Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs got unexpected production from a seventh-round rookie running back. Isiah Pacheco surpassed all expectations for a Day 3 pick. Including the postseason, Pacheco had 1027 rushing yards on 4.9 yards per carry. After Clyde Edwards-Helaire suffered an injury, the Chiefs needed a running back to be productive in the run game, and Pacheco was perfect for the team in that area.
Still, running back is a position of attrition. Running backs take the most hits of any skill position player and endure the most physicality. You need depth and insurance at the position in case injuries happen. With Edwards-Helaire’s role in flux and running back Jerick McKinnon still available in free agency, the Chiefs need to look to address the position in the draft.
If the Chiefs decide to invest in a top-100 pick at the running back position, they may look to select Texas A&M running back Devon Achane.
Here’s what you need to know about Achane:
Out of high school, Achane was a four-star recruit and the fourth-ranked all-purpose back nationally. Achane had offers from Alabama, Georgia, USC, Texas and North Carolina, but ultimately decided to go to Texas A&M. Achane also was recruited to Texas A&M’s track and field team, where he ran for two seasons for the Aggies. Achane finished in the top 25 at the NCAA Championships in the 100-meter dash with a blazing 10.48 second time.
While Achane was terrific in track and field, football was his best sport. Achane broke out in his junior year (2022) as an All-SEC first-team running back. He finished first in the SEC and fourth nationally in all-purpose yards with 161 per game. Achane averaged 110.2 rushing yards a game in 2022. He had multiple 90-plus-yard touchdowns in special teams during his career as well.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Achane measured in at 5’8 3/4” and 188 lbs. His track background showed up in the 40-yard dash where he ran a 4.32 time. Since 1999, that is the fifth-best 40-yard dash time for a running back at the Combine. Achane only had a 33” vertical jump, which ranks in the 35th percentile.
Devon Achane (RB, #6, Texas A&M— Nate Christensen (@natech32) March 8, 2023
- speed, speed, speed
- good vision, ability to work read zone/gap concepts
- ability to get skinny, reduce surface area
- limited route tree but excellent vertically
- angles-beater, gets to sideline, rangy
- cutback ability, set up in hole/space pic.twitter.com/Z1ynb1MRli
When you turn on Achane’s film, the first thing that stands out is his speed.
If he can get past the first level of your defense, it’s a five-alarm fire. His speed allows him to accelerate away from defensive backs, and any run he gets into space can turn into a touchdown.
But he isn’t all speed. Achane’s vision as a runner is developed. He was able to execute both zone-blocking schemes and gap-blocking schemes well. He’ll set you up in the hole well but can also hit cutback lanes consistently. Achane’s not the most agile runner but has enough agility with his vision to threaten cutback lanes. He’s also able to reduce his surface area, getting skinny to find gaps and space within a defense.
Achane had 65 catches over his college career, but he does need development as a receiver. He flashed the ability to make catches over the shoulder, and any linebacker who tries to run with him down the seams will be challenged by his speed. Immediately, Achane can change defenses in the receiving game with his vertical speed. As he develops his route tree, Achane can be a deadly weapon in the passing game.
How he fits the Chiefs
Achane would immediately make the Chiefs able to run from shotgun more effectively. Pacheco’s better with under-center runs, where he’s able to get a running start and doesn’t have to rely on his agility or vision to create advantages. Achane’s comfortable running from the shotgun, which would help the Chiefs with their run-pass option game.
Projecting Achane’s fit into the passing game is more difficult. He has limited experience as a pass-catcher, but we’ve seen head coach Andy Reid develop running backs in the passing game before. With his ability to get into space, Reid could design plays to get Achane in space with a running start. I would bet defenses don’t want to see Achane in Reid’s screen package.
As a pass protector, Achane will always be limited. His lack of size means that he won’t be able to handle most linebackers and defensive backs one on one. Getting him into the route pattern and in space might alleviate that, but that would undoubtedly be a concern for him in this offense.
The bottom line
Achane’s size concerns are real. Being only 5’8 3/4” and 188 lbs. raises questions about his ability to hold up against NFL contact and stay healthy. Achane brings value to any offense as a game-breaker with his speed. He’s grown significantly as a running back over college, but that speed allows him to swing multiple games in a season with long runs.
For the Chiefs, Achane would give them an explosive ability from a running back they haven’t had since running back Jamaal Charles. He might lack the ideal size to be a full-time running back, but he wouldn’t have to be that in a rotation with Pacheco. If he can add to his receiving ability, he can be one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL immediately. My guess is Achane will go well before the Chiefs consider a running back, but if he falls because of his size, Achane can instantly make the 2023 offense a lot more electric.