• Ben Matthews

Top Ten Running Backs In The 2022 NFL Draft

Viewed these days as a lesser commodity around the NFL, consistent tailbacks are still worth their weight in gold. Today, I take a look at the top ten running backs in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Dameon Pierce, Kenneth Walker, Breece Hall and Tyrion Davis-Price Are All Running Backs In The 2022 NFL Draft. In This Article, We Rank The Top Ten Available.
In a deep class, who is RB1 of the 2022 NFL Draft?

By Ben Matthews.


MORE 2022 NFL DRAFT CONTENT: Ranking the edge prospects: check out our top 15 DEs here — Pike’s NFL Mock Draft With Trades here — Full list of wide receiver rankings here.

 

Top Ten Running Backs In The 2022 NFL Draft (1-5)


1. Kenneth Walker III — Michigan State


The best running back in the draft. Runs angry, and has a true speed that shows up on film. This was evidenced by his 4.38 forty at the combine. Walker wins in a multitude of different ways and has a natural feel at the position. Other than Dameon Pierce, he is the most violent runner in the class and is comfortable with contact. Is able to drag himself through tacklers and runs a lot bigger than he appears on the screen.


The ex-Spartan displays exceptional footwork and has a real economy of movement. Even during contact, his movement isn’t affected as he keeps his feet and ankles high to avoid tacklers wrapping him up easily. Excellent burst and acceleration also mean that tacklers don’t have the time to wrap up and enable him to eliminate pursuit angles quickly. Does a great job opening his hips and uses jump cuts effortlessly to drive forward through gaps, picking up yardage where other backs may get taken down for a loss.

Walker can string moves together and doesn’t lose momentum which highlights what a smooth mover he is in space and he is skilled at making defenders miss. The best back in the class when taking into account a combined vision and elusiveness. There are multiple times where Walker just makes defenders look silly in the open field thanks to his ability to stick his foot in the ground, bend and cut on a dime. A multi-layered runner who utilises head and shoulder fakes well allowing him to set up big gains.

Gets skinny and finds creases in traffic as he reads cut back lanes well. Is effective in zone and gap plays and is able to work through trash in short areas. Walker has a true tackle-breaking ability and displays excellent contact balance. The first man rarely takes him down and he can sift through multiple reach tackles with ease. Led the nation with 89 broken tackles in 2021.

There is real evidence regarding his awareness as a pass blocker as he picks up linebackers early and sticks tight to the line when needed on double-teams. In these situations, Walker usually does a good job assisting with the double-team and then peeling off to address his assignment on the outside of the pocket. Fairly stout and aware when asked to block on the perimeter in general.

Does a good job picking up blitzes, but sometimes can miss his man in protection when there is increased pressure from interior rushers. Can get a little low on blocks from time to time, but usually does enough to disrupt a defender, allowing his QB the time he needs to operate.

Walker doesn't have huge experience as a pass-catcher out of the backfield with only 18 career catches, but he does show soft hands and the potential is there.

Sometimes leaves yards on the field on outside runs as he can be too eager to get to the edge. He sometimes fails to take the opportunity to set up and fool defenders in pursuit, allowing them clean angles at him. This is a minor concern though and truly nitpicking and will improve with experience. There are simply too many times where the opposite is true as Walker consistently springs huge runs on plays where he should go down much earlier.


Overall, Walker is a dangerous and dynamic player with the most impressive skill set of all the backs in the 2022 NFL Draft.

2. Dameon Pierce — Florida


A man who runs with bad intentions. Pierce is an outstanding between-the-tackles runner and takes care of the football whilst maintaining a truly violent run style. His stiff arm is sensational and he runs with excellent pad level, consistently shrugging off would-be tacklers.

He has a rocked up frame with great thickness through his lower half and a low centre of gravity. This gives him exceptional contact balance and makes him a nightmare to wrap up and bring down. Pierce does not have the elusiveness of some of the other names on this list, but his vision and compact running style allow him to be effective in multiple schemes and systems.

A competitive nature means that he is a willing blocker in pass protection and will square up pass rushers, maintaining a sturdy base. He has some work to do here to become consistently effective, but his displays during Senior Bowl practise highlight the dog in him that NFL teams and teammates alike, will love. He just has an energising attitude due to his style.

He does not have home run pace and his long speed is only average, but this is not what makes him so effective. Pierce has sharp bursts of speed and an ability to cut hard which gives him the ability to churn out yards after contact and drive through bodies. He will be an effective chain mover at the next level and has a high floor as number two back at the very least.

Pierce has little tread on his tires thanks to a mere 260 carries during his three-year collegiate career but what he did have, he made the most of. In 2021 he broke 39 tackles on only 100 attempts which further goes to show his effective, bruising style. He totalled 19 receptions on 19 targets in 2021 and has potential in the passing game, always looking comfortable when receiving the ball.



3. Breece Hall — Iowa State


Excellent burst and elusiveness. Has a great shake to his game and he uses his upper body movement to fake out defenders and make them miss.


Patient in his approach and when combined with his explosive burst, he can be lethal on zone plays. Shifty with his stop-start movement and has the ability to make multiple defenders miss in small areas. He can accelerate and decelerate at will.

His vision is good and his combine testing shows that when Hall can find his way to the second level, he will be a threat to take it the distance at any time. He is good at manipulating the angles that defenders attack him from.

Hall’s contact balance is good, but he does run a little high. Sometimes if he does get hit, he loses momentum and struggles to regain his initial traction. Will willingly take on contact, but is not a particularly powerful runner and won’t run through anyone at the next level. This limits his versatility and I’m not convinced that he will be a true three-down back.

Hands are so-so. Tends to fight the ball in the air, but he does have potential as a receiver as he is adept at recognising space and creating separation on routes. Has also made the odd spectacular grab which highlights what he could become. Effort on pass protection needs to improve, as does his blitz recognition.


4. Tyrion Davis-Price — LSU


Like Pierce, Davis-Price is another bruising back with excellent size. This isn’t purely his style though, as he displays excellent footwork and is nimble when he gets to the second level.

Davis-Price is an agile athlete and wears his size well for the position. He has starter potential and his experience against elite SEC competition will serve him well in his transition to the pros. Davis-Price is the type of back who always seems to gain yardage beyond what is expected of him. He has the jump cut to be effective behind his guards and can absorb hits. His feet and loose hips let him slither through traffic and he has an excellent ability to change direction instantly.


His 4.48 combine speed translates and his power is real. This isn’t a runner whose game is built on sexy breakaway runs, but his ability to gain yards after contact and produce out of nothing is invaluable. Expect three yards? Davis-Price will get you six.

This is a runner who gets stronger as the game goes on and does not wear down. He is the kind of back who needs to get into a rhythm and a feel for a game as it progresses, but this is a notable positive. Davis-Price is the type of back that defenders tire of hitting.

Currently a little under the radar and it feels like the Davis-Price is the kind of runner whom the NFL may covet more than draft media. This is due to his slight lack of usage and not many big play, “leap-off-the-screen” highlight reel clips. Having said that, he possesses a solid all-around skill set and could develop into a three-down back.

For me, this is at least a third-round talent on whom the consensus is currently a lot lower. Someone will get a steal as Tyrion Davis-Price will undoubtedly be an impact player in the NFL.



5. Rachaad White — Arizona State


Another back who is largely flying under the radar. White is an intriguing player who has a well-rounded skill set. He has a great frame and is a smooth, long strider who can offer an NFL team an immediate boost in the passing game as a dual-threat back.

He is patient for plays to develop when he receives the handoff and can spot gaps early beyond the line of scrimmage. This combination allows him to make vertical gains quickly when the opportunity arises.

White does have an upright running style which reduces his effectiveness as a power runner. His high centre of gravity means that tacklers can take him down too easily if they get an angle on him. Despite this, he is agile and has light feet meaning that he is often able to make quick cuts before contact is initiated.

As mentioned, he is an excellent dual-threat and has real value in the passing game. He has a brilliant ability with the ball in his hands and caught 43 passes for 456 yards in 2021 alone. White glides in the open field and has an easy acceleration to beat defenders one-on-one.


At present, he is not a three-down option because he will not be consistently effective between the tackles. He needs obvious daylight and does sometimes miss open holes as he is quick to look outside, knowing that this is the way to find more obvious mismatches. His size offers the opportunity to become effective here though, as he absorbs hits and protects the ball well.


White has tons of potential. Despite the concerns about his ability to fully utilise his frame as a true power runner, he is slippery and is willing to fight through bodies. His patience is an asset and if he lands on a team with an effective offensive line in place, he’ll be an exciting watch when unleashed upon the NFL. He’s currently just scratching the surface of what he can become.



Top Ten Running Backs In The 2022 NFL Draft (6-10)


6. Isaiah Spiller — Texas A&M


Just misses out on the top five, but is an exciting prospect nevertheless. Spiller can do it all and has an instinctive approach to the game. He has incredible footwork for a man of his size and his ability to make people miss in the open field is impressive. Spiller’s change of direction and jump cuts easily fool defenders and his vision often leads to big gains.


He is patient behind the line of scrimmage and hits open holes hard whilst maintaining excellent contact balance. Spiller is a decisive runner and is disciplined when following his blockers.

Spiller is also a good receiving back and shows an ability to adapt to the ball when it is in the air. He will be more than just a useful check-down option in the NFL. He is a real weapon, has a more than sufficient route tree and catches the ball away from his frame.

Unfortunately, Spiller doesn’t have breakaway speed or explosiveness to the level of some others in this class. When he has to decelerate and change the angle of his run, he loses momentum and the play is over quicker than it would be when compared to some of his peers.


He has decent power and can break arm tackles but is not a player who can rely on pure power. There are times when he is easily snuffed out and pushed back and becomes a non-factor. Some work is needed on his pass blocking too but Spiller is, overall, a talented back with a bright future.



7. James Cook — Georgia


Brother of Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin, and probably the best receiving back in the 2022 NFL Draft. Cook is a great size and a fluid athlete and shows great patience and vision. He’s probably more naturally athletic than his brother but is more slender and does not possess the same power between the tackles.

He will have a long career in the NFL as a mismatch threat at the second level against linebackers and safeties. Get him into space and he’s gone. Such a natural receiver, it would not be a surprise if he transitioned to a slot role full time as he may not have the build to become a true three-down runner.


8. Pierre Strong Jr — South Dakota State


A blazing 4.37-second forty-yard dash at the combine got tongues wagging as the best time amongst running backs. His speed is real and translates to the field when he has an opportunity to hit a hole as he just bursts through without a second thought. Strong is the kind of back who can just explode to the edge on outside zone plays and will make for an interesting transition to the pros.

The ex-Jackrabbit has real quick-twitch about him but the power is there, too. Strong is rarely arm tackled and has a good instinct in terms of spotting running lanes before they have fully developed.

He is a little stiff through the hips and lower body and is more of a deliberate runner than he is shifty, but he is so quick that he’s tough to get a hand on. Strong is a willing, but unrefined pass blocker and this is an area where he needs seasoning so his snaps will be limited in year one.


9. Zamir White — Georgia


Back in 2020, I expected Zamir White to become a top-three back in this class by the time the 2022 NFL Draft rolled around. He has never quite reached those heights, but I still believe that he has a shot at becoming a useful NFL running back.

White is rarely taken down by the first man and has real play strength. His burst is excellent and he converts this to power when running downhill. This power jumps off the screen when he explodes through holes, carrying bodies on his back and moving the pile through a sheer force of will and ability to keep his legs churning.

The ex-Bulldog has nimble feet for a bigger back and can dance his way to the second level when the opportunity arises. He has good vision and is a decisive runner in short-yardage situations.

Unfortunately White does not have extensive experience as a receiving back, so this caps his draft stock somewhat. However, if a team can find a way to target him in space on routes underneath, he could have an untapped upside. His power in the open field makes him a tough runner to take down for defensive backs.

The worry about White is the fact that he has suffered two ACL tears and this may have taken away some of the pure explosion that he once had. If NFL teams are comfortable with his injury history, then White should exceed the expected return on investment in the mid-rounds.


10. Brian Robinson — Alabama


Robinson has an ideal build for a power back and could become a workhorse at the next level. He is naturally going to be compared to Alabaman rushers that have gone before him and to be frank, it is not too unreasonable to expect him to be able to have similar success in the league.

Whilst not elite in any facet of the game, Robinson is above average in all the right areas. He is a balanced runner who maintains excellent pad level, has a patient style and has good vision.

Robinson can drive defenders back with his power and size and fights for extra yardage, ensuring he falls forward whenever possible.


Speed and explosiveness are not the greatest assets of his game, but they are of a sufficient level for him to be successful, especially in short areas. Robinson is a north/south runner and has limited versatility due to a lack of elusiveness and lateral quicks.

He is a decent receiving back in the passing game and a solid pass protector and does not have much wear and tear having had only one full season as a starter. Robinson, over time, could become a bell cow for a team as he gains more experience. A future solid but unspectacular starter.

 

Thank you for taking the time to check out my top ten running backs in the 2022 NFL Draft, and please follow me, Gridiron Xtra and The Franchise 33 NFL Show on Twitter. Let me know what you think!!


For more draft content, keep checking back to the site. Find our 2022 NFL Draft Big Board here, and further positional rankings here. Listen to the Franchise 33 NFL Show by clicking the image below.


77 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All