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2022 NFL Draft Running Backs (part 2)

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Welcome back to my NFL draft preview. Time to continue our look at Running Backs!

We start today with…

OXFORD, MS – OCTOBER 19: Texas A&M Aggies running back Isiah Spiller (28) tries to break free from Ole Miss Rebels defensive back Jon Haynes during the game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Ole Miss Rebels on October 19, 2019 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, MS. (Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Isaiah Spiller

Texas A&M, Junior, 6’1, 215 lbs

He will be able to play as every-down back at the NFL level; he has something about him, but I didn’t see the wow play on tape until I watched the Arkansas tape!

  • Junior 
  • Cuts well, quick feet, light on his feet, makes defenders miss sometimes 2 or 3
  • Good vision, picked out gap nicely vs Alabama, can find space in crowded boxes, finds a hole and explosively powers thru it, chooses gaps well
  • Gets behind pads, dives into floor
  • Gains yards by twisting and manoeuvring his body effectively rather than by power 
  • Reasonable in pass pro despite limited size (holds his own) – tendency to want to chip then get into zone position for catch
  • Hands, ok but not wholly convincing when facing bullet throws
  • Will be lethal in open field, as soon as he has fresh air in front of him he is explosive, with good top speed. Scored vs Alabama with limited space, reached out after falling on the body of defender – elite awareness of situation, 15 yard rush, speed generated where it shouldn’t have been possible
  • Does take some stopping when he is at speed
  • Can’t be arm tackled, seems to always get away
  • Arkansas game was impressive. I wanted to see a crazy ‘yes thats his NFL potentially right there play’ but didn’t other than the Alabama one…until i watched the Arkansas game – 3rd and 2, 8mins to go go 3rd quarter, elite speed in a really tight gap at line of scrimmage – combo block by the centre and the right guard, reached top speed effectively to burst pass the safety who wasn’t too deep, 67 yards to the end zone, as the Razorbacks could only look on… beautiful, elite rushing
  • doesn’t seem to be able to ride a tackle and carry on against bigger defenders
  • Did fumble against South Carolina

Rachaad White

Arizona State, Senior, 6’2, 210

This young man had a very difficult road to the NFL. He was a zero-star recruit from a small high school and overlooked by all the power 5 schools initially until he finally got a chance at Arizona State. He not only took it but also led his university in production after initially wanting to be a safety.

  • Great character and real team player. He bet on himself and moved across the country. 
  • Pass catching option out of the back field
  • Received ball outside on his own 40 on a screen pass vs USC (200 yards and 3 TD), duke outside to beat the first man, beats another guy with speed, then dukes back inside to beat the defender  in the secondary angles back towards the post for the 60 yard TD
  • Beautiful burst through the middle on run plays, quick feet powerful body size
  • Demonstrates patience and vision
  • Looked impressive in senior bowl
  • Could be used on special teams or play as an RB immediately 
  • Cuts well, quick feet, vertical speed and acceleration – this could be really effective at the NFL
  • 11 runs of 15 yards plus
  • Played part of a 2 RB system at Arizona State and scored a home run TD vs Arizona from deep in his own red zone – elite top speed and sustainable speed.
  • Comped himself to LeVeon Bell – others have compared him to Marcus Allen (height, length, how he runs)
EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN – NOVEMBER 13: Kenneth Walker III #9 of the Michigan State Spartans dives for extra yards in the second half against the Maryland Terrapins at Spartan Stadium on November 13, 2021 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Kenneth Walker III

Michigan State, 5’10, 210

Don’t use him in pass protection and you’ll be fine. Elite speed and burst. Draft him – NFL-ready plug and play. I would recommend that you watch the Michigan game!

  • He transferred from Wake Forest and on his first handoff at Michigan State he scored a touchdown from his own 25 yard line (75 yard TD) on an inside zone play, he worked outside, demonstrating elite speed and separation.
  • He reads linebacker movement, makes a defender miss with a subtle lateral shift vs North Western
  • He is also a receiving option out of the back field, TD vs Miami. Hands catch, worked angle well to beat the defender to the pylon on a diagonal route. Good awareness on the play
  • Creates plays out of nothing, YAC ability, explosiveness, quick stop and go when needed. Burst through the hole. Acceleration will be elite (interesting to see his 40 time in due course, but it will be quick)
  • Great vision, patient awaits gap to develop 
  • Pass pro needs a lot of work, blitz came right past him vs Miami. Liability right now
  • Speed and burst is delicious tho
  • Weaves better than a seamstress :D, footwork shows multiple changes of directions on most plays
  • Heisman finalist, first team all Big10, 2021 Big 10 RB of the year
  • Dominated vs Michigan (197 yards and 5 TDs – although he almost lost the ball on the goal line – refs reviewed and kept the TD but I would suggest this was lucky). On the 5th touchdown, there was a beautiful gap created by the centre and guard, Walker bursted thru it and into the end zone picking up a historic Spartans win 

Kyren Williams (Notre Dame 5’9 199) 

‘Sneaky’ Small back, elusive, but he is limited.

  • He was a 4-star recruit but enjoyed a good Sophomore season for the Fighting Irish
  • Hesitant to actually run forwards vs USC! Limited speed / burst – as game progressed, burst did look better and he got 2 TDs vs USC in a 31-16 win
  • Can make a guy miss, nice spin move
  • Runs a right outside route a lot (limited route tree)
  • He played little during his freshman year but burst onto the scene with 1125 yds and 13 TDS on the ground and added another 313 yds as a receiver. He was given second-team ACC honors as a result.
  • In 2021 Williams again led Notre Dame in rushing with 1,002 yards and 14 touchdowns while adding 359 yds in the air
  • Hard to tackle in traffic and when at speed
  • Very patient, perhaps too patient. I think he will be hit behind LOS a lot at the next level 
  • Fully stops, looks, reasonably good vision to await gaps to develop 
  • Better tackling at NFL level will take his ability to advance away – college tackling left a lot to be desired 
  • Good footwork, side to side in particular 
  • Looks very small on tape 
  • Didn’t see much in pass pro on tape, chip block when RT rushing in
  • Covered no one second snap vs Alabama in Rose Bowl (CFP semi final) then dropped the screen pass
  • Not much tread on the tires
  • Potential red flags – lacks size 5’9, hesitant perhaps overly patient, will be owned by defences at the next level, I think his success depends where he lands. Could be amazing, but equally he could be a bust. Struggled vs bigger linebackers and D Line vs Alabama.
NEW ORLEANS, LA – JANUARY 01: Baylor Bears running back Abram Smith (7) looks to dodge a tackler during the Allstate Sugar Bowl between the Ole Miss Rebels and the Baylor Bears on January 1, 2022, at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Abram Smith (Baylor 5’11 221) 

Draft him, LB turned RB, tackle him if you can! 

  • Bigger body guy (Transitioned from LB to RB this last season – won big 12 and sugar bowl)
  • Did well in Mobile at the Senior Bowl – good pass blocking drill, solid base.
  • Lovely burst
  • Nice awareness to get outside and give QB outlet under pressure vs Iowa State, caught with nice hands away from body
  • Up to speed quickly and nice run generally
  • Tough to tackle 
  • Lowers shoulders, fights for yards
  • Good vision
  • Red zone battering ram option
  • Looks ready for NFL
  • Didn’t see any pass pro on film, but he’s an ex-linebacker – surely he can??!

TJ Pledger (Utah 5’9 196) 

There is better available but he could be a depth piece later on day 2 or 3 of the draft.

  • Transferred from Oklahoma to Utah after Utahs freshman RB TY Jordan sadly passed away over Xmas time 2020.
  • 30 games at Oklahoma
  • Was a 4 star recruit
  • Pledger is a junior
  • 14 games but only 5 starts
  • 104 carries, 694 rush yards, 6 rushing TDs, 10 receptions for 107 yards
  • Scored a 96 yard rush beating the LB with a stiff arm, probably should have been caught by the defender but a nice play
  • Power type back, not the fastest 
  • Absorbs hits well
  • Utilises lead blocks very well, directs traffic to maintain his runs
  • Nice vision and patience to score vs LSU for Oklahoma in Peach bowl (CFP semi final)
  • Nice lateral movement and footwork

Thanks for reading my second running backs article! For more content follow me on Twitter @kettsuk. Please also follow @OT_Heroics for more great content.

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Main Image Credit

TEMPE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 27: Running back Rachaad White #3 of the Arizona State Sun Devils rushes the football against linebacker Malik Reed #53 of the Arizona Wildcats during the first quarter of the Territorial Cup game at Sun Devil Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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