The 2023 running back class looks like it’s going to be one of the best in recent memory. There are runners of every conceivable shape, size, and skill set. There are well-rounded every-down runners, big power backs, and undersized speedsters.
Texas A&M running back Devon Achane definitely falls into that latter category at 5-foot-8, 188 pounds, and running a 4.32 second 40-yard dash. However, there’s more to his game than pure speed and he might be closer to a power back than the typical undersized jitterbug.
The New York Giants seem set at the position for 2023, but what about beyond this year? They have questions that could well lead them to select a running back at some point in this year’s draft. Could Achane’s big-play potential make him the pick?
Prospect: Devon Achane (6)
Games Watched: vs. Alabama (2022), vs. South Carolina (2022), vs. Florida (2022), vs. LSU (2022)
Red Flags: Foot (2022)
Games Played: 28
Yards (YPC): 2,376 (6.4 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 554 (8.5 per catch)
Touchdowns: 25 (21 rushing, 5 receiving)
Games Played: 10
Yards (YPC): 1,102 (5.6)
Yards (YPC): 196 (5.4 per catch)
Touchdowns: 11 (8 rushing, 3 receiving)
Best: Linear athleticism, long speed, contact balance, play strength, competitive toughness, receiving
Worst: Lateral agility, burst, size and catch radius
Projection: A rotational running back in a down-hill rushing attack.
Texas A&M’s Devon Achane is a compact and speedy running back prospect.
Achane is a short – but not exactly undersized – runner at 5-foot 8 ½ inches, 188 pounds. While both marks certainly come in well below average for the NFL, he is stoutly built for his height and sports a thick lower body.
Texas A&M primarily asked Achane to run out of the shotgun formation, usually on outside zone runs. However, their rushing attack was fairly diverse overall and Achane has experience running from the I formation and in man-gap schemes as well.
Achane is known for his speed, and his 4.32 40 time tracks with what he shows on tape. He is patient behind the line of scrimmage, but shows the ability to smoothly shift gears once in the open field and outrun all but the fastest defenders. Achane has plenty of speed to win the edge and turn the corner in off-tackle runs, as well as break long runs once he makes it to the second level of the defense.
Achane has solid vision to pick out rushing lanes as well as anticipate defenders’ angles at the second level. Likewise, he also has solid contact balance and is able to weather arm tackles and incidental contact around the line of scrimmage – at least as long as he has momentum. Achane is also a surprisingly powerful runner. He runs behind his pads between the tackles and is able to carry defenders for yards after contact when he’s able to drive his legs.
He also has upside in the passing game as both a receiver and pass protector. Achane is willing to take on bigger defenders in pass protection and does a good job of using his natural leverage to maximize his play strength. He’s a reliable check-down option and is capable of creating explosive plays when he gets the ball in-stride. Achane is a “hands” catcher who makes good adjustments to the ball and extends to pluck the ball out of the air.
That said, he is limited by his inherently small catch radius. At 5-foot-8 and with 29-inch arms, he needs to have the ball placed fairly well to have a chance at hauling it in. His overall lack of mass can show up throughout his game as well. Achane is relatively easy for defenders to bring down when he isn’t able to square his pads and drive his legs.
Most surprisingly, Achane isn’t as agile or explosive as his size and speed profile would suggest. He is very much a “one-cut” runner who is at his best when playing downhill or using his speed on off-tackle runs. He has an effective jump-cut, but is unable to string moves together and lacks lateral agility overall. Rather than dropping his hips and cutting sharply, he chops his feet in the backfield and effectively kills his own momentum. That makes it easy for less athletic defenders to bring him down behind the line of scrimmage. He also needs to stay in the flow of the play and struggles if forced to cut back against the grain.
Likewise, Achane doesn’t have great explosiveness out of his cuts. While his short legs give him good stride frequency and allow him to hit top speed quickly, he still has “build up” speed as opposed to being truly explosive.
Overall Grade: 7.1
Devon Achane projects as a rotational runner for a team that uses a down-hill rushing attack.
While Achane has the speed to win the edge in off-tackle runs, he’s at his best when he can get north-south as quickly as possible and run behind his pads. He has the potential to be a big-play threat at the NFL level, but could be particularly dependent on his blocking up front. Achane has a habit of chopping his feet in the backfield as he waits for blocks to be established, which creates opportunities for defenders to bring him down before he can use his speed.
Once Achane gets moving, he has good contact balance and is surprisingly hard for individual defenders to bring down. His speed forces bad angles, and he has a strong lower body which lets him run through arm tackles or carry defensive backs for yards after contact.
Achane’s size will likely be a problem for some teams, and he’ll be a poor fit for rushing attacks that give the running back a “menu” of potential rushing lanes. However, he would be a good fit for a team with a power back and a downhill scheme. His game isn’t too dissimilar from most big power backs at the NFL level, but he brings an element of speed normally missing from those types of rushing attacks.