
- Tight End Top Prospects
2023 NFL Draft Running Back Prospect Sleepers
Tank Bigsby, Auburn
With a name like Tank Bigsby, you can imagine how popular the Auburn product could be in fantasy football if/when he becomes relevant. College football fans remember Bigsby lighting up SEC defenses for three years, racking up 918 scrimmage yards as a freshman and nearly 2,500 total yards over the past two seasons combined. As his name suggests, Bigsby is a downhill and explosive back who runs with physicality and power. He’s not a traditional “power” back but has a muscular build and plays bigger than his 5-foot-11 and 210-pound frame. Bigsby also boasts an elite-level jump cut with bursts in open space and body control to run through contact. His vision and decision-making as a running back need development, but he certainly profiles as a starting RB in the NFL before long.
Israel Abanikanda, Pittsburgh
In his first full season as Pitt’s starting tailback in 2022, Israel Abanikanda broke onto the national scene en route to second-team All-American honors. He racked up 1,431 rushing yards and 20 rush TDs with a 6.0 ypc average in a workhorse role for a run-heavy offense. Abanikanda has excellent vision and instincts as a rusher to wait for holes to develop and burst through the line. His quick-cutting ability is among the best in this RB draft class and his acceleration in the open field makes him a big play threat. Abanikanda is a bit raw and unproven as both a pass-blocker and receiver out of the backfield, which could limit him to a committee situation early on. When he gets the ball in his hands, though, Abanikanda can take it to the house.
Kendre Miller, TCU
If Kendre Miller didn’t suffer an MCL injury in the College Football Playoff semifinals, which required off-season surgery, he could be higher up on the RB prospect rankings. Unfortunately, the injury held him out of workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine and could limit him early on as a rookie. When you look at Miller’s game tape at TCU, though, it’s clear he’s a game-breaking talent with a potential future as an NFL starting tailback. He can break off long gains and explosive plays any time he touches the ball with top-notch agility and acceleration. Miller’s thicker frame at 220 pounds allows him to break tackles and run through contact with the best of them. There are some concerns surrounding his natural vision and instincts as a rusher. Plus, his gaudy 1,500+ total yards last season were aided by playing in an uptempo RPO-style offense against shaky Big 12 defenses with a dual-threat QB in Max Duggan next to him.
Zach Evans, Ole Miss
College football fans have had their eye on Zach Evans ever since he was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and flashed big-play ability as a freshman. Evans is an explosive runner with quick acceleration out of cuts and around the edge on toss sweeps. He’s not as powerful or physical as other running backs in this draft class, but his speed to stretch defenses and make tacklers miss makes him an attractive prospect. A notable thing about Evans’ college career is that he was never a workhorse back, splitting carries with Kendre Miller over two years at TCU and then sharing time with standout freshman Quinshon Judkins last season at Ole Miss. On one hand, there isn’t a lot of wear and tear on his tires, but you have to wonder if/when Evans can take on a three-down workload in the NFL.
Roschon Johnson, Texas
Roschon Johnson is the “other” Texas running back in this year’s NFL Draft with Bijan Robinson stealing the headlines. Despite being a complementary back to Robinson over the past three years, Johnson should not be ignored and can easily carve out a role in an NFL backfield. As a former quarterback who switched to RB early in his college career, he brings a different type of football IQ and leadership quality to strengthen an offense. Johnson is a physical, downhill runner who plays with aggression through contact. He’s one of the thicker-framed backs in this draft class, weighing in at 225 pounds at his Pro Day. However, Johnson isn’t as fluid or natural as a ball-carrier and plays a bit upright. Johnson will also be a valuable special teams addition to an NFL team as he showcased tackling and blocking ability on Texas’ units.
Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
Standing at 5-foot-5 and 175 pounds, Deuce Vaughn might remind you of another undersized running back from Kansas State – Darren Sproles, anyone? Despite his smaller stature, Vaughn was still very productive as both a rusher and receiver in college. He racked up 2,962 rushing yards, 846 receiving yards, and 34 total TDs over the past two seasons combined while making the most out of every touch. Vaughn uses his size and lower center of gravity to his advantage by running instinctively and patiently behind blockers to keep defenders off-balance. He’s also a proven receiver out of the backfield with 40+ receptions in back-to-back seasons. Vaughn’s lack of size and pure speed are the big knocks and could limit him to a backup RB role for an NFL squad. Think of him as a better version of Boston Scott.
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Related NFL Links:
- 2023 NFL Draft Top Running Back Prospects: Bijan Robinson Highlights Incoming Rookie RB Class
- 2023 NFL Mock Draft 1st Round: C.J. Stroud Goes No.1 to Carolina Panthers
- 2023 NFL Free Agent Tracker
- 2023 NFL Offseason Recap
- 2023 NFL Draft Top Quarterback Prospects: Bryce Young & C.J. Stroud Headline the Rookie QB Class
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Strategies: Miles Sanders Headlines Win-Now Running Back Trade Targets