Jonathon Brooks was a Workhorse Before Injury Derailed His Final College Season, But Can He Earn the Same Role With the Panthers in 2024?
Image Credit: Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Jonathon Brooks.

After waiting his turn for the opportunity to lead Texas’s backfield, Jonathon Brooks showed signs of being the next great running back to emerge from the Longhorns’ storied program. Then disaster struck on November 11th against TCU, as Brooks’ breakout season ended prematurely due to a torn ACL. The injury was not enough to scare off the Carolina Panthers, as the team traded up to the 46th pick to make Brooks the first RB selected in the 2024 NFL draft. After weighing the looming injury uncertainty and landing spot questions against his dynamic skill set and substantial draft capital, how plausible is it for Brooks to dethrone Carolina’s incumbent running backs and become the team’s workhorse in his rookie season?

(A Limited Sample of) College Production

There is no shame in earning minimal touches while playing behind a superstar like Bijan Robinson in college. Add in a second NFL-level talent in Roschon Johnson, and it is easy to see why Brooks did not have much production in his first two seasons at Texas.

SeasWeekOpponentRuAttRuYdsRuTDRuYPCRuAttAdjMSRuYdsAdjMSRuTDAdjMSFumRecRecYdsRecTDTouchesTotYdsTotTDTouchesAdjMSTotYdsAdjMSTotTDAdjMS
20213Rice963170.240.150.17000096310.160.10.13
20214Texas Tech74706.710.160.160000074700.110.080
202111Kansas53306.60.20.241112064500.10.080
20221Louisiana Monroe63215.330.230.210.33000063210.130.080.2
20226Oklahoma73915.570.150.140.33000073910.10.070.14
202212Kansas1110829.820.20.260.3300001110820.160.20.29
202217Washington618130.430.410237185520.180.131
20231Rice125204.330.390.3602421149410.260.210.33
20232Alabama145714.070.410.6110140156110.260.140.25
20233Wyoming2116407.810.720.8600002116400.530.510
20234Baylor1810625.890.620.670.67011801912420.40.250.5
20235Kansas21218210.380.480.741012302224120.320.390.67
20236Oklahoma2212915.860.690.761053402716310.420.30.5
20238Houston209904.950.650.670085102815000.50.410
20239BYU169816.130.470.490.5044002013810.40.370.25
202310Kansas State2211215.090.590.490.510002211210.390.230.33
202311TCU2110424.950.530.631037402417820.390.370.67

Brooks started slowly over the first two games of 2023, but terrorized defenses over his final eight. Unfortunately, Brooks had arguably his worst game when the Longhorns faced their most formidable rushing defense of the season in Week 2 against Alabama. While it would have been nice to see him show out in such a high-profile game, in Brooks’ defense, he was still more efficient as a rusher than the rest of the team as a whole against Alabama. In that game, Brooks’ 61% market share of the team’s rushing yards came on a 41% market share of the Longhorns’ rushing attempts. In fact, this was a statistical trend that materialized in almost every one of Brooks’ 2023 games, with the exceptions being the season opener against Rice and in Week 10 against Kansas State. While not seeing much work in the passing game to start the season, Brooks did prove to be a capable receiver over his final five games; averaging four receptions per game – including a career-high of eight against Houston.

In the 11 games Brooks played last season, he posted a 76% backfield dominator rating while also accounting for a 38% market share of the touches in the Texas offense. After taking into account that the Longhorns also had another RB – Keilan Robinson (167th pick) – drafted this year along with skill-position players Xavier Worthy (28th), Adonai Mitchell (52nd), and Ja’Tavion Sanders (101st), Brooks’ market share of touches in a loaded Texas offense becomes even more impressive.

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Kevin Szafraniec

Full-time Cat Dad, Sneakerhead, Record Collector, LOTR Fanboy, and Jeopardy Enthusiast. Fantasy football writer, operations manager, and beatmaker in my free time.

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