Between now and the 2023 NFL Draft, I'm going to showcase some of my favorite draft prospects at the Dolphins' biggest areas of need. Heading into day two of the draft, general manager Chris Grier and head coach Mike McDaniel will be looking for starters and/or depth at several areas of need on the roster. The biggest needs, in my opinion, are at right tackle, tight end, linebacker, left guard, and running back. That’s probably how I’d rank them too! Obviously, there are other areas Miami could address and other ways to do so, but for now, these are Miami's glaring weaknesses (IMO).
So. without further ado, here are five running backs the Miami Dolphins should draft in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
Hometown: Dalton, Georgia
Weight: 199 lbs
2022 Stats: 151 carries, 926 yards, and seven touchdowns. 44 receptions, 444 yards, and three touchdowns.
Ask any draft analyst who Gibbs reminds them of, and the first name they'll come up with is New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara. Like Kamara, Gibbs can do a little bit of everything. He's quick with his feet and has the ability to make defenders miss in the open field. He's also lightning fast, running a 4.36 forty at the combine. Best of all, he's a scheme fit for what the Dolphins and Mike McDaniel are looking to do offensively with their zone-scheme rushing attack.
Additionally, he's a factor in the passing game, displaying soft hands and above-average route-running. He can also pass protect. So the only question mark remains whether he'll be available when the Dolphins are on the clock at No.51. In my honest opinion. I don't think he will be. But if he is, it may be time for Chris Grier to break the streak and finally draft a young, promising running back.
Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
Hometown: Camarillo, CA
Weight: 214 lbs.
2022 Stats: 195 carries, 1,359 yards, and 14 touchdowns. 37 receptions for 321 yards.
I'm not entirely sure what it is about Zach Charbonnet, but he's quickly become my favorite running back in this year's draft class. Of course, that doesn't mean I'd draft him over Bijan Robinson or Jahmyr Gibbs — because that would probably be crazy. But after watching the film, I can confidently say he's stolen my heart. Which may be a bit strange, considering he's not as flashy as some of the other running backs in this year's class. But where he lacks in game-breaking speed he more than makes up for with his unmatched physicality. He's also proven to be more than capable as a pass-catcher.
Earlier in the offseason, I dreamed of a scenario where Miami would bring back veteran Raheem Mostert and add Charbonnet as the cliche 'thunder' to Mostert's “lightning.” The only hold-up — unlike some of the other backs in this article — is that he's not a natural fit in Miami's rushing attack. Nevertheless, he's a workhorse and will quickly become one of the league's top running backs. Will it be in Miami? I hope so!
Israel Abanikanda, Pittsburgh
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Weight: 216 lbs.
2022 Stats: 239 carries, 1,431 yards, 20 touchdowns. 12 receptions, 146 yards, and one touchdown.
Like Charbonnet, Abanikanda has forged a special place inside my heart. When watching the tape, his quick feet and explosiveness immediately stand out. He's not the fastest prospect in this class, but you may think otherwise when watching him create distance in the open field. Abinakanda ran an official 4.41 forty at the combine, though some onlookers had him clocked in the 4.3s. Regardless, at 5'10 217 pounds, Abinakanda has the frame and skill set to be an every-down back in the NFL. He's physical between the tackles but often uses his speed to leave defenders in the dust.
The only question I have is whether or not he can be a difference-maker in the passing game like some of the other prospects in this class. During the 2022 season, Abinakanda only caught 12 passes for 146 yards and a score. Then again, I felt like that was the biggest concern with Kenneth Walker III a season ago, and that was quickly debunked. I teeter every day on which back I'd target in this year's class, but if Abanikanda is available in the third round — or later — that seems like a pick Miami should consider making.
Tyjae Spears, Tulane
Hometown: Ponchatoula, LA
Weight: 201 lbs.
2022 Stats: 229 carries, 1,581 yards, and 19 touchdowns. 22 receptions, 256 yards, and two touchdowns.
Tulane's Tyjae Spears was one of college football's most productive running backs last season, finishing the year with 1,581 rushing yards on 229 attempts. This ranked fifth in the nation in yards. He also found the endzone a staggering 19 times. Even more impressive, Spears finished his collegiate career averaging 7 yards per carry and proved in 2022 he had all the makings of an RB1. At the 2023 senior bowl — among some of the best talent in the country — Spears stood out among his peers, showcasing #elite playmaking ability but, most importantly, the willingness to pass protect. Spears is projected to be a day-two pick and might be the perfect back for what the Dolphins want to do in 2023 and beyond. But with bigger needs than running back, the team could view him as a luxury pick and may decide to wait for a late-round flier, something we've become all too accustomed to as Dolphins fans.
Devon Achance, Texas A&M
Hometown: Missouri City, TX
Weight: 185 lbs.
2022 Stats: 196 carries, 1,102 yards, and eight touchdowns. 36 receptions, 196 yards, and three touchdowns.
Like many of the backs in this article, Achane is an explosive playmaker. But my biggest concern with the Texas A&M running back is not his skillset but how his size will translate to the next level. Sure, there have been smaller backs before that have succeeded in the NFL, and Achance made a living in the SEC. But still, there are concerns about how he will withstand some of the physicality that comes from being an NFL running back. That said, when watching the tape, Achane reminded me a lot of Raheem Mostert. Maybe that's cliche — and I'm only using that comparison because Mostert is fresh in my mind, but he has speed for days and can do a little bit of everything with the ball in his hands. I don't see him being an every-down back in the NFL, but as a legit speed presence in both the run and passing game in Mike McDaniel's offense, I'd be more than happy with adding Achane on late day two or early day three of the draft.
What are your thoughts on the running back class in this year's NFL Draft? Do you think the Miami Dolphins will target one with the 51st overall pick? Which late-round draft prospects do you like for Mike McDaniel's offense? Let us know in the comments section below!