NY Jets RB Israel Abanikanda could be a surprise breakout star in 2023

NY Jets, Israel Abanikanda
NY Jets, Israel Abanikanda / Mike Stobe/GettyImages

The NY Jets had high hopes when they selected Israel Abanikanda in the fifth round of this year's NFL Draft. The Abanikanda pick was seen as an absolute steal for the Jets by many at the time. While not much is known about him at the pro level yet, Abanikanda was a stud in college.

Abanikanda began his time at Pittsburgh in 2020, but it wouldn't be until 2022 that we would see him have a breakout year. That's when Abanikanda rushed for 1,431 yards and 20 touchdowns in 11 games. This includes a run of 80 yards, which marked his career-long in college.

Not only is Abanikanda a great rusher, but he can also catch the ball pretty well. In 2022, he had 12 receptions for 146 yards. Although Breece Hall owns the title of RB1 on the Jets, Abanikanda could quickly become the breakout star of 2023.

Israel Abanikanda could breakout in 2023 for the NY Jets

First and foremost, the title of RB2 is wide open. Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight are currently also vying for that spot, but neither has shown why they should be RB2. Especially after a rough year last year, the top backup running back job could be anyone's to take.

This obviously excludes the potential signing of Dalvin Cook. While nothing is official yet, if the rumors about Cook coming to the Jets are true, Abanikanda's competition could become much tougher. Obviously, this all depends on the outcome of that situation.

Even though Hall is expected to be ready by Week 1, it's unlikely the team gives him a full workload early in the season. This could be Abanikanda's best chance to earn his spot over Knight or Carter and call himself the Jets' true RB2.

While Abanikanda is still behind Carter and Knight, he definitely has a shot to win the RB2 job, depending on how training camp goes. Expect to see a lot of Abanikanda this season, whether in a top backup role or a similar role to Knight's last year before he took Carter's job.