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Israel Abanikanda Would Add a Home Run Threat to the Commanders’ Backfield

Hogs Haven takes a look at 2023 NFL Draft prospects that could contribute to the Commanders

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Israel Abanikanda, RB

School: University of Pittsburgh | Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference

College Experience: Junior | Age: 21 (Week 1)

Height / Weight: 5’ 10” 218 lbs

Projected Draft Status: 3rd-4th round

Player Comparison: Isiah Pacheco / Bigger Raheem Mostert

College Statistics

Rushing & Receiving Table
Rushing Receiving Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
2020 Pitt ACC FR RB 6 28 95 3.4 1 2 11 5.5 1 30 106 3.5 2
*2021 Pitt ACC SO RB 13 123 651 5.3 7 24 197 8.2 1 147 848 5.8 8
*2022 Pitt ACC JR RB 11 239 1431 6.0 20 12 146 12.2 1 251 1577 6.3 21
Career Pitt 390 2177 5.6 28 38 354 9.3 3 428 2531 5.9 31
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 3/23/2023.
Kick & Punt Returns Table
Kick Ret Punt Ret
Year School Conf Class Pos G Ret Yds Avg TD Ret Yds Avg TD
2020 Pitt ACC FR RB 6 0 0 0 0 0 0
*2021 Pitt ACC SO RB 13 7 206 29.4 1 0 0 0
*2022 Pitt ACC JR RB 11 12 228 19.0 0 0 0 0
Career Pitt 19 434 22.8 1 0 0 0
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 3/23/2023.

Player Overview

Israel Abanikanda (ah-banna-can-dah) was the New York State Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln High School (NY). He started his collegiate career with the University of Pittsburgh Panthers as a 3-star recruit. He received part-time ball carrier duties in his freshman year and was given more work in his sophomore season playing all 13 games. His last season, he led the ACC with 1,431 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in his breakout junior season that put him on the draft radar.

He garnered third-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-ACC honors for his outstanding junior season. Abanikanda is a two-time 100-meter Gold Medalist at the New York City Mayor’s Cup Race. He formally met with the Commanders at the NFL Combine.

Abankinda is a one-cut and go runner who is a big play waiting to happen. He comes into the league with questions of if he has the power and toughness to run between the tackles.


  • Insane production in senior year (21 total touchdowns, 1,577 scrimmage yards)
  • Home run speed. Was an outstanding track athlete in high school.
  • Big play waiting to happen. A menace in the open field.
  • Not a lot of tread, only one 200+ carry season.


  • Needs better run discipline. A bit impatient waiting for holes to open.
  • Uneven change of direction, not fluid.
  • Needs to work on staying in front of rusher in pass protection.
  • Limited usage as a pass catcher.

Let’s See His Work


How Will He Fit On The Team

With Eric Bieniemy having full control of Washington’s offense, there could be a shake-up of offensive personnel. This could even come down to the running back room. While Bieniemy might not move on from Brian Robinson, Jr. and Antonio Gibson this season, he might prefer to have a running back similar to the backs he worked with before. It is unknown whether Bieniemy sees a comparison between Pacheco and Abanikanda, but he provides another running back into the committee with big play ability. While Abanikanda may not make an impact in his rookie season, if Washington decides to move on from Gibson next year, Abanikanda could see an increased role in the rushing attack as a speedier option to Robinson’s power.