2023 Senior Bowl Preview: Running Backs

One of the most important events on the National Football League calendar is the Senior Bowl. Held the week after the conference championship games, it is the true beginning of the NFL draft cycle.

Not only do scouts and analysts like us get to see over 100 draft prospects in one place competing against each other, but it’s also an opportunity for analysts and personnel alike to get together and have discussions about a number of topics.

As we look forward to this year’s Senior Bowl, both managing editor Tyler Forness and columnist Matt Anderson will be there in person to break everything down.

We will be breaking down each position group and what to look for throughout the week. Here is the running back position.



Georgia’s Kenny McIntosh

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Kenny McIntosh was Georgia’s lead running back this season, totaling 829 rushing yards on 149 carries. Before this season, his touches were limited, earning just 105 combined carries in the two years prior. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, McIntosh is nearly a picture-perfect frame for the position, and his production this season is encouraging. He also offers some upside in the receiving game but struggles in pass protection.

Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez Jr.

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Chris Rodriguez Jr. missed the first four games of the season with a suspension, but he was hard to stop when he returned. Rodriguez finished with 904 yards and six touchdowns in eight games, both team-highs. Listed at 224 pounds, Rodriguez is a physical runner, not afraid to run a defender over. However, he lacks big-time explosiveness for the position and will enter the NFL with almost 600 carries, presenting concerns about his long-term future.

Oklahoma’s Eric Gray

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A second-team all-conference selection by Big 12 coaches, Gray enjoyed a career year, posting 1,366 yards and 11 touchdowns. A transfer from UCLA, Gray never truly stops running, but he isn’t always consistent with his power. Through the air, he uses his elusiveness and quickness to be an added option for the offense. Between his production and ability, Gray is going to find himself making an immediate impact for an NFL team, especially on third downs.

Tulane’s Tyjae Spears

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Arguably the most valuable offensive player for a surprise Tulane team, Tyjae Spears enters the NFL Draft fresh off his most productive season. He’s an explosive runner who can always provide a big play, as proven by his 62-yard run in the 2023 Cotton Bowl against USC. You’d like to see more production in the receiving game, but his blend of athleticism and competitiveness makes him an encouraging option.

App State’s Camerun Peoples

Camerun People has been App State’s lead running back for three consecutive seasons and has found the end zone 33 times in 36 games. People appears to be a limited player in the NFL, but he has the size and contact balance to carve out a role in the league. He hasn’t found a consistent niche on passing downs yet, meaning he’ll have to succeed on early downs when he enters the league. People mostly played in pistol or shotgun looks for a team that primarily ran a zone scheme. 

Illinois’ Chase Brown

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Chase Brown was often Illinois’ entire offense, climbing over the century mark ten different times. His production earned him a spot as a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which is awarded to the best running back in the nation. He’s not a five-tool player in the NFL, but his home-run potential makes him an exciting prospect for the next level. He needs to improve in pass protection but he has grown as a pass catcher, giving him some initial third-down value.

Texas’ Roschon Johnson

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Often the second-fiddle behind Bijan Robinson, Roschon Johnson finished last season with 554 yards and five touchdowns. Although he doesn’t offer the same production as other backs, his frame (6-foot-2, 223 pounds) is a coach’s dream and gives him great power for the position. That size makes him a promising pass protector, meaning he’ll find the field immediately. He’s not the most elusive player but he’s also not necessarily slow, especially for his size.

Northwestern’s Evan Hull

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Playing in an offense that struggled most weeks, Evan Hull is almost an unknown name in the class. Although most defenses have made it a point to focus on him, Hull still produced as Northwestern’s lead running back. He may never be an every-down running back but he’ll still carve out a role, even if it’s as a pass catcher. His speed and quickness also make him an encouraging option in any backfield. 

Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire