5 running backs the Arizona Cardinals could consider in the 2023 draft

With the 2023 NFL Draft just over a month away, it’s time to identify the best possible players for the Arizona Cardinals to pick.

The Arizona Cardinals have a solid back in James Conner. But the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2017 third-round pick is injury-prone and he’s not getting any younger. So don’t be surprised if the Cardinals look for a running back to complement Conner in the middle rounds.

Below, you’ll meet five running backs, ranked from highest priority to lowest, who are very well suited for the Redbirds like the quarterback rankings. Keep in mind that each of the running backs listed below will likely go into the middle rounds, so you won’t see top-end prospects like Bijan Robinson on this list.

A smaller back that weighs 185lb Devon Achane is a great complement to the larger, physical Conner. He also only had 369 carries at Texas A&M and 434 total touches.

What stands out the most? Achane rushed for 2,376 yards during his collegiate career, good for 6.4 yards per carry. He’s also a threat as a pass catcher, having amassed 65 receptions and five through-air touchdowns.

Sure, Achane may be small. But you can’t deny that he can be a complete defender when used as a two-down player.

Another small option Tyjae Spears Clocks in at just 190lb. And during his career at Tulane, Spears scored 34 goals, including 31 on the ground.

His productivity is off the charts, averaging 6.8 yards per carry and 2,910 rushing yards. In 2022 alone, he had 1,581 grounded yards, 6.9 yards per and 19 touchdowns. Overall, he’s a pace change that would go well with the Arizona Cardinals.

Israel Abanikanda is a back taller than Tyjae Spears and Devon Achane. He only had one outstanding season at the University of Pittsburgh, however Abanikanda was still a prolific player in 2021 and 2022 with over 2,000 rushing yards and 27 total touchdowns.

With just 38 career receptions, he doesn’t do much as a receiver. However, if the Arizona Cardinals are looking to run the ball often in 2023, and they may well be, someone like Abanikanda would be an ideal mid-round pickup.

Additionally, if they’re interested in a more balanced attack when quarterback Kyler Murray returns, Abanikanda is still a good option. Overall, worth grabbing once the top two listed backs are gone.

Sean Tucker had three good seasons at Syracuse, but his productivity never topped the charts, averaging just 5.4 yards per carry throughout his collegiate career. But the 210lb Tucker is a complete defender who can be a reliable runner and pass catcher – 56 receptions and 509 receiving yards in his last two seasons with Orange.

He probably won’t excite us at the next level. But the Arizona Cardinals just need a back to give Conner an occasional breather in 2023. And Tucker could be that player.

Finally we have Kenny McIntosh. And if there’s one thing that many in the Arizona Cardinals don’t have, it’s experience as a champion, that alone could give him some value.

However, McIntosh also carries a better size than the backs mentioned on this list. And like Tucker, he can catch passes from the backfield, having logged 76 in his career and 65 in the last two seasons.

He’s no touchdown machine and he’s never rushed for 1,000 yards, but McIntosh found the end zone ten times last season with just 149 carries. I wouldn’t expect him to gain featured back status. But I would expect McIntosh to turn into a decent substitute if he lands with the right team.

And the Cardinals seem like a good fit given their need for a solid RB2. It won’t be long before we find out if McIntosh or any of the backers listed before him will be wearing a Cardinal White uniform.

(Statistics provided by Pro Soccer Reference)


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