Running Back Pre-Season Rankings for the 2022 NFL Draft
Continuing my summer scouting series with running backs. To preview the 2022 class, I watched 10 eligible draft prospects and rank them based on their talent, athleticism, production, and potential. My RB grading categories include vision, elusiveness, quickness/agility, speed/acceleration, receiving, blocking, strength, and ball security.
There are two running backs that I believe are the clear frontrunners of the 2022 class. Both Breece Hall and Isaiah Spiller have great size and running vision, but I see Hall as more athletic and complete right now. This will be a deep class, and there are a lot of names to know as you'll see from my honorable mentions. I only watched 10 prospects, but I wanted to give some honorable mentions. Some running backs to watch out for include:
CJ Verdell (Oregon) - Ranked #6 in my pre-season rankings last season
Keontay Ingram (USC) - Ranked #7 in my pre-season rankings last season
Vavae Malepeai (USC) - Ranked #9 in my pre-season rankings last season
Stephen Carr (USC) - Ranked #10 in my pre-season rankings last season
Max Borghi (Washington State) - Ranked #13 in my pre-season rankings last season
Chris Smith (Louisiana-Lafayette)
AJ Davis (Pitt)
Alex Fontenot (Colorado)
Cyrus Habibi-Likio (Boise State)
Dameon Pierce (Florida)
Elijah Collins (Michigan State)
George Holani (Boise State)
Isaih Pacheco (Rutgers)
Jah Maine-Martin (North Carolina A&T)
James Cook (Georgia)
JaTarvious Whitlow (Western Illinois)
John Emery (LSU)
Kavosiey Smoke (Kentucky)
Kennedy Brooks (Oklahoma)
Kevin Marks (Buffalo)
Lyn-J Dixon (Clemson)
Malik Davis (Florida)
LD Brown (Oklahoma State)
Master Teague (OSU)
Reese White (Coastal Carolina)
Ronnie Rivers (Fresno State)
Tyler Goodson (Iowa)
Vincent Davis (Pitt)
Xazavian Valladay (Wyoming)
Zach Charbonnet (UCLA)
SaRodorick Thompson (Texas Tech)
Rachaad White (Arizona State)
Leddie Brown (West Virginia)
Now for my rankings!
At #1 we have Breece Hall - Iowa State (6'1, 215lbs)
Hall has a complete skillset and projects as an every down back. He displays plus vision, showing patience behind the line and setting up his blocks to create his path. He’s explosive into the hole and possesses the quickness and agility to make sudden cuts up field. Once he gets to the second level, he has the second level vision and speed to create long runs and touchdowns. He’s a solid receiver out the back with sticky hands for a running back. There aren’t really any glaring weaknesses for Hall. There are times where he bounces runs to the outside too often, and he worked with a lot of space in the Iowa State offense. He can also afford to improve his blocking but he was able to hold his own on passing downs. Hall remains my RB1 but quite a bit. I like this play from Hall, as he hits the gap hard and makes a sharp cut on the defender, getting himself loose and breaking away for the touchdown.
#2 - Isaiah Spiller - Texas A&M (6'0, 225lbs)
Spiller is a smooth and fluid runner, showing he can string cuts up field. He’s physical and keeps his legs moving to generate yards after contact. He consistently breaks tackles when running inside through his gaps. He displays great contact balance and defenders will just bounce off him if they don’t wrap up. He has a decent initial burst past the line of scrimmage and is creative in space. He uses hesitations and other jukes in the open field to create for himself. Spiller does well to reach the second level but he lacks a second gear to separate from defenders. There are a few times on tape where he gets caught from behind when he’s clear to the endzone. His balance and footwork can also get a little sloppy when he maneuvers through traffic. While he has good receiving production, his route running and hands need work. There’s a lot of potential in Spiller and he should challenge for the top RB spot if he can improve his receiving and blocking ability. In the clip below, Spiller breaks through after making a great move on the safety but gets tracked down from behind.
#3 - Kevin Harris - South Carolina (5'10, 225lbs)
Harris is a powerful back with the ability to bulldoze over defenders. For a larger back he displays quick feet and is explosive though the hole. He’s more of a one cut back but he can pick up steam very quickly and he can deliver punishment in the open field. Good contact balance and keeps his legs moving on contact. He does well to recognize open gaps and he shows patience behind the line, allowing his blocks to develop. His receiving skills look good too. He’s got soft hands out the back and his run after catch transition is smooth. While he accelerates quickly, he lacks long speed and struggles to beat defenders toward the sideline. He also doesn’t create much at the line of scrimmage, and most of his explosive plays come from the benefit of large running gaps. I want to see him start manipulating defenders behind the line more and improve his routes out the back. He’s an interesting blend of burst and strength, and for his size he’s more fluid than you would think. Here you can see the explosiveness Harris possesses as he hits a long TD.
#4 - Kyren Williams - Notre Dame (5'9, 194lbs)
Williams broke into the scene last season and is especially remembered for his performance against Clemson in week 10, where he ran for 140 yards and 3 touchdowns. Williams has a complete skill set, showing impressive ability as a runner, blocker, and receiver. He finds his gaps well and adapts on inside runs, and he keeps his head up to read secondary defenders coming downhill. In space he’s shown the ability to make the first defender miss, utilizing quick juke and hesitation moves. He’s a strong blocker and can stand his ground against powerful rushers, and he’s got a great recognition for blitzers. He’s a capable receiver out the back with solid hands. While he ran routes out the slot, I wouldn’t say he was particularly good or effective at it. He’s not the most explosive but he has enough speed to hit breakaway runs. At times it seems he’s missing some aggression to his runs and will be timid hitting a gap. One area he needs to clean up this season is his ball security. He fumbled the ball 5 times on 211 rushing attempts. In this clip Williams shows great burst through the hole and makes a great juke on the safety. He also has the speed to win the race to the endzone.
#5 - Mohamed Ibrahim - Minnesota (5'9, 210lbs)
Ibrahim displays great vision and instincts as a runner. He excels on outside zone runs, demonstrating patience behind the line and when his gap opens he decisively cuts up field. He understands how to position his blockers, especially at the second level and in space. He knows when to get creative and when to get north. He’s a strong runner who gains yards after contact on a consistent basis. He has good contact balance and is feisty on contact, always fighting for more yards. He’s just an average athlete but he possesses fairly loose hips and can make cuts quickly. His main areas of improvement include pass protection and receiving ability. He only has 14 receptions over his 3-year career, and on tape he catches with his body. I hope to see him more involved in the passing game this season, but his natural running ability is impressive. Love this play from Ibrahim. He draws #7 towards the middle, and then cuts outside for a big gain.
#6 - Zamir White - Georgia (5'11, 215lbs)
White is a physical runner with good size and strength. He’s a very disciplined and smart runner on the inside, following his blockers and taking what is given to him. He’s patient and allows his gaps to develop, running with great tempo and footwork. He’s got very purposeful footwork, wasting no steps and always moving forward. He lowers his shoulders for contact and easily breaks arm tackles. He hits his gaps hard and if he gets to the second level, he possesses the burst and speed to hit long runs. There are times where he gets tunnel vision on a single gap and will try to force his way through. His hips are a little stiff and he won’t make people miss in space much. I like his ability as a runner but he’s missing experience and skills as a receiver and blocker. He only had 8 targets last season, and his route running and hands are raw. Hopefully he’ll see more targets this season and improve his ability as a receiver, as this will be important for his draft stock. In this play White demonstrates good vision and pace. He reads #51 commit to his left and he cuts up field, running with power and speed.
#7 - Tyler Allgeier - BYU (5'11, 220lbs)
Allgeier is an explosive straight-line back who can break away if he gets to the second level. He’s a strong runner with the ability to be a bruiser on the inside and will brush off tacklers as he hits his gap. He has the size and frame to be a bell cow, with big play ability. He’s still getting a hold of his vision and his instincts are raw. His footwork is choppy and despite his lower body strength he doesn’t have great balance. His hips are stiff and he lacks lateral agility but it’s not too necessary for his playstyle. If he can keep improving his vision, footwork, and receiving skills he can fly up rankings this season because of his power and home run ability. This play highlights what he is capable of. His hips look stiff as he maneuvers around defenders, but once he sees light he explodes up field and races to the endzone.
#8 - Cam'Ron Harris - Miami (5'9, 210lbs)
Harris is a compact runner with plus contact balance and strength. He’s particularly impressive as an inside runner, with good wiggle and footwork to find extra yards. He’s patient behind the line and allows his blocks to develop. He times his gaps very well and runs hard through them. He rarely loses yards and if he gets into the second level with space, he’s shown he has the speed to break away to the endzone. His hips are a tad stiff, and his lateral movement is limited. He lacks explosiveness into the second level and isn’t the most creative in space. His biggest weakness right now is his receiving ability. He often catches with his body and his hands look shaky. Harris is a smart runner and just needs to keep improving his receiving skills. The clip below highlights his short area wiggle and contact balance, as he's able to stay up after making contact with two defenders.
#9 - Jerrion Ealy - Ole Miss (5'8, 190lbs)
Ealy is an athletic back with quick feet to maneuver behind the line, waiting for his gap to open. He’s possesses good burst and agility to break into the second level and has breakaway speed to make teams pay, although he struggles to collect his feet well from speed. His hips are loose and he sinks into his cuts, allowing him to change directions easily. He runs with extreme patience, at times to a fault. He’ll take as much time as he can to allow his blockers to create space and he follows behind them. He can be too patient and will stop his feet in the backfield and he moves too cautiously through his gaps. His vision can use a lot of work. He often commits to a gap and runs straight into it, without adding deception to his run. His processing behind the line seems slow and he just needs to speed that part of his game up. There are bad cases of tunnel vision littered throughout his tape. He has the athleticism and receiving ability to get into space, but once he’s there he leaves a lot to be desired. This clip highlights his athletic ability, as he gets to speed quickly and cuts sharply to make the defender miss.
#10 - Eric Gray - Oklahoma (5'9, 205lbs)
Now at Oklahoma, Gray transferred from Tennessee after rushing for 772 yards and 4 touchdowns. On tape Gray flashes great vision and elusiveness, as he has the skillset to make defenders miss in space. He’s a strong runner who keeps his legs moving on contact, and he displays fantastic vision when he reaches the second level. He’s creative in space and he’s able to read defenders’ momentum and strings cuts together. He understands how to position himself and use his blockers to manipulate defenders. Despite not being the greatest athlete, he can juke and fake defenders in space. He’s a strong and smart runner, but his speed and explosiveness limit his potential. He had 31 receptions last season but his hands and route running still need much improvement. He also struggles as a blocker, but he should get more reps to catch and block at Oklahoma. Here Gray shows off his vision at the second level, and he has a knack for finding open space.
If you made it this far thanks for reading!
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Display Image Credits
Breece Hall: Brian Powers-USAToday
Isaiah Spiller: Michael Miller-The Eagle