Each year, the running back position loses more of its value in the NFL Draft. Top-flight backs garner late first-round consideration, a far cry from top five picks like Ezekiel Elliott (2016) and Saquon Barkley (2018). This year, we have a premier running back who’s been hotly-anticipated: Texas’ Bijan Robinson. Despite a Saquon Barkley-esque skillset and talent level, Robinson is even questionable to go Day 1 in NFL Draft odds.
Which running backs from this class are the top of the group? Will we see any of them taken in the first round? Here we look at NFL Draft odds for running backs.
NFL Draft odds: First RB drafted
Teams with the potential to draft a running back in Round 1 include:
- Lions (No. 6, No. 18)
- Eagles (No. 10, No. 30)
- Bills (No. 28)
However, note NFL franchises no longer view RB as a premium position. Where Robinson may have gone in the top five some years ago, he may not even be selected in the first round. Look to Jonathan Taylor, who is a premier running back in the NFL but was taken in Round 2 in 2020.
How to bet on first RB drafted
Most sportsbooks have a full slate of NFL Draft bets including the first player drafted at each position. To find this section click the NFL tab and find a tab for “First Pick by Position” then view the odds listed below.
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NFL Draft: 2023 RB profiles
Bijan Robinson, Texas
Very few running backs in the past decade have been as talented as Robinson. He truly belongs in the conversation with Barkley and Christian McCaffrey. Robinson burst onto the scene as a freshman in the Alamo Bowl, where he rushed for 183 yards on just 10 carries. He possesses an elite combo of pass-catching prowess, field vision, and generational change-of-direction. There’s no real knocks on his game and whoever drafts Robinson gets a Day 1 difference-maker.
Tied teams: Lions, Ravens, Cowboys
Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
Gibbs was masked by Georgia Tech his first few years in school, but quickly emerged on the scene when he transferred to Alabama. Should he not share a Draft class with Robinson, Gibbs would be the premium option. He was a consensus five-star prospect out of high school and is a versatile athlete. Gibbs returns kicks and is extremely proficient in the receiving game. Per The Draft Network, Gibbs’ threat out of the backfield in the receiving game is “rare.”
Tied teams: Bills, Cowboys, Panthers
Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
Charbonnet was once buried on the Michigan depth chart, but emerged onto the scene at UCLA. He’s a bruising back with a compact frame (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) who runs with the intent to punish defenders. While he doesn’t have the same track speed as a player like Ezekiel Elliott, his attacking of the line of scrimmage while also exhibiting patience makes Elliott a good pro comp for Charbonnet. Per The Draft Network, he is a future NFL starter with three-down potential.
Tied teams: None
Kenny McIntosh, Georgia
The next back out of Georgia may not have received the same spotlight as Nick Chubb or James Cook, but he was an extremely productive player. McIntosh found the end zone 19 times as a senior. He’s one of the bigger backs in the class, standing 6-foot-1, but still is an effective pass catcher and speed back. His lacking pass protection may send him down draft boards, though.
Tied teams: None
Tyjae Spears, Tulane
Spears introduced himself to the uninitiated in the Cotton Bowl against USC, where he exploded for 205 rushing yards at 12.1 yards per carry and four scores. Spears dominated opponents his senior year, posting eight straight 120+ yard performances. He exhibits lateral explosion found in very few backs, rival to that of Darren Sproles of years past. Spears is a good pass catcher and his dynamism may land him a starting RB job sooner than later. He continued to dominate at the Senior Bowl, rising his draft stock dramatically.
Tied teams: None
Will a RB be drafted in the first round?
DraftKings Sportsbook will post how many RBs will be picked in the first round closer to the event. They posted last year’s O/U at 0.5 with the under heavily juiced. This year, we may see 1.5, with under again heavily juiced.
NFL Draft RB history
Find a list of the first RB taken in each NFL Draft going back to 2010 below:
|Year||Team||Player||College||Pick (No. overall)|
|2022||NY Jets||Breece Hall||Iowa State||No. 36|
|2021||Pittsburgh||Najee Harris||Alabama||No. 24|
|2020||Kansas City||Clyde Edwards-Helaire||LSU||No. 32|
|2019||Oakland||Josh Jacobs||Alabama||No. 24|
|2018||NY Giants||Saquon Barkley||Penn State||No. 2|
|2017||Jacksonville||Leonard Fournette||LSU||No. 4|
|2016||Dallas||Ezekiel Elliott||Ohio State||No. 4|
|2015||St. Louis||Todd Gurley||Georgia||No. 10|
|2014||Tennessee||Bishop Sankey||Washington||No. 54|
|2013||Cincinnati||Gio Bernard||UNC||No. 37|
|2012||Cleveland||Trent Richardson||Alabama||No. 3|
|2011||New Orleans||Mark Ingram||Alabama||No. 28|
|2010||Buffalo||CJ Spiller||Clemson||No. 9|
NFL Draft odds: Strategy and trends
As mentioned, running backs are becoming a less and less desired position, especially in the draft. Two backs were taken in the first round in 2021 season: Najee Harris and Travis Etienne. However, none were selected last season until the second round. In 2013, 2014, and 2022, no backs were drafted in the first round.
When it comes to NFL Draft odds and betting, it’s important to think predictively. Whether or not you see Player X as the top player in the group, is that feeling shared among NFL front offices? Even draft rankings from experts should be taken with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, the executives are the ones drafting, not the scouts.