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Draft Coverage

2023 NFL Draft preview: 5 running backs that could interest the Lions

Running back Bijan Robinson of Texas isn't likely to have his draft position match where he is rated as a prospect in this year's draft.

Robinson is rated a top five prospect, regardless of position, by many analysts. His projected draft position is somewhere near the middle of the first round.

That's in keeping with the recent trend for running backs.

In the last three years only three have been drafted in the first round.

Two were in 2021 -- Najee Harris taken 24th by the Steelers, and Travis Etienne 25th by the Jaguars. In 2020, Clyde Edwards-Helaire went to the Chiefs with the 32nd pick in the first round.

There were three second-round picks in 2022 – Breece Hall by the Jets, former Michigan State star Kenneth Walker by the Seahawks and James Cook by the Bills.

Based on his skill level as a runner, receiver and blocker, Robinson has been compared to Saquon Barkley, who was drafted second overall by the Giants in 2018.

Robinson didn't seem to be bothered by his potential draft status when he spoke at his Combine interview.

"I don't want to say it's unfair," he said. "You just never know on that day where you're going to go. For me, it's important to just enjoy the moment."

Following is a preview of the 2023 running back draft strength, the Lions' depth and draft priority at the position, and five prospects who could interest the Lions.

View photos of the top running back prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Running back draft strength: It's a quality class, with Robinson the star at the top.

Lions' depth, draft priority: Not an immediate need, but it's more than a luxury pick and adds future security.

Five prospects who could interest the Lions:

(40-yard dash times are from Combine and Pro Day workouts as available.)

1. Bijan Robinson, Texas:

5-11, 215. 4.46 40.

Three-year player, 539 carries for 3,410 yards and 33 TDs. Carried the load in 2022-23: 259 carries, 1,580 yards and 18 TDs. Added 60 receptions for 805 yards and eight TDs.

Bottom line: Probably rated higher as a prospect than his ultimate draft position, but Robinson looks NFL-ready for a team that wants an upgrade at running back.

2. Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama:

5-9, 199. 4.36 40.

A three-year player, transferred to Alabama after two seasons at Georgia Tech, where he averaged 5.2 yards and scored eight TDs in 19 games. Gibbs played 12 games for Alabama in 2022 and carried 151 times for 926 yards and seven TDs.

Bottom line: Gibbs showed some receiving skill at Alabama, with 44 catches for 444 yards and 3 TDs.

3. Zach Charbonnet, UCLA:

6-0, 214. 4.53 40.

A two-year player at UCLA with solid production. In 12 games in 2021, he carried 203 times for 1,137 yards and 13 TDs. Came back in 2022 to carry 195 times in 10 games for 1,359 yards and 14 TDs. Produced as a receiver – 61 catches, 518 yards.

Bottom line: A transfer from Michigan, where he played all 13 games with seven starts in 2019 and rushed for 726 yards. Played five games in 2020 and headed west in 2021.

4. Devon Achane, Texas A&M:

5-8 1/2, 188. 4.32 40.

Three-year player, obviously not a power back at his size. In 30 career games, rushed 369 times for 2,376 yards and 21 TDs. Added 65 catches for 554 yards and five TDs.

Bottom line: Closed out his career, and may have answered some questions about his ability at the next level, with a big game vs. LSU – 38 carries, 215 yards and two TDs.

5. Zach Evans, Ole Miss:

5-11, 202.

A transfer to Ole Miss after two seasons at TCU, where he played 15 games with eight starts. Rushed for 415 yards in 2020 and 648 in 2021 in just eight games. In one season at Ole Miss (2022) Evans rushed for 936 yards.

Bottom line: Evans had big-play potential with Ole Miss – 9.9 yards per catch, 6.5 yards per carry.

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