My look at 2024 ADPs and best ball draft trends continues, this time with a look at running backs that scare the living hell out of me higher up in drafts. We’ve all been burned by guys in their first season as the expected lead back of appealing situations. It didn’t take long for me to compile a list of top ten-round RBs that burned us the past two seasons (see below).

Camar Wheaton (SMU)
Corey Kiner (Cincinnati his first year)
Aidan Robbins (BYU)
Christopher Brooks (BYU)
Taye McWilliams (Baylor)
Dominic Richardson (Oklahoma State)
Rodney Hammonds (Pitt)
John Lee Eldridge (Air Force)

Today, I look at three guys who wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they were included this time next year.

CJ Baxter (Texas, RB10)

Baxter is the highest-drafted back of the group I’ll talk about today and, not surprisingly, the guy I’m most confident in going into 2024. I do have some concerns, though, about just assuming he’ll take over the full RB1 duties at Texas and will be worth the top 2-3 round pick he is currently.

Courtesy of Longhorns Wire

Baxter played through some injuries in 2023, but from an overall talent standpoint, I didn’t consider him that impressive. He had a plethora of games where he ran for between two and four YPC, and when Jonathon Brooks went down with an ACL injury, Baxter shared the RB carries with Jaydon Blue. In these final four games, Baxter ran 51 times for 269 and a pair of TDs. Blue, during that same stretch, ran 36 times for 231 yards and two TDs. 

This Texas team has weapons all over the place, especially out wide. Silas Bolden, Matthew Golden, Isaiah Bond, and Amari Niblack join the picture while Johntay Cook II returns for his sophomore campaign. This is a group that could go wild through the air with Quinn Ewers looking to solidify himself as the top QB in next year’s NFL Draft. There’s a chance that we see a “weaker” Sarkisian RB year because of this. 

Baxter was a big name coming into 2023, but so was Blue coming into the 2023 season. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Blue take over as RB1 or for this to be an RBBC that kills both of their upside.

Peny Boone (Louisville, RB24)

Boone is the clear candidate to replace Jawhar Jordan and Isaac Guerendo and their nearly 2,000 yards rushing combined from 2023. Boone himself ran for 1,400 yards and 15 TDs last year with Toledo, making him a rather enticing player to target in 2024 drafts.

Consider it PTSD. Consider it just being too cautious. But I get shades of Aidan Robbins when looking at Boone. Both weighed in the 240s, with Robbins being 6’3″ compared to Boone’s 6’1″ frame. After a 1,011-yard season in 2022 for UNLV, Robbins would go on to run for just 485 yards in 2023. What concerns me the most about Boone, though, is the fact that he was irrelevant during his time at Maryland, and in his first year at Toledo, he ran for 3.8 YPC on 116 carries. Was 2023 a flash in the pan? Can he bottle up that magic again? 

From a competition standpoint, there is a reason Boone is considered the leading guy going into this season. I don’t love Donald Chaney Jr, but he isn’t a complete walkover. And Maurice Turner, the returning back, looked solid in limited duty last season. 

Abu Sama III (Iowa State, RB25)

Sama is the guy I’ll probably have exactly none of this best ball draft season, which certainly is worrisome. While I do think he has bust potential, he also has some really nice upside. This Iowa State RB spot has been extremely productive in years past, but I’m starting to wonder how much of that was just that Breece Hall and David Montgomery are two NFL backs who were utilized heavily for several years each.

In 2022, Jirehl Brock led the team with 445 yards on 99 carries, while Sama led the team in 2023 with 614 yards on 84 carries. These are certainly not league winning numbers out of a top 25 RB. 

My biggest hesitation here, though, is that he ran for 276 of his 614 total yards in one game. This game also occurred during a blizzard! His game log is unimpressive besides two games (Versus BYU, he ran eight times for 110 yards and two TDs). Against Memphis in the bowl game, he ran 12 times for four yards. Against Texas, he had seven carries for 11 yards. Against Ohio early on in the season, he ran three times for -5 yards. Against Oklahoma State, he ran eight times for seven yards. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it. You can blame part of it on the fact he was one of many RBs on the roster getting carries early on, but the Memphis/Texas games were ones where he led the team in carries.

The good news here for Sama fans is that Eli Sanders and Cartevious Norton are both gone, while Iowa State only brought in Jaylon Jackson from Ohio. Jackson wasn’t all that impressive with the Bobcats. Nonetheless, I’m steering clear of Sama and looking elsewhere at RB in 2024.  

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