3 running backs Saints fans should scout at the 2023 NFL combine
It’s been consistently talked about as one of the New Orleans Saints biggest needs all week at the NFL Scouting Combine: running back. The team has only two on its roster and one of its most important pieces, Alvin Kamara, could be in for a lengthy suspension in 2023. New Orleans needs not only someone to produce in place of Kamara should that happen, but in tandem with him as well.
This year’s NFL draft presents many opportunities for the team to address this need and many of their options are about to hit the field on Indianapolis for their athletic testing. Yesterday we highlighted the hometown prospect and fan-favorite, Tulane running back Tyjae Spears. Today, we wanted to bring you three more names to watch as they perform at Lucas Oil Stadium and begin paving their way to the NFL draft:
Texas RB Roschon Johnson
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Sure, all eyes will be on his college teammate Bijan Robinson throughout the draft process, but Johnson should not be overshadowed. At 6-foot and about 220 pounds, Johnson is a wrecking machine on the field. With 46 missed tackles forced in 2022 on just 94 rushing attempts, he and Robinson put their violent rushing styles on display in the Big 12.
One thing the Saints do not like when it comes to drafting running backs is wear and tear. Johnson has just one season with more than 95 carries. And that’s not because he hasn’t been productive. The Texas-native has averaged at least 4 yards per carry each season since 2018. Another aspect New Orleans loves in its runners? Ball security. And Johnson has just one fumble in his four-year career. He’s also a solid blocker in pass protection as well.
While watching Johnson’s Combine performance, his burst is what to look for. He isn’t a breakaway runner, but that also isn’t his game. His explosion numbers could be impressive thanks to his strong lower body, which matches his profile as a powerful runner.
Draft Projection: Rounds 3-5
Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs
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If the Saints want someone with a similar skills set to their current star running back Alvin Kamara, Gibbs could be their guy. Aside from Robinson, the Alabama product is widely considered the only runner that could possibly land with a team in the first round. And it isn’t hard to figure out why.
Once Gibbs’ tape is on, his premier athleticism, receiving traits and undeniable speed leap right off the field. While he is a weapon in the passing game as a receiver, he does have some work to do as a pass protector. His small frame (5-foot-9, 199 pounds) make it challenging to be sufficient picking up blitzers.
Gibbs is going to light up the boards when it comes to his athletic testing in Indianapolis. There is not doubt about that. Rather than singling out any drills or workouts to focus on, just enjoy the show.
Draft Projections: Rounds 1-2
Georgia RB Kenny McIntosh
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McIntosh might be the best pass-protecting running back in this year’s class. He’s also a good pass-catcher on top of his running abilities. While there are times he hesitates as his protection develops or shows a lack of vision, there’s no denying the value that a back like the former Georgia Bulldog would bring to an NFL team.
The Saints will, of course, enjoy his play in pass protection, which makes him an asset that defenses can’t ignore in the passing game. He has breakaway speed to get around the perimeter and burst in the open field. While he doesn’t have the same merit between the tackles, his 6-foot and 200-plus pound frame are built for the role and he would be an excellent pairing with Kamara while having the versatility to produce in his stead as well.
The speed drills are where McIntosh will stand out the most. But keeping an eye on any pass-catching drills could help to set him apart as well. His violence against the bags can showcase a bit of his physicality as a pass blocker.
Draft Projection: Rounds 3-5