* - How well does his skill set carry over
to the fantasy game? For running backs, a player needs to be a
three-down option as well as a realistic threat for 1,000 rushing
yards and 500 receiving yards to be a candidate for a perfect
grade. Positional scarcity at the pro level is also a part of
Achane may look and be built like a scatback, but he is surprisingly
comfortable and effective running between the tackles. What makes
him even more unique is his patience in pressing the hole and his
ability to change direction and stop-and-start once inside. His
acceleration is as good as any back in this draft class. Good contact
balance is not something that is typically associated with 188-pound
running backs, but the former four-star recruit will rarely go down
on an arm tackle and can take second- and third-level defenders
for a short ride on occasion. (He accumulated 705 yards after contact
in 2022 and forced a missed tackle on 29 percent of his career rush
attempts, per Pro Football Focus.) Although he did not account for
a large number of "home runs" in his college career, Achane's
track speed (4.32) - notable because he is also an accomplished
college sprinter - checks out with his game speed. The first-team
All-SEC performer, who fumbled only twice in his career (on 434
touches), should provide immediate returns on special teams after
returning two of his 20 career kick returns back for touchdowns.
Achane may not have the size to hold up very long against bigger
defenders as a blocker, but he showed a high level of commitment
and effort in that area. While his 2022 tape did not reveal much
creative use in the passing game, his 2021 film showed that he has
significant upside as a weapon in the passing game - be it out of
the backfield or split out wide.
Even in today's NFL where speed rules and size does not matter
as much as it used to, there are very few backs who can (or even
given a chance to) be primary backs - much less featured backs.
The fact that he needs to add at least 10-15 pounds before he could
enter the conversation with most teams limits how some NFL teams
will view him. As is the case with any running back his size, durability
will be a primary concern. That may especially be the case for Achane
if he continues to run inside as often as he did at Texas A&M.
His lack of size could also come into play against defenses with
bigger linebackers; the likelihood is that he will be expected to
regularly stand up a defender at least 35 pounds heavier than him
against the blitz. His patience as a runner serves him well the
majority of the time, but it occasionally leads to tackles for losses
or missed big-play opportunities because he took a split-second
too long to decide to abandon a doomed play. While he is very elusive
and can stack moves on moves, Achane is also a bit more straight-line
than one would expect for a player of his size; he is less likely
to juke defenders and more likely to spin or lower his shoulder.
The fact of the matter is that if Achane was even about 200 pounds,
he might be viewed as a surefire second-round pick. His initial
calling card figures to be his versatility - he was the only Power
5 player to score as a rusher, receiver and kick returner in 2022
- but evaluators should not make the mistake that he is just another
try-hard scatback. His size will understandably keep him from
handling a heavy workload in the pros, but it would be a waste
of his talents to give him five carries and five targets per game
and call it a day. Jamie Morris (Michigan, 1988 NFL Draft) was
one of the best short and sub-190 pound inside runners the league
has seen and Achane is like him in some ways.
It is probably too much to ask Achane to become the next Austin Ekeler - especially near the goal line - but there is little doubt
that the 2020 Orange Bowl Offensive MVP can be used in a similar
fashion otherwise. His best fit is with a team that believes in
a true split backfield and has an offensive coordinator creative
enough to line him up all over the field. It may take Achane a
bit to convince his next coaching staff that he is something more
than just a scatback/kick returner, but it should happen eventually.
He is not just another 188-pound back who should be capped at
120-130 touches per season.
Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured
in USA TODAY's Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He
is also a high-stakes player who often appears as a guest analyst
on a number of national sports radio shows, such as Sirius XM’s
“Fantasy Drive." Doug is also a member of the Fantasy
Sports Writers Association.