The running back position doesn’t carry quite as much value as it once did in the NFL, but having a highly productive running back on a rookie contract can still be incredibly valuable. This draft class doesn’t feature a top prospect like Saquon Barkley or even Najee Harris, but it has plenty of depth at the position for teams to consider in the middle rounds. In this article, I’ll break down my top running backs in this year’s draft and provide some strengths and weaknesses for each one.
|Name||Pos. Ranking||College||Class||Overall Grade||Draft Range|
|Breece Hall||1||Iowa State||Junior||84||2nd Round|
|Kenneth Walker||2||Michigan State||Junior||83||2nd Round|
|Isaiah Spiller||3||Texas A&M||Junior||79||3rd Round|
|Dameon Pierce||4||Florida||Senior||78||3rd-4th Round|
|Jerome Ford||5||Cincinnati||RS Junior||78||3rd-4th Round|
|Zamir White||6||Georgia||RS Junior||77||3rd-4th Round|
|Rachaad White||7||Arizona State||RS Senior||76||4th Round|
|Tyler Allgeier||8||BYU||RS Junior||76||4th Round|
|Kyren Williams||9||Notre Dame||RS Sophomore||75||4th Round|
|Tyler Badie||10||Missouri||Senior||75||4th Round|
|James Cook||11||Georgia||Senior||74||5th Round|
|Pierre Strong Jr.||12||South Dakota State||RS Senior||74||5th Round|
|Brian Robinson||13||Alabama||RS Senior||72||6th Round|
|Hassan Haskins||14||Michigan||RS Junior||72||6th Round|
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#1: Breece Hall – Iowa State
Breece Hall has been one of the most accomplished running backs in college football over the past several seasons, as he has almost 4,000 rushing yards in three seasons at Iowa State. That level of productivity and durability bodes well for his future as a workhorse running back in the NFL. Hall is coming off an impressive combine that saw him finish as a 99-rated athlete and Evan Neal and Tyler Linderbaum via NFL Next Gen Stats.
- Most broken tackles over the last three seasons in FBS (194) per PFF
- Excellent contact agility and balance makes him very difficult to tackle
- Ran behind a poor offensive line with a bad passing game and still averaged 5.8 YPC in the Big 12
- 4.39 40-yard dash showcased his elite top-end speed, 96th percentile time
- Solid receiving production on swing passes and underneath routes
- Nose for the end-zone – 46 total touchdowns last two seasons
- Touched the ball more than any running back the last two seasons – lots of tread on the tires
- Needs to play more decisively against NFL-caliber competition
- Plays too upright at times, tackle-breaking may not fully translate
- Short-area agility and shiftiness behind the line of scrimmage sometimes lacking
- Needs to add more bulk for his power-back traits to translate
Summary: Hall’s productivity over the past two years can’t be questioned, and he proved at the combine that he’s an elite athlete as well. There isn’t much to dislike about Hall’s collegiate production, and he’ll be very comfortable handling a bell-cow role in the NFL. If teams are looking for a running back with excellent balance who can contribute as a runner, receiver, and pass-blocker, it’s hard to go wrong with Breece Hall.
Draft Range: 2nd Round
#2: Kenneth Walker – Michigan State
Kenneth Walker transferred from Wake Forest to Michigan State in 2021 and immediately hit the ground running with 263 carries for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns in his junior season, winning the Doak Walker Award for the best running back in the country. Walker proceeded to put together an impressive combine on his way to earning buzz as the top running back in this draft class.
- Compact, strong frame allows him to win with power running
- Short-area agility and long-field speed allow him to win with athleticism
- Excellent processing and field vision to make cuts and pick his lanes
- Impressive leg strength and contact balance keep him upright through contact
- Proved he can handle a big workload and still be durable
- Very limited receiving work – only 18 career catches
- Pass-protection film is brutal at times, needs improvement
- Lacks discipline in his decision-making in the open field at times
Summary: Kenneth Walker’s combine performance put a greater spotlight on him, and he tested very similarly to a former 1,800-yard runner in DeMarco Murray. As a runner, there are very few holes in his game as he can win in so many ways with power, speed, elusiveness, agility, and more. However, I still have Walker as my RB2 in the class due to the question marks surrounding his projection as a three-down running back. If he can refine his pass-protection and become a decent pass-catcher, he has the upside worth taking a shot on in the back of the first round for some teams.
Draft Range: 2nd Round
#3: Isaiah Spiller – Texas A&M
Isaiah Spiller was a consistently productive running back throughout his time in a competitive SEC, as he averaged 5.5 YPC across his collegiate career. He lacks elite athletic traits, which separates him from the top two running backs in this class, but his three-down skillset and consistent productivity make him worth a Day 2 pick.
- Three-down skillset with strong receiving production and pass-protection
- Elusiveness improved in junior season after he cut ten pounds
- Reads and processes interior running lanes very well
- Great footwork, especially for a bigger running back
- Avoided major injuries over 540 career carries in the SEC, very durable
- Lacks top-end speed – not shocked he didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the combine
- Inefficient getting into cuts – too indecisive behind the line of scrimmage
- Gets chopped down by arm tackles too often with his taller stature
- Loose with the football, too many fumbles when fighting for extra yards
Summary: Isaiah Spiller isn’t going to fly off the page for elite athletic testing, but he was consistently productive against high-level competition and has proven he can handle a heavy workload without significant injuries. Spiller has an excellent feel for the game for a bigger back, and his improved elusiveness, great footwork, and extraordinary field vision are great traits to build around.
Draft Range: 3rd Round
#4: Dameon Pierce – Florida
Dameon Pierce maxed out at 574 rushing yards last season, but he never got the opportunity to prove he can produce much more as he was part of a committee backfield at Florida. However, Pierce has plenty of enticing traits that should translate to the pro level, and his showing through the Senior Bowl and the combine should earn him much more love in this running back class.
- Plays with a sense of urgency and anger that I love from a running back
- Strong, physical frame at 5’10”, 215 lbs, puts to good use in pass-protection
- Excellent contact balance with a low center of gravity, tough stiff arm
- Solid pass-catcher with an extensive route tree
- Never a feature back – just nine career games with 10+ carries
- Lacks home-run hitting speed, 4.6-second 40-yard dash
- Patience and vision are inconsistent on film
- Change-of-direction and elusivity are lacking smoothness
Summary: Pierce was never a feature back at Florida, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be one in the NFL. With a hard-nosed, powerful running style that translates to both the running and passing game, Pierce has a three-down skill set with an expansive route tree and great pass-protection potential. With a solid skillset across the board, Pierce is worth considering as a potential Day 2 pick.
Draft Range: 3rd-4th Round
#5: Jerome Ford – Cincinnati
Jerome Ford, a former Alabama commit and four-star recruit, transferred to Cincinnati in 2020. He became Cincinnati’s bell-cow running back in 2021 and had a monstrous season with 215 carries for 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was a huge part of Cincinnati’s College Football Playoff run, and the Alabama pedigree suggests there’s more untapped potential in his game to uncover.
- Strong build for the running back position and good athletic traits
- Power to break tackles and agility to get around them
- One of the few backs in this class with real long speed – ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash
- Good hands in the passing game and experience in pass-protection
- Excellent field vision and awareness
- Outside-zone running experience is lacking, more of a gap runner
- Inconsistent in reading his protection to pick the right lane
- Unproven as a pass-catcher on a more expanded route tree
- Needs to improve in diagnosing pass-rush for pass-protection
Summary: Ford’s 4.46-second 40-yard dash stands out in a class without many running backs with home-run hitting ability, and I love that he has the big-school pedigree as a top recruit without much tread on his tires or significant injuries. Ford has a three-down skill set with power and agility to beat defenders, and he’s a standout who could be a Day 3 pick.
Draft Range: 3rd-4th Round
#6: Zamir White – Georgia
A former five-star recruit, Zamir White was part of a committee at Georgia, but he always stood out with his unique blend of power and speed. White’s two previous ACL tears will raise question marks, and his medical examinations will be a crucial part of his draft evaluations, but if those check out, he has tremendous upside in the NFL.
- Contagious hard worker that improves the rest of the team
- Team captain of a championship Georgia team in 2021
- Weight room warrior at Georgia – power to break through tackles
- Awesome speed, especially for his size – 4.4-second 40-yard dash
- Minimal third-down production – just 16 career catches at Georgia
- Never a workhorse – most carries he ever saw in a season was 161
- Two ACL tears in 2017 and 2018, but maintained burst and explosiveness
- Ran behind one of the best offensive lines in the country
Summary: White has a rare blend of attributes with his size, speed, and power, and I’m surprised that there isn’t more hype surrounding him for a Day 2 pick given his former five-star pedigree. Georgia has a history of producing high-level NFL running backs, and I wouldn’t be shocked if White is the next in line for that program.
Draft Range: 3rd-4th Round
#7: Rachaad White – Arizona State
Rachaad White has been one of the big winners through the pre-draft process between the Senior Bowl and the combine. A former JUCO running back, White transferred to Arizona State in 2020 and became his team’s full-time starter. In 2021, he ran for over 1,000 yards and contributed 456 receiving yards as he showcased his true three-down skillset.
- Creative open-field runner with good vision and agility to make defenders miss
- Proven three-down workload with great receiving production
- Experienced with both zone and gap running schemes
- Patient runner who lets his blocks develop
- Too indecisive when changing directions
- Lacks refinement in pass protection
- Undisciplined running style that limits his ability to hit holes
- Struggles to break through his first tackler at times
Summary: Rachaad White often looks like a wide receiver playing running back, which comes with its fair share of pros and cons. White’s natural hands and proven route-running make him a viable receiving back for teams who require that skill set, and his dynamic open-field running is a big plus. He lacks the strong lower half and contact balance to be a power back, and he needs to improve at hitting his role earlier on plays, but White can be a productive part of a committee in the NFL.
Draft Range: 4th Round
#8: Tyler Allgeier – BYU
Tyler Allgeier is a former walk-on at BYU who saw action at running back, linebacker, and kick returner as a reserve in 2019 before becoming a full-time running back in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He produced over 3,100 yards from scrimmage. Allgeier played behind an elite BYU offensive line and was a significant part of the 2020 BYU offense led by Zach Wilson that ranked third in the country with 43.5 points per game.
- Great feel for the game and football IQ
- Excellent vision which helps maximize the blocking in front of him
- Converts in the red zone at a high level – 36 touchdowns past two years
- Impressive pass-protection reps and natural pass-catching
- Ran behind a dominant offensive line at BYU, may not continue in NFL
- Limited creativity and explosive burst in the open field
- Natural hands as a receiver but limited route tree
- Some fumbles when he got extended touches
Summary: Allgeier doesn’t have elite long-field speed as his 4.6-second 40-yard dash highlighted, and he’s frankly a middling athlete overall. However, he’s proven reliably productive with a large workload and has excellent vision and a natural feel for the game. Allgeier may lack the elite physical attributes some teams look for at running back, but he puts his head down and works for extra yards in the scheme of the offense.
Draft Range: 4th Round
#9: Kyren Williams – Notre Dame
Kyren Williams is a former high school wide receiver, and he plays like it with his three-down skillset. In 2020, Williams had his lone season with 1,000 rushing yards, but he had 77 catches for 670 combined yards over the past two years, and he will contribute right away as a pass-catcher in the NFL. The question teams will have for Williams is whether or not his limited athletic profile can translate to a more significant workload.
- Most willing pass-blocker in the class who’s always looking for contact
- Extremely reliable receiver with great hands and route-running
- Dominant stiff-arm in the open field
- Active feet through contact, gets around defenders
- Combine was highly disappointing, especially with 4.65-second 40-yard dash
- Limited short-area burst to make fluid cuts
- Lacks long-field speed to hit home-run plays
- Fumble issues – three in 2020 and five in 2021
Summary: Williams has skills that will make him a valuable member of a running back committee in the NFL, but his underwhelming athletic testing numbers virtually removed any question of his future as a three-down workhorse. With mediocre long-field speed and short-area agility, Williams will rely on his refined skills in receiving and pass-blocking along with his toughness and stiff arm to keep his feet churning.
Draft Range: 4th Round
#10: Tyler Badie – Missouri
Tyler Badie is an undersized running back at 5’8″, 197 lbs, and he’s not likely to be able to handle a full workload in the NFL. However, he proved he can be more than a scatback in 2021 after Larry Rountree left for the NFL as he finished with 268 carries for 1,604 yards on the ground and his 54 catches for 330 yards with 18 total touchdowns. Badie’s consistent pass-catching production is an excellent bonus in the middle rounds of the draft.
- Big-play threat with 46 carries for 10+ yards, tied with Kenneth Walker
- Explosive open-field burst and agility
- Low center of gravity with good contact balance
- Just two fumbles on 516 career carries
- Experienced with expanded route tree
- Not built for short-area carries at his size
- Struggles in blitz protection on third down
- Lacks elite vision to make reads at the second level
- Too indecisive in making his one-cut and go at the line of scrimmage
Summary: While Badie handled a more significant workload in 2021, it’s unlikely he will be a bell-cow back in the NFL. However, with his home-run tendency, explosive burst, expanded route tree, and natural pass-catching ability, Badie has traits that are very valuable in the NFL. He’ll be a productive member of a committee at the next level.
Draft Range: 4th Round
#11: James Cook – Georgia
James Cook was part of a solid running back committee while at Georgia, and he profiles as a dynamic piece of the puzzle for NFL teams as well. Cook finished with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season and over seven yards per touch, and he should be able to maintain that elite efficiency as a part-time player in the NFL.
- Mismatch against linebackers in pass-catching with solid route-running
- 4.42-second 40-yard dash and awesome acceleration to reach that top-end speed
- Patient behind lead blocks, good trait for the screen game
- Only one drop on 68 career catchable passes per PFF
- Smaller stature will limit his pass-protection contributions
- Limited power in lower half hurts his ability to break tackles
- Value near the end zone is minimized when defenses shrink
- Less agility and change-of-direction ability than you’d like to see at his size
Summary: James Cook showed up with an extra nine pounds of weight at the combine and still ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash – that’s a great start. If he wants to be anything other than a part-time scatback, Cook has to continue to build muscle without losing his explosiveness. Cook’s floor is as a part-time pass-catcher who can contribute with speed and elusiveness on various routes.
#12: Pierre Strong Jr. – South Dakota State
Pierre Strong Jr. made headlines with his 4.37-second 40-yard dash, which tied for first place in this running back class, but he’s more than just a flashy speed player. Strong ran for over 1,000 yards in three of his four seasons at South Dakota State, and he dominated FCS competion the way you want to see for a running back playing at a lower level of competition.
- Big-play threat with ten career rushing touchdowns of 50+ yards
- Great burst through the line of scrimmage, gets to the second level quickly
- Elite speed with 4.37-second 40-yard dash tied for first in the class
- Above-average vision at the second level
- Loses some speed when making lateral cuts and stop-start moves
- Below-average contact balance, doesn’t fight through tackles
- Limited receiving production, stiff hands and narrow route tree
- Struggles to anticipate blocks in the backfield
Summary: Strong’s biggest strength is his speed, and it’s a big one as he’s a threat to hit a big play at any given moment in a game. Strong gets to the second level in a hurry and has awesome vision to pick his lanes in the open field. Without much proven receiving production and limited ability to break through tackles, Strong is a bit of a one-dimensional player, but he’s a well-versed speed back with room to grow into much more.
Draft Range: 5th Round
#13: Brian Robinson – Alabama
Brian Robinson is built like a small linebacker more than a running back at 6’2″, 225 lbs, and there are obvious strengths and weaknesses that come with being a running back at that size. In his first season as a workhorse back for Alabama, Robinson was dominant with 1,639 yards from scrimmage and 16 total touchdowns. He’s not the same caliber of running backs who have recently come out of Alabama, but he can be productive as a power back in the NFL.
- Great short-yardage back who packs powerful punches
- Proven with a heavy workload – 271 carries last season
- One-cut back who doesn’t waste time behind the line of scrimmage
- Thick lower half provides strong contact balance
- Lacks top-end speed and open-field creativity
- Decent jump cuts but lacks elusiveness
- High-cut for a power back, too many ankle tackles
- Lacks consistent buy-in in pass-protection
Summary: There will be some teams in the later rounds that covet Robinson’s blend of powerful tackle-breaking ability and proven workhorse ability, but the top-end athletic traits simply aren’t there. As a part-time power back who will win in ways smaller backs simply can’t, Robinson will provide solid value in the NFL.
Draft Range: 6th Round
#14: Hassan Haskins – Michigan
One of the most productive running backs in the country last season in a tough Big Ten, Hassan Haskins ran for 1,327 yards and 20 touchdowns in a dynamic backfield tandem with Blake Corum. Haskins is a former part-time special teams and linebacker for Michigan before transitioning to running back, and he was a third-team All-American last season.
- Excellent size and strength for the position
- Solid lateral quickness for his size
- Very patient runner who waits for a hole to open
- Great pass-protection film and consistent buy-in
- Limited short-area burst and elusiveness, not very explosive
- Too slow, needs to play with more urgency
- Limited pass-catching production, undeveloped route tree
- No real home-run speed, not a big-play threat
Summary: Hassan Haskins is a bruising, powerful running back who, like Brian Robinson, wins with strength much more than burst and agility. His pass-catching production is lacking, and he doesn’t have home-run speed or short-area elusiveness that gets drafted in the earlier rounds. However, his power back traits are worth taking a chance on with a Day 3 pick.
Draft Range: 6th Round