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NFL Draft Prospect Rankings: Running back

Iowa State v Texas Tech Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

Running back is one of the more contentious positions in football. Regardless of what you think about running back “value,” getting production out of the backfield is ultimately still useful in today’s NFL. The Eagles in particular have morphed into a force to be reckoned with running the football, even with a motley crew of running backs in 2021. With injuries and inconsistencies holding the group back from being a potentially historic rushing attack, the Eagles could turn to a 2022 NFL Draft that has some serious mid-round talent.

PREVIOUS POSITION RANKINGS: Quarterback | Wide receiver.

Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State, 5’9”, 211 Pounds

What he does well: Kenneth Walker ran himself in Heisman contention in 2021 with a truly brilliant season carrying the football. Walker is a juiced up athlete with great burst, speed and impressive agility for a more muscled up back. His size and strength allows him to break the tackles he doesn’t evade with speed or quickness. He is a dependable pass catcher and rarely fumbles the football.

Where he can improve: Walker relies on physical talent so much but could still improve his feel for the game. He is too often outrunning his own blocks or missing reads. Those mistakes hardly hurt him in college due to his athleticism, but it will be something to improve upon in the NFL.

NFL Comparison: Lamar Miller

Breece Hall, Iowa State, 5’11”, 217 Pounds

What he does well: Breece Hall was incredibly productive his whole career at ISU. His size and speed blend allowed him to run by and through Big 12 defenses season after season. Despite having a power back build, Hall was a reliable and dynamic passing game option as well. A true and proven three down back.

Where he can improve: Hall is faster than he is quick, and is a tall runner that can get moved off-balance sometimes. Small adjustments in his running style and patience will go a long way in the NFL.

NFL Comparison: Matt Forte

Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M, 6’, 217 Pounds

What he does well: Isaiah Spiller is a technically skilled running back that combines patience, vision and great instincts with a tough running style. Spiller has great playing speed due to a general sense of urgency of the field and a comfort running through traffic and the first, second and third levels of a defense.

Where he can improve: Spiller is not a dynamic athlete in the same way some of his 2022 counterparts are, but his reliability and consistency in the SEC speak for themselves in terms of pro-viability. If Isaiah Spiller can outrun SEC defenses, his speed should not be a catastrophic concern in the NFL. That being said, Spiller could stand to improve as a third down option, both in terms of receiving and catching the football.

NFL Comparison: Chris Ivory

Brian Robinson Junior, Alabama, 6’2”, 225 Pounds

What he does well: Like his predecessors at Alabama, Brian Robinson certainly passes the eye test. He is built like a linebacker and deals out contact like one too. Robinson is a punishing runner with surprising speed and light feet. He patiently waited on the Alabama depth chart before taking over in 2021 and impressing in some of the Crimson Tide’s biggest games.

Where he can improve: A 6’2” running back is naturally going to have some issues with pad level, as Brian Robinson does. Also, being as violent a runner as he is, durability is a legitimate concern. Robinson seems more like an old school two down back, but could certainly improve as a pass catcher in the NFL.

NFL Comparison: Jeremy Hill

James Cook, UGA, 5’11”, 199 Pounds

What he does well: Like his older brother Dalvin, James Cook has home run speed to score from anywhere on the field. As a runner and pass catcher, Cook’s dynamics athleticism can add a dangerous dynamic to any backfield he is in.

Where he can improve: Cook is lighter for an NFL running back, and that lack of size shows up against contact. Cook is more of a finesse runner that has a harder time in traffic and that lack of physicality also shows up as a pass protector. These things can be fixed or worked around, but stand in the way of Cook being a lead back.

NFL Comparison: Felix Jones

Zamir White, UGA, 6’, 214 Pounds

What he does well: Zamir White looks like a lab built running back. He is muscle bound and strong as hell with speed to burn a whole defense. White’s speed and quickness doesn’t prevent him from being physical however and has many times left would-be tacklers stiff armed into the ground. White is as gifted a runner as there is in this class.

Where he can improve: Health is going to be White’s biggest concern. He tore both ACLs in college and that will have lots of teams concerned about long term durability. On the field, White is a proven runner but has yet to show he can be an NFL-level pass catcher. His talent is obvious and the hope is he will stay healthy enough to show it off.

NFL Comparison: Darren McFadden

Pierre Strong Junior, South Dakota State, 5’11”, 207 Pounds

What he does well: Pierre Strong put up huge numbers over four seasons at the FCS level. His game breaking speed combined with a strong build made him as dangerous at the second level as any player in the country. Strong runs like he is shot out of a cannon on every play and it is clear how his athleticism could translate to the NFL.

Where he can improve: Strong is not an instinctive runner and typically relies on speed and strength to make plays happen. With more patience and anticipation with blocks, Strong can take a huge leap as a pro. Strong has the tools to thrive as a pass catching back, but lacks the experience.

NFL Comparison: Tevin Coleman

Tyler Allgeier, BYU, 5’11”, 224 Pounds

What he does well: Above the shoulders, Tyler Allgeier is as good as any running back in this class. Excellent vision, patience and instincts allowed Allgeier to break out in 2020 and he carried that success over in 2021 to be one of the most productive running backs in the country. Allgeier’s size and strength make him a formidable task for any defender to bring down. He runs low, hard, and angry which produced a handful of big runs.

Where he can improve: There is so much to like about Allgeier but he is not outrunning or outmaneuvering many of his 2022 classmates. His lack of tested athleticism shouldn’t surprise anyone who has watched his tape, however, as speed is not the means he typically outruns defenses with.

NFL Comparison: Jordan Howard

Jerome Ford, Cincinnati, 5’11”, 210 Pounds

What he does well: After being buried on the Alabama depth chart, Jerome Ford transferred to Cincinnati where he was eventually integral to their run up to the playoffs in 2021. Ford is a gifted athlete with some great traits in terms of speed and strength. A higher volume role in his last season gave him plenty of bright moments where he showed he could be a high level contributor in an offense.

Where he can improve: Ford generally feels very raw at the position. His flashes are more than enough to buy in, but he can definitely improve his consistency across the board. Hard not to think his best football is still ahead of him.

NFL Comparison: Kenneth Dixon

Kyren Williams, Notre Dame, 5’9”, 194 Pounds

What he does well: Kyren Williams scored 31 total touchdowns in two seasons starting at Notre Dame and that was no accident. Kyren Williams is a gym rat type player that runs with a ton of energy and physicality on every play. He is a refined route runner out of the backfield with soft hands and, despite his diminutive stature, will bring the hit as a pass protector.

Where he can improve: Williams is a below average athlete that likely hurt his stock at the NFL combine. While he was a featured back at Notre Dame, it is likely his best role in the NFL is a change up back who can provide plus ability as a receiver. A lot of people might be out on Williams due to a worrying size/athleticism combo, but it is hard not to love what Williams brings in terms of energy and third down ability.

NFL Comparison: James White

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