The 2023 running back draft class is gaining unparalleled hype, and their freshman season just ended. Big names such as Bijan Robinson, Tank Bigsby, and Jahmyr Gibbs have already made an impact early on in their respective collegiate careers.
Today, we’re focusing on Wisconsin’s Jalen Berger, who likely deservers to be discussed in that tier with the afroementioned prospects.
Recruitment and High School Production
Jalen Berger is listed at 6-0, 205-pounds. He was given a composite score of 0.9347, which is a 4-star rating by 247Sports. Berger was recruited by 20 different schools; a who’s who of high profile programs including Alabama, Florida, LSU, Ohio State, Oregon, and Penn State.
Using the table that Noah Hills compiled for his devy running back piece to project weight gain for NFL prospects, Berger’s weight projects to be 217-pounds, which is above the minimum threshold for a workhorse back. In his senior season of high school, he had 111 rush attempts for 840 yards and 12 touchdowns, adding on 27 receptions for 357 yards and four additional scores.
Coming into college, Berger ran a 4.60 40-yard Dash, had a 4.28 20-yard shuttle and logged a 31-inch vertical, all verified. While his athletic foundation is not as impressive, it does offer hope that these numbers will improve once he’s in a collegiate weight room.
Berger missed the first game of the 2020 season before recording 60 carries for 301 yards and two receptions for 13 yards with two total touchdowns. Among the team’s RBs who logged at least 50 carries, he led the group in rushing yards, yards per carry and yards per reception.
Given the fact that Berger played two fewer games than his competitors, this speaks volumes to his production and efficency compared to the field. His freshman season saw him log a 40.73-percent College Market Share and 20.0-percent of the teams rushing touchdowns. All of this production comes against Power 5 teams, two of which finished in the top-15 (Northwestern at No. 14 and Indiana at No. 11). His production thus far in his young collegiate career has been nothing less than impressive.
When Jonathan Taylor left for the NFL, a massive void in opportunity was created. A short collegiate season is certainly the last thing we want to see for any player, let alone a freshman, which is why having such an immediate impact and being efficient is something I am absolutely keying into for this year.
To make matters even better, Berger has done it playing against Power 5 schools. Competition matters. The only concern moving forward is his athletic profile and he has plenty of time to improve upon that. Wisconsin is bringing in three 3-star freshman running backs, but if Berger builds upon his freshman season, they won’t be anything but breather backs for him. His Campus to Canton ADP is an exploitable pick No. 140.04.