The New York Jets have drafted Pittsburgh RB Israel Abanikanda with the No. 143 overall pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Abanikanda projects to have an impact at the NFL level with the skill set he showed in college. He can be used on early downs with ideal size, standing at 5-foot-10 and 216 pounds. When Abanikanda gets going, he can be a real threat to take it to the house with his speed.
If you’re looking for reasons to stay away from Abanikanda, he doesn’t have a ton of value as a third-down back at this point, but that can be fixed with more experience. He could also use work in his ability to change directions, which will be important to his development as a pro.
Abanikanda spent three years playing for the Pitt Panthers. He only logged six games as a freshman but saw a large uptick in work in his sophomore and junior seasons. Abanikanda played in a total of 30 collegiate games. He had 390 carries for 2,177 yards with 28 touchdowns. Abanikanda added 354 additional yards on 38 receptions with three more scores.
How can Israel Abanikanda impact the Jets in 2023?
Abanikanda should take over as the backup to Breece Hall. The starter is coming off a season-ending injury, so if he isn’t ready to go, Abanikanda could begin the year leading the backfield. There is still the chance that the rookie could sit for a year and develop behind Hall and Michael Carter, but that wouldn’t be a bad thing. At the worst, they add solid depth, and the best-case scenario is that Abanikanda develops into a great backup for Hall.