The draft is only a week away and a running back should be near the top of the Broncos’ shopping list.
Javonte Williams is still recovering from a devastating knee injury from October and there’s no timeline for his return. The Broncos signed versatile veteran Samaje Perine in free agency. He’ll hold down a role in the rotation either as a bruiser or as a pass-protector on third downs, or maybe both. Behind him, the Broncos are short on options and will need to draft a running back.
The Broncos are also short on draft picks—they have picks 67 and 68, which are the fourth and fifth picks of the third round, as well as a pick in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds—but only two running backs are likely to be off the board when they make their first selection. That means they’ll have plenty of options… including trading up for one of those two backs.
Here’s who the Broncos could target at running back in the draft:
Bijan Robinson, 21, Texas
5-foot-11, 215 pounds
Beyond being the best running back in the class, Robinson has a strong case to be the best football player in the draft. The 1,500-yard rusher won’t threaten the top few picks in the draft but could be chosen anywhere from No. 10 on. There’s almost no chance he falls far enough to tempt the Broncos to trade up for him, but we’re including the best running back in the draft just in case.
Jahmyr Gibbs, 21, Alabama
5-foot-9, 199 pounds
While Robinson is unlikely to be a target for the Broncos, Gibbs could be an option… if the board falls the right way. Gibbs is the clear No. 2 back in the class, but teams could be concerned about his size and ability to carry the rock 20 times per game. Gibbs, a former five-star recruit, led Alabama in receptions this season as Bryce Young’s outlet option. He can run just about any route you could ask of him and a 4.36-second 40-yard dash signals that his ability to separate should translate to the next level. Gibbs will probably be chosen in the first half of the second round, but if he falls to the end of the round, Sean Payton may trade up for his new Alvin Kamara.
Might Be Available at 67
Devon Achane, 21, Texas A&M
5-foot-8 1/2, 188 pounds
Achane is one of the fastest running backs in this year’s class, as evidenced by his 4.32-second 40-yard dash at the combine. He was a receiving threat out of the backfield in college, producing 457 yards in the passing game over the past two seasons. Whether he can hold up in pass protection or between the tackles is up for debate, but he ran for more than 2,000 yards for an SEC team over the past two years, so there’s a glimmer of hope that he can be an every-down player. Achane will probably be chosen on Day 2, but where exactly he goes is anybody’s guess. He could be an option at 67.
Tyjae Spears, 21, Tulane
5-foot-10, 201 pounds
After tearing his ACL in 2020, Spears bounced back as Tulane’s top back in back-to-back seasons. He carried the Green Wave to an American Conference championship last season, while posting the fifth-most rushing yards in the country (1,581) and the third-most touchdowns (19). He’s a fast back who can change the angle on defenders in the hole to get to the edge. He ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. For a change of pace back who is unproven as a receiver, that number is less than ideal.
Should Be Available at 67
Zach Charbonnet, 22, UCLA
6-foot, 214 pounds
If the Broncos want a replacement—or even an upgrade—for Latavius Murray, then Charbonnet could be their man. Charbonnet played sparingly in his first two seasons at Michigan but broke out when he arrived at UCLA, posting nearly 2,500 yards over two seasons. He finished 19th in the country with 1,369 rushing yards, but his 7 yards per carry ranked third. He also led the country in total yards per game. Charbonnet’s 4.53 40-yard dash won’t catch your eye, but that isn’t his game; he’s a between the tackles bruiser who has enough receiving skill to stick on the field on third downs.
Roschon Johnson, 22, Texas
6-foot, 219 pounds
Johnson joined the Longhorns as a dual-threat quarterback but injuries in the backfield forced him to play running back as a true freshman, and he finished the year with 807 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns. He never carried the ball 100 times in a season in the three seasons since, because of the emergence of Bijan Robinson. He finished his career with just under 2,200 rushing yards and a 5.6 yards per carry average. Robinson is a big, strong back who is at his best between the tackles, and he’s made a few plays in the passing game. Given how unique Johnson is as a prospect, it’s tough to say when he’ll be drafted. It would be a major upset if he’s off the board when the Broncos make their first pick, though.
Tank Bigsby, 21, Auburn
6-foot, 210 pounds
Bigsby is a former five-star recruit who immediately lived up to the hype by winning SEC Freshman of the Year honors. He’s been a consistent performer throughout his career with 2,903 yards on 5.4 yards per carry with 25 touchdowns. His 4.56-second 40-yard dash was disappointing but he’s another between the tackles runner who wins with physicality more often than speed.
Day 3 Targets
Kendre Miller, 20, TCU
5-foot-11, 215 pounds
The workhorse behind the TCU offense, Miller finished his junior season 15th in the country with 1,399 yards and 17 touchdowns. In the previous season, Miller’s 7.5 yards per carry ranked first in the country. Athletically, Miller doesn’t appear to be anything special but the results speak for themselves. He’s a thick back who reads developing holes well and has great contact balance.
Zach Evans, 21, Ole Miss
5-foot-11, 202 pounds
The former five-star recruit couldn’t catch on at TCU—despite averaging 7.3 yards per carry—but immediately became the starter when he transferred to Ole Miss last offseason. He produced a productive season with more than 1,000 yards and 6.5 yards per carry. Evan is a great athlete who has the speed to hit home runs but is still inexperienced. The inexperience shows up most in the passing game, where he doesn’t provide much at the moment.
DeWayne McBride, 21, UAB
5-foot-10, 209 pounds
McBride finished second in the country with more than 1,700 rushing yards in 2022, and he provided more than 3,000 rushing yards over the past two seasons. He’s a brutally powerful back who can be an important piece of a rotation in the NFL. He’s only caught five passes in his career and doesn’t provide much in pass protection, but he should improve with experience.
Deuce Vaughn, 21, Kansas State
5-foot-5, 179 pounds
That isn’t a typo; Deuce Vaughn is easily the smallest player in the draft. But he’s blazing fast and he ran for 1,588 yards last season. Vaughn’s value would come as a third-down threat—it’s tough to imagine his body holding up between the tackles—but if the burst translates to the next level, he could be the next Darren Sproles… who also played at Kansas State.