With the wide receiver, quarterback, and tight end rankings done it is time to move on to the running back position. Now while this class may not have a player going in the first round that does not take away from how extremely talented this class is.
1. Kenneth Walker- Michigan State
In the 2021 season, Kenneth Walker showcased why he is the clear number one running back in this class. He finished with 1,634 rushing yards, with 1,168 yards coming after contact. His lower body strength combined with his physical running style led to his 89 forced missed tackles in 2021. Walker has stellar footwork, he is able to make precise cutbacks and make defenders miss in space with his jukes. When it comes to ball security he held the longest streak without a fumble as his first and only fumble came in the game against Purdue. He also has the contact balance to drive the pile in short-yardage situations, the physicality to be a blocker, and the vision to be a three-down back. At Michigan State, he only had 13 receptions for 89 yards so his receiving upside will need to be worked on, otherwise he is the standout first running back in this class.
2. Breece Hall- Iowa State
A close candidate to that number one spot is Breece Hall. Over his three-year career at Iowa State, Hall finished with 718 carries for 3,941 rushing yards, 50 rushing touchdowns, 734 receiving yards, and six receiving touchdowns. The Iowa State offense is mainly a zone run scheme and it shows with Hall’s vision as he can recognize gaps forming and is able to burst through them. Hall is a very elusive back as his light footwork allows him to cut on a dime, his elusiveness also allows him to get through small running lanes with his loose hips. Where he falls short of coming in at one is not being able to consistently extend runs through direct contact. His ability to be a workhorse back in the NFL is what makes him a top two running back with all the athletic traits to make an impact.
3. Kyren Williams- Notre Dame
An all-around back whose skills have absolutely put himself in the conversation to be a top-three back is Kyren Williams. The time Williams spent as a receiver in high school shows on passing downs as he shows soft hands and understands how to use a variety of routes. When it comes to running he shows excellent vision and reacts quickly when he sees lanes closing to bounce to an outside running lane. Despite being a tad bit smaller than the prototypical size, Williams at 5’9, 199 lbs, is still able to play physically. His great contact balance allowed him to have 58 forced missed tackles. It is still uncertain if he can be a three-down back though because against stronger defenders he does have a difficult time moving the pile. As long as he is given enough time he can reach his top acceleration quickly this factor won’t be much of an issue.
4. Jerome Ford- Cincinnati
If a team is looking for a running back that has the perfect combination of explosive speed and power, Jerome Ford is the one to go with. Ford displays great vision to navigate through gaps. He is also able to recognize when a lane is closing and with his quick feet and twitch ability can cut back outside in an instant. Once he gets into the open space he has a good initial burst that allows him to breakaway downfield as shown by his 6.1 average yards per attempt. Ford embraces contact and routinely lowers his shoulder to initiate it which is shown by his 656 yards after contact and 52 forced missed tackles. Ford also can be a blocker but struggles at times on diagnosing defenses which is an area he will need to improve on. His potential as a pass-catcher improved as he had 21 receptions for 220 yards in 2021. The potential he has shown to keep on improving is why Ford is at four.
5. Rachaad White- Arizona State
Rachaad White is one of the best-kept secrets in this NFL Draft class. He has so many standout qualities that teams look for in running backs and yet has been heavily overlooked. White is a smooth runner that can run North-South as well as East-West very efficiently. When it comes to making jukes and jump cuts he does so without losing any acceleration. Out of all the running backs in this class White is the best pass-catching back. He had 43 receptions in 2021 that went for 456 yards as he has a great catch radius and a full route tree that can translate to the NFL. Where he falls short of being higher on this list is while he absorbs contact well with his upper body, he runs upright most of the time and that leads to him not handling lower-body contact as well.
6. James Cook- Georgia
James Cook is not only an explosive runner but also has the receiving upside. Cook did not have a high volume of carries over his four-year career as his first 100 attempt season came in 2021. This has led to concerns for usage at the next level. Yet when he touches the ball he always makes an impact. Cook has extremely impressive footwork and can sink his hips just enough so he can change direction without losing any speed. He is a versatile player who can also shine in the passing game with his route-running ability that makes him look as if he is a wide receiver. So while his limited carries may be concerning it also means he has little wear and tear which should allow him to be a fresh runner in the NFL.
7. Isaiah Spiller- Texas A&M
Isaiah Spiller has the perfect 215-pound frame for the NFL that will rarely allow him to be taken down on initial contact. He is a North-South runner with the leg drive that he has shown throughout his career that helps him be able to push the pile and fight for extra yardage. Spiller has natural instincts in short-yardage situations to use his footwork to wiggle through small holes. Where Spiller falls short of the top five is he isn’t necessarily explosive to break off huge chunk plays as he relies on his long strides downfield. He can also use improvement when it comes to his blocking technique.
8. Brian Robinson Jr.- Alabama
Brian Robinson Jr. doesn’t get talked about as much as his Alabama predecessors like Najee Harris, Damien Harris, or Derrick Henry but make no mistake he is just as talented. At 6’1, 225 lbs Robinson plays with a very physical running style as he lowers his shoulder well to get extra yardage which was shown by his 891 yards after contact. Where he falls to eight is his lack of explosiveness, he is a one-speed back making it difficult for him to get away from defenders. He makes up for it though with his patience to read plays and make quick jump-cuts that make defenders miss in space. His willingness as a blocker and pass-catching ability will allow him to be a three-down back.
9. Hassan Haskins- Michigan
Hassan Haskins has a massive appeal for a system with a gap scheme. His size of 6’1, 220 lbs allows him to navigate through defenders in congested areas. With that, he also has great contact balance to break off tackles as he did 53 times in 2021. Haskins also has the awareness to identify gaps opening and once he gets to the second level picks up speed and understands how to read the defense to maximize his run. He falls to nine though due to his lack of ability in being able to be shifty enough to consistently beat linebackers off the edge.
10. Dameon Pierce- Florida
Not a top 10 running back on most lists but if you dive into watching Dameon Pierce’s film you can see why he cracks this list. Pierce is a very physical player that can absorb contact and has the power to get through it by keeping his legs going constantly. He also shows great vision and patience to allow holes to be created while also looking for alternate routes as a backup plan. With his strength and ability to consistently square up he can be a blocker on passing downs as well. Pierce doesn’t have elite explosiveness and needs time to get up to speed which is a reason he is not rated higher. Outside of that his athletic ability will allow a team to maximize his potential.
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