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These guys will look to be the future work horses of NFL franchises. Today I rank the top five running back prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Breece Hall - Iowa State
Bio: After the departure of David Montgomery, Breece Hall became the Cyclone's starting running back as a true freshman. The following year, he led the FBS in rushing yards. In his three seasons, he rushed for 3,941 yards and 50 touchdowns while being a two time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and two time All-American.
Strengths: Good size to handle a lot of carries. Can score from anywhere on the field. Had five career touchdowns of 75 yards or more. Good knee bend and balance gets him down the field. Excellent vision to see lanes developing. Changes foot tempo to burst away from defenders. Sets up linebackers to miss tackles. Patient runner whos guides blockers into defenders. Smooth cutter without slowing down to beat open field tacklers. Strong base to take hits and keep driving. Falls forward while driving into contact. Skillset to become a decent third down back with coaching.
Weaknesses: Heavy workload at Iowa State with 810 touches in three years. Runs like he's leaving some gas in the tank. Not agile enough to avoid early penetration in the backfield. Some hesitation on early reads at times. Looses balance when juking. Average quickness to get to the sideline against speedy linebackers. Will need to be faster and play with more anticipation for the pro game. Has work to do in pass protection.
Pro Comparison: Nick Chubb
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Miami Dolphins
2. Kenneth Walker III - Michigan State
Bio: After playing two seasons at Wake Forest, Kenneth Walker III transferred to Michigan State for 2021. In his debut game for the Spartans he rushed for 264 yards and four touchdowns. He finished the season with 1,636 yards and 19 total touchdowns while winning the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back.
Strengths: Compact and powerful frame to handle a pro workload. Scans and finds running lanes in any direction. Feet are quick in tight areas. One cut runner with no wasted motion. Good body control and balance when changing direction. Turns negatives into positives. Gets to the outside when bodies stack up in the backfield. Squares up shoulders against defenders to the edge. Transitions to power to finish runs. Lowers pads and drives through defenders in the open field. Gets yards after contact. Only one fumble this last season. Reliable hands out of the backfield.
Weaknesses: Running style isn't very fluid. Erratic play speed. Needs to be a more decisive and trusting back. Quick to go off script without any plan to start. Too early to look for cutback lanes, leaving yards on the field. Must be a more disciplined runner to daylight. Really needs coached up in pass protection.
Pro Comparison: Knowshon Moreno
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Atlanta Falcons
3. Isaiah Spiller - Texas A&M
Bio: As a true freshman, Isaiah Spiller started nine games and led the Aggies in yardage. Over the next two seasons, he had back to back 1,000 rushing seasons while being an All-SEC running back.
Strengths: Workhorse frame to handle work between the tackles and pass protection. True talent when playing behind a good offensive line. Runs with fluid hips and pad level through contact. Good footwork to slip through backfield leaks. Reads and finds to perfect interior lane to run. Balance to swerve through traffic downfield. Recalculates running plan in the face of incoming tacklers. Can be both patient and urgent depending on the situation. Lateral quickness to breakout to the sideline. Doesn't need motivation to cutback when needed. Elusive once past the first wave. Scans and slides against incoming rushers. Aggressive blocker in pass protection
Weaknesses: Erratic running style at times. Wasn't as decisive as an inside runner as a junior. Burst is just average and quicker linebackers can catch him near the line. Needs to force the edge harder on zone runs. Vision diminishes a bit on outside carries. Some wasted motion getting into cuts. Needs to transition to power sooner to finish runs and gain extra yards. Plays too loose with the ball and will be targeted for strips. Pass protection technique needs refined and must develop hands to be a decent third down option.
Pro Comparison: Arian Foster
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Houston Texans
4. James Cook - Georgia
Bio: After initially committing to play at Florida State, James Cook decide to instead attend Georgia. As a senior, he rushed for 728 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 27 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns as Georgia won their first National Championship in over 40 years.
Strengths: Natural instincts for the position. Only six career starts, but averaged 6.5 yards per carry in his college career. Quickly reads and cuts to get to the linebackers. Fast moving feet and leans forward through the line. Can alter running path with hard cuts. Patient, allowing blocks to set up. Long speed to take it all the way. Dangerous weapon out of the backfield and a complete mismatch for linebackers. Soft hands who candle handle a complex route tree. Only one lost fumble in four seasons. Younger brother of Vikings running back Dalvin Cook.
Weaknesses: Built more like a small wide receiver. Slender through lower half. Never had more than 12 touches in a game during his career. Passive through contact and maintain balance through tackles could be an issue. Shouldn't be asked to be used as a short yardage back. Won't offer much value in the red zone. Will be outmatched in terms of blitz pickup.
Pro Comparison: Demetric Felton
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Arizona Cardinals
5. Kyren Williams - Notre Dame
Bio: The St. Louis Metro Area Offensive Player of the Year as a senior, Kyren Williams chose to early enroll at Notre Dame. As a sophomore, he was named the starting running back and was named the ACC Rookie of the Year. In his two seasons of playing time, he amassed 2,127 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns.
Strengths: Team captain who gives the game his all. Will do anything the offense needs of him. Smooth hips with slick slides to get away from pocket leaks. Finds away to get out of tackles even when it seems impossible. Consistent running style. Well versed and talented third down back. Has experience lining up in the slot and running routes. Shifty enough to gain separation on option routes. Understands pass protection schemes. Looks for incoming defenders and attacks them with ideal technique.
Weaknesses: More quick than fast. Poor acceleration to the outside. More mechanical than creative when getting to the next level. Lacks power to push the pile. Awkward acceleration from his cuts. Tough enough, but does get pushed around like other smaller backs. Lacks strength to consistently break tackles and get yards after contact. Careless with the ball, eight career fumbles. Average elusiveness as a receiver.
Pro Comparison: Austin Ekeler
Projected Round: 2-3
Possible Landing Spot: Buffalo Bills
Other Notable Prospects
Brian Robinson Jr- Alabama
- Physically imposing, stiff running style
Tyler Badie- Missouri
- Lightning quick, small frame
Zamir White- Georgia
- Feel for cutting back, reckless ball carrier
Hassan Haskins- Michigan
- Well built, average top speed
Snoop Conner- Mississippi
- Smart runner, lacks burst
Max Borghi- Washington State
- Quick footwork, Not an every down back
Rachaad White- Arizona State
- Fluid athlete, uptight runner
Jerome Ford- Cincinnati
- Solid vision, loses balance when cutting
CJ Verdell- Oregon
- Compact power back, injury concerns
Sincere McCormick- Texas San Antonio
- Twitchy runner, lacks bulk for the position
Pierre Strong Jr- South Dakota State
- Follows his blocks, lacks hands as a receiver
Abram Smith- Baylor
- Former linebacker and plays like it, history of knee injuries
Tyrion Davis-Price- LSU
- Big size and frame, poor short area quickness
Dameon Pierce- Florida
- Balance to take hits, Short strider
D'Vonte Price- Florida International
- Bulldozing back, questionable long speed
Jashaun Corbin- Florida State
- Short yardage runner, below average speed
Tyler Goodson- Iowa
- Nimble in traffic, poor receiver and pass blocker
Jerrion Ealy- Mississippi
- Smart reader, average acceleration
Kevin Harris- South Carolina
- Wears downs defenses, average athlete
Kennedy Brooks- Oklahoma
- Three 1,000 yard seasons, poor top end speed
Zonovan Knight- North Carolina State
- Straight line runner, lacks size to get extra yards
Master Teague III- Ohio State
- Ideal frame, questionable speed
Tyler Allgeier- BYU
- Prototype frame, average athlete