Once upon a time in the NFL, running backs were the backbone of a successful offense.
That has changed in recent years, however, as the prevailing wisdom has become that running backs are interchangeable - draft one, let him play out his rookie contract, and then move on.
While the league is now a passing man’s game, there is still a need to run the ball, and joy to be found when a team uses a dominant run game to grind down the opposing defense and break its will in the fourth quarter of a close game.
The Cleveland Browns can do that thanks to Nick Chubb, the league’s best running back, but even someone as talented as Chubb needs a break once in a while, which has many people projecting that the Browns will select a running back at some point in the 2023 NFL Draft.
With that in mind, general manager Andrew Berry may cast a longing eye toward a running back who possesses many of the same traits as Chubb, so let’s take a look at Auburn running Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby.
Tank Bigsby has had a tough run at Auburn when it comes to quality blocking— Jeremy (@PopesFFH) April 11, 2023
MTF/att- .29 (23rd)
Yards after contact-1993 (31st)
Yards after contact per attempt- 3.96 (39th)
Runs over 10 yards- 84 (37th)
Ranks out of 100 prospects over the last 4 years
Bigsby is a tough… pic.twitter.com/T2io1Xh3VY
Name: Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby
Position: Running back
Height/Weight: 6-foot, 210 pounds
College: Auburn Tigers
Stats (3 seasons): 35 games, 28 starts, 2,903 rushing yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 25 rushing touchdowns, 62 receptions, 448 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns
Relative Athletic Score
Average “Big Board” Position As of Publishing Date
102nd overall (NFL Mock Draft Database)
The Draft Network’s Grade/Round Value
TDN Consensus Grade: 78.5/100 (Third-Round Value)
PFF Big Board Rank: 86 (Third Round)
What an Expert is Saying
I really like Tank Bigsby. He wasn’t a great tester (4.56 40 32” vert 9’9” broad) but he can play.— Clay Harbor (@clayharbs82) April 13, 2023
He’s got shake and is very shifty. He averaged the 7th most yards after contact per attempt (4.2). Would be a STEAL in the 3-4 round. #NFLdraft #Bears #Eagles pic.twitter.com/Pkckvyrdds
Pro and Cons
A few things about Bigsby’s game stand out as he has some of the same traits that have made Chubb so successful, starting with his ability to break tackles, as Damian Parson at The Draft Network points out:
Watching Bigsby on tape, one of the easiest things I noticed was how often he fell forward to finish runs. He is a tough north/south runner. His feet remain in constant movement. This allows him to maintain balance and drive through arm tackles. Bigsby showcases the vision necessary to find cut-back lanes and exchange gaps.
Bigsby also excels when running behind an offensive line that incorporates a zone scheme, according to The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, which just happens to be what the Browns use:
Bigsby was the team’s most explosive asset in former offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau’s zone scheme. Bigsby runs with natural power, contact balance and body control and is just as likely to run through defenders as he is to juke them in space. He will miss run lanes because of spotty vision, tempo and patience, but he often had to create on his own, and those parts of his game should improve with better blocking and talent around him. Overall, Bigsby needs to improve his decisiveness and feel for finding creases, but he has playmaking skills thanks to his up-field explosiveness along with his upside as a receiver and blocker. He has NFL starting potential in a gap or zone scheme.
Browns Player Drafting Could Impact
The player at the top of the list would likely be running back Demetric Felton Jr., who has yet to find a consistent role in his two seasons with the Browns. Felton has been buried on the depth chart and while it appears he is better suited as a pass-catching threat rather than a runner, he only has 20 receptions for 189 yards so far, with all but two of those catches and eight of those yards coming in his rookie season.
John Kelly Jr. and Nate McCrary, the other running backs currently on the roster, should not feel secure about their spots either.
Strength of team run blocking in college amongst this year’s RB class pic.twitter.com/vtvF6vwhP2— Football Insights (@fball_insights) April 12, 2023
Low to Medium: The Browns reportedly like what they have in Jerome Ford, the club’s fifth-round selection in last year’s draft, as a backup to Chubb. If they are going to select a running back in this year’s draft, it seems that they would prefer someone who can be an asset in the passing game, which is not exactly one of Bigsby’s strengths.
Still, adding a running back that shares many of the same traits as Chubb could be appealing to Berry, so while using a third-round selection on a running back with so many other holes to fill on the roster might be a luxury, Bigsby could be a player to keep an eye on come draft weekend.