NFL teams love bringing in draft prospects with speed, explosion, elusiveness and the ability to create in open space. Those are key traits in today’s most effective offenses. And while doing my final evaluations for the 2023 class, I saw a lot of players who fit that mold — guys who are nearly impossible to bring down once they find some daylight. So I ranked the best of the best in my annual All-Satellite team, which is filled with speedy, lightning-fast, tough-to-contain prospects.

This marks the 14th edition of this list, dating back to C.J. Spiller and the 2010 class. Past iterations have included the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Jaylen Waddle, Brandin Cooks, Christian McCaffrey, Lamar Jackson, Tyler Lockett and Kyler Murray. The 2022 class was headlined by Jameson Williams, who will likely have a bigger role in the Lions’ offense in Year 2 now that he’s fully recovered from the torn ACL injury. The 2023 edition has a little bit of everything but starts with a shifty Alabama ball-carrier. Here are the six best prospects in space from this year’s class, plus a few honorable mentions to watch.

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I’m kicking this year’s list off with a running back who makes defenders flat-out whiff. Forcing missed tackles in tight areas is essentially the criteria to make the All-Satellite team, and no one in this class does it better than Gibbs. He is sudden with ankle-breaking lateral agility and accelerates in a flash. And once he gets a crease, Gibbs is off to the races — he ran a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, second-fastest among running backs. On a 72-yard TD run against Arkansas in October, Gibbs reached 22.8 miles per hour. That devastating speed allows him to kill defender pursuit angles and just run away from everyone.

Gibbs can stop and start in an instant, with the body control and sharp-cutting ability to stick his foot in the turf and then explode upfield. Watch the tape, and you’ll see him string together multiple cuts through the line of scrimmage. Last season, Gibbs averaged 6.1 yards per carry, forced 58 missed tackles and broke 25 runs of at least 10 yards. And while he probably won’t see 25-30 carries per game in the NFL due to his 5-foot-9, 199-pound frame, he will be a dynamic pass-catching weapon. Gibbs has the potential to instantly become one of the most dangerous receivers out of the backfield after catching 44 passes in 2022.

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At 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, Robinson has an excellent combination of stop-start suddenness, lateral agility and ability to downhill slalom through traffic like a Super-G gold medalist skier. His top-end speed is very good for his size — he ran a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash at the combine — but I marvel most at his unique body control and ability to accelerate out of his cut in a flash. In 2022, he totaled an FBS-best 91 forced missed tackles, well ahead of the next-closest player (Frank Gore Jr. at 77). He had 81 in 2021, too, which was sixth.

Robinson is a patient runner who can weave in and out of seams, and then he has the burst to turn the corner on perimeter runs. His contact balance is excellent, as well. If Robinson finds open space, you’ll almost always need multiple defenders to get him on the ground. He is one of just four running backs to total over 1,000 rushing yards after first contact last season. His consistent production — as a runner and receiver — is hard to match. Over the past two years, he averaged 6.0 yards per carry and ran for 29 touchdowns, while also averaging 13.5 yards on 45 catches in the pass game.

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No, Davis is not an ankle-breaker. That’s not his game. But he has great vision in the open field and the sharp-cutting ability to quickly reverse course on the fly. Ultimately, Davis is the most dangerous punt returner in the 2023 class and made this list thanks to his exceptional acceleration and elite second-gear. It looks like he has a jet pack strapped to his back when he turns on the burner. He ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the combine (second-fastest of all receivers), and I would argue that his game speed is even better than his timed speed.

As a receiver, the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Davis is at his best on quick-hitters, when he can pluck and transition upfield in a flash with his explosive speed and suddenness. But his bread and butter is the return game. There isn’t a more dynamic return specialist in this class. Davis averaged 22.0 yards per kickoff return and 15.0 yards per punt return over his college career, and he brought six kicks to the house (five punts, one kickoff).

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4. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

Flowers’ best trait is his ability to generate separation as a route runner — a skill that will help him excel as a pro but doesn’t really impact his All-Satellite profile. But he still makes this list because of his outstanding quickness and the way he consistently makes defenders miss with the ball in his hands. Like Davis, he’s not an ankle-breaker, but he releases so fast off the line of scrimmage and pulls away from coverage with his 4.42 speed.

Three things really stand out on tape here. First, Flowers transitions upfield after the catch so quickly that he frequently makes the first defender miss simply because they can’t recover in time. Second, he has silky smooth hips when eluding opponents in space. And third, the 5-foot-9, 182-pounder thrives at using subtle moves with his shoulders and hips to set up defenders before sharply cutting and accelerating away from them. In all, Flowers forced 25 missed tackles on catches last season, fourth-most in the nation, en route to more than 1,000 receiving yards and 12 TD receptions.



Zay Flowers’ NFL draft profile

Check out the best highlights that contributed to a Boston College WR Zay Flowers’ stellar college career.

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Not many quarterbacks — or humans, in general — can run a 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds at 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds. Even fewer can make a sharp cut at top speed to de-cleat a defender like Richardson did at the end of his 45-yard touchdown run against Utah early last season. It was one of four rushing touchdowns of at least that distance for him during the 2022 season, including an 81-yard sprint against LSU.

Now, is he as sudden as Lamar Jackson? No. Nobody in the NFL is, and the only quarterback in NFL history who could have an argument is Michael Vick. But Richardson is two inches taller and carries 28 more pounds on his frame than Jackson measured at the 2018 combine. He can extend plays with his elite speed and excellent strength. Richardson averaged 6.4 yards per carry last season, by far the best among FBS quarterbacks, and his 43 forced missed tackles ranked third at the position.

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I’m wrapping up my 2023 list with a sudden, sharp-cutting back who shows explosive acceleration off his plant foot. I love how seamlessly Achane strings together moves to spin through a defense and then uses his blinding second gear to burn defenders at the second and third levels. Achane’s 4.32-second 40-yard dash was the third-fastest time of all participants at the combine and the fastest among running backs. He can straight up fly.

Sure, his 5.6 yards per carry in 2022 seems underwhelming, but only until you fire up the tape. With Texas A&M’s dismal blocking up front, it was a borderline miracle that Achane generated 1,102 rushing yards on his own. He is a chunk play waiting to happen as a runner and receiver (65 receptions in three seasons), and while he’s not likely to be a lead back in the NFL at 5-foot-9 and 188 pounds, he should have a lot of success in a rotation. Oh, and Achane is also explosive on special teams, where he averaged 30.7 yards per kickoff return on 20 tries over the past two years.

Honorable mentions

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