Yahoo Sports' Charles McDonald is joined by Bleacher Report's Derrik Klassen to break down a strong running back class ahead of the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, which begins Feburary 27. Texas Longhorn Bijan Robinson tops the class as an incredibly clean prospect and stellar athlete, while Texas A&M's Devon Achane and Tulane's Tyjae Spears look to show off their outstanding athleticism to move up 2023 NFL Draft big boards.
CHARLES MCDONALD: Bijan Robinson, my muse. Again, this is a guy who might not work out because he might not need to. I think his film kind of speaks for itself. But if he works out, he might be able to lock down first round status, which, if you were just going to rank him by, like, how good he is, probably top five players in the class.
DERRIK KLASSEN: Yes.
CHARLES MCDONALD: But we know that running backs, as the draft goes along, has been getting dinged in the past few years. So he might end up being like a late first round type of guy. How good is Bijan Robinson from Texas?
DERRIK KLASSEN: I mean, he's incredible, man. Like, he's the highest-- I only do offensive skill players in Bleacher Report, but he's my highest rated player by-- it's not close. Like, I think I have a 9.1 on him and my next highest player is like an 8.7.
Like, it's just not-- he is such an unbelievable mover for that size. He has insane acceleration to hit the edge at like 220. His balance is like some of the best I've ever seen. And the thing to me that actually, like, really, I think, should boost his stock and, like, have him considered as a pretty clear first round pick is, like, he has a lot of passing game value.
Like, he's a really good pass catcher. He can even run vertical routes. His hands are really good.
And he's a good pass blocker. Like, he's just the guy who you can play him every single down, and he's going to give you value every single down. And in the class that, like I said earlier, he's not that great overall, a three down back who has, like, explosive play potential and, like, a high floor, I mean, like, , this should be a first round pick, I think, even if he doesn't test. Like, he just-- he's so insanely good to me, man.
CHARLES MCDONALD: If you can't tell a difference between ranking a guy for how good they are of football versus their positional value, it's really not that confusing, all right? So I'm tired of seeing the snickering in nerd Twitter where they're like, oh, someone has Bijan Robinson fifth overall. No one thinks he's going to get drafted that high.
DERRIK KLASSEN: Exactly.
CHARLES MCDONALD: He's a really good football player.
DERRIK KLASSEN: Like, that's exactly where I have him, and I wouldn't take him fifth overall. Like, I probably wouldn't consider him until even like the mid to late teens. But like, if you're just ranking the best players, he's absolutely up there.
CHARLES MCDONALD: All right, two guys that you're going to have to explain to me because I have not gotten to their tape yet. But I promise I will before the conbine starts. Tyjae Spears and Devon Achane?
DERRIK KLASSEN: Achane.
CHARLES MCDONALD: Achane? OK.
DERRIK KLASSEN: Yeah.
CHARLES MCDONALD: You know how to pronounce it. You take the wheel.
DERRIK KLASSEN: I'll start with Achane This is my player I'm shilling for. I have--
CHARLES MCDONALD: Where's he go to school?
DERRIK KLASSEN: Texas A&M. He's a running back and kick returner. He is a guy who I am normally very opposed to small players.
You know, we already talked about Bryce Young. I'm probably lower on, say, Flowers for that reason. Like, I'm mostly anti-small players.
He's the one guy I think I'm making an exception for. He's like 5'9, 185 pounds, maybe 190. And so typically with those types of running backs, you're like, oh, he's just the guy who needs to get to the edge.
He can play in space, blah, blah, blah, all that stuff. Achane does all that. But you watch him run between the tackles, and it's like, man, he is a real deal running back. He has maybe the best vision in the class outside of, like, Bijan Robinson.
I think he's just a guy who really understands every blocking scheme, knows how to set up his blocks, understands how to be patient, when to cut. Like, he's just a running back's running back. He's just a little bit small.
But I just think, like, he's such a smart player. And then he also has, like, literal world class, like, track speed, which is why he's like an incredible kick returner. So, I just think he gives you so much value in so many ways that I'm willing to take a bet on him.
The other guy, Tyjae Spears, he's slightly undersized. He's probably like 195, something like that. Like, 5'10. But he's just another guy who, like, he just plays a lot bigger than he is.
Like, when I went in to watch him, I was like, oh, he's like 190, 195. This is going to be a guy who goes down on first contact, all that stuff. No, man. He really fights, probably more than a lot of the other guys that are even bigger than him in this class.
I think he just has a lot of fight to him, and he's really good between the tackles for a guy his size. And he has great pass catching skills, which, like, you know, it's a passing league. And if you're going to take a swing on a running back in the top 75 or something like, that they better give you some value there.
And I think he does. So I think he can probably test well. I think especially in, like, the three cone, he's probably going to absolutely crush it and blow the doors off. But I think those are two running backs. I'm really excited for on day two.
CHARLES MCDONALD: I haven't gotten to all the running backs yet, but would you say this is a good running back class?
DERRIK KLASSEN: Yeah. I don't think it's, like, special or anything because I think, like, the drop from Bijan to everybody else is pretty stark. But I think there's-- in that, like, 40 to 80 pick range, I mean, there's like five or six dudes who are-- they can be a really, really good difference maker for you.