2023 NFL Draft: Who will be the first running back drafted? Rankings, odds & predictions: Will Bijan be gone early?

Bijan Robinson of the Texas Longhorns
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Phil Agius


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I've been writing about the NFL and a host of other sports for the UK's top daily betting paper the Racing Post for more than 20 years. An incurable Browns fan (1-31 survivor), I also specialise in all kinds of motorsport betting including F1, MotoGP, IndyCar and NASCAR. For Phil Agius media enquiries, please email contact@pickswise.com.
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The 2023 NFL Draft is not far away and some positions are getting a lot more attention than others. Quarterbacks are the focus of attention this year, but there’s also interest in who will be the top defensive end off the board and when that will happen. One position that has fallen on hard times in the draft — and is also unfashionable in general anywhere except fantasy football — is running back. It’s now the trend for GMs to dismiss rushers as disposable pieces of their offense who should not be drafted high and definitely should not be handed big money-second contracts.

The contrasting experiences of draft host Kansas City with its disappointing 2020 first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire and last year’s 7th-round pick Isiah Pacheco, who is now the starter, highlights the first point and the Cowboys’ issues after backing up the Brinks truck to pay Ezekiel Elliott show the problems with the second.

Those GMs are having to weigh all that up alongside the availability of a couple of prospects with massive potential in Thursday’s draft, however. In this article I will be looking at the candidates to be the first running back chosen in the 2023 NFL Draft. Let’s start by looking at the latest odds. 

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2023 NFL Draft odds to be the first running back drafted

There’s a standout candidate to be the first running back selected in the 2023 NFL Draft and that is reflected in the odds, with former Texas All-American RB Bijan Robinson the red-hot -10000 favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook to be the first RB off the board. No RBs were taken in the first round last year for the first time since 2014, but they are expected to return to Thursday night relevance this year. It’s -180 odds with DraftKings that over 1.5 RBs are taken in the first round, which means there is some competition for Robinson — although 2 or more RBs going in the first is only -148 at FanDuel.

Here is the latest betting on the first RB drafted in 2023 from DraftKings Sportsbook:

Bijan Robinson -10000
Jahmyr Gibbs +1000
Zach Charbonnet +7000
Tyjae Spears +8000
Tank Bigsby +8000
Zach Evans +10000
Sean Tucker +10000
Kenny McIntosh +10000
Roschon Johnson +10000
Devon Achane +10000

2023 NFL Draft first running back drafted prediction: Bijan Robinson (-10000)

Robinson racked up 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns last season and has given those GMs who are sneered at by their peers for valuing RBs a real headache — it’s just a question of who will blink first and take him. Some experts insist Robinson has genuine top-5 overall talent, but he has +9500 odds with FanDuel to actually be taken in the top 5. He has +2000 odds to be taken with the 6th pick, where the Lions might have interest, but Detroit also has the #18 pick and might be willing to risk waiting to see if he falls closer to that mark. The sweet spot for Robinson in most mock drafts is Atlanta at #8, where he has +250 odds with FanDuel to be taken, with a backup option of the Eagles at #10 — which is +750. Robinson is +100 to go in the top 10, which makes him an obvious choice to be the first RB off the boar when compared to the odds of second favorite Jahmyr Gibbs, who is not even listed in the top 10 betting odds and is -160 to be taken anywhere in the first round.

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2023 NFL Draft first running back drafted longshot: Jahmyr Gibbs (+1000)

At 10/1 odds, Gibbs has to be considered a longshot to be the first RB taken. So let’s try to make a case, however unlikely this seems. He is a different kind of back than Robinson, who is more powerful, with Gibbs being a more shifty, receiving back, and 20 pounds lighter than the Texas product. Both should be able to make an instant impression in an NFL offense and it’s not impossible to see a scenario where teams are still deciding whether to step in and take Robinson when a team that loves Gibbs’ skillset jumps in for him first. There are some nice players to be had in later rounds, including Tyjae Spears, Tank Bigsby and Roschon Johnson, but they should all be available on the second day of the draft — with the battle to be the first RB taken looking like a 2-man race.

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