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2022 NFL Draft: Running Back Big Board - The Sweet 16


(Mandatory Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj - USA Today Sports)

(Pictured: Alabama back Brian Robinson, Jr in action against Cincinnati)


Written by: Joseph Yun


The offseason all-star games like the Senior Bowl and Shrine Game along with the Combine are now concluded. Pro Days are beginning to gather steam in earnest. Who are the best running backs in the 2022 class and where could they end up drafted? Are there any future Alvin Kamaras, Christian McCaffery's, or Nick Chubbs in this year’s loaded class of star rushers? Who could rise up the boards and plant himself into being a first-round selection?


1. Kenneth Walker III 5’9 211 Junior Michigan State


- Walker is the top running back on the board after a rousing Combine effort on top of the stellar season he had for the competitive Spartans. The Wake Forest transfer made the most of his last campaign in East Lansing, being a contender for the Heisman deep into November. An uber-athletic back by trade with very little tire wear due to such little usage at Wake. He’s certainly explosive based on his testing numbers. One could argue that he’s the most well-rounded back in the class, showing some versatility in the passing game to boot. While he isn’t the most physically imposing back out there, he’s likely a three-down runner like Saquon Barkley or Derrick Henry. The physical traits lean towards recent Super Bowl champion and former Bulldog ball carrier Sony Michel. Can he take the pounding of the big boys after a relative lack of reps before the explosion at Spartan land? While he probably won’t get selected in the first round, it’s a very good bet that he’s the first back taken in the early stages of Day 2.


Round Grade: First


RAS: 9.09


Player Comparison: Sony Michel


2. James Cook 5’11 199 Senior Georgia


- The younger Cook brother showed his rear end (I won’t say the vulgar name on this site but you get the idea) (as the young whippersnappers say these days) in Indianapolis. He tested even better than his ultra-athletic and superstar brother Dalvin, which is saying something. What a torrid past few months for the young man from Athens via Miami. He’s the second-ranked runner on the board due to his bloodlines, athleticism, and play over the season. He’s a true dual-threat like a Christian McCaffery type without the wear and tear thanks to the insanity that is Georgia’s depth chart. Playstyle and physical attributes remind one of Melvin Gordon, although Gordon was a smidge heavier by 16 pounds. I have a first-round grade on him even if he likely won’t get taken there. Future dynasty sleeper, perhaps?


Round Grade: First


RAS: 8.69


Player Comparison: Melvin Gordon


3. Breece Hall 5’11 217 Junior Iowa State


- Speaking of Combine superstars, whew buddy, Hall was that and then some, posting a ridiculous RAS. Hall has been hailed as the best overall back in this class for the past couple of years after a breakout freshman campaign. While I won’t go there, he tested better than his much-ballyhooed predecessor David Montgomery did. 2021 saw a precipitous decline in numbers from him and the Cyclones in general. While that is some cause for concern, much will have to be parsed in between the lines. The former Cyclones star runner is still one of the best in the class despite the decline. He profiles similarly in both physical attributes and play style to a former back who plied his trade in the Hawkeye State, David Johnson. A second-round grade for one Mr. Hall.


Round Grade: Second


RAS: 9.95


Player Comparison: David Johnson


4. Isaiah Spiller 6’0 217 Junior Texas A&M


- Spiller was much touted as the top back in the class but slipped down a bit due to a “slip” of production in 2021 and the rise of others on this list. Still, he’s a bigger back in a class that features some smaller-sized runners so teams will look for his inside ability. What’s great about him is that he was consistently good in a similar amount of attempts for all three seasons. He declined to run the 40 in Indy but did look good in the drills. Great footwork. He reminds me of former UCLA rusher DeShaun Foster both physically and stylistically. It can be assumed when we look back at the 2022 draft, he could make the meteoric rise as a bellcow for some lucky team on Day 2.


Round Grade: Second


RAS: N/A


Player Comparison: DeShaun Foster


5. Jerome Ford 5’10 210 Junior Cincinnati


- Ford had a solid Combine to cement his top five back status. The former Bearcats runner is one of the bigger backs in the class but he has plus plus athleticism. Production took a huge jump as he finally got a chance to be the main man in his last season. Well built dude with great body composition throughout. He has a third-round grade but could get taken higher in the second. JF profiles similarly to former Auburn star runner Cadillac Williams both athletically and play style.


Round Grade: Third


RAS: 7.78


Player Comparison: Cadillac Williams


6. Brian Robinson, Jr 6’1 225 Redshirt Senior Alabama


- Robinson finally broke out as the starring man for the Tide after waiting behind some star-studded RB rooms. He had a great Combine performance, regardless of size, scoring high marks. Built like a Greek god-like most Tide players and insanely productive as a key starter. He currently has a fourth-round grade at this point in the process. Athletically, he profiles in a similar manner to Leonard Fournette, the former LSU star and Super Bowl champion but style-wise, he performs like former Michigan star Chris Perry.


Round Grade: Fourth


RAS: 8.18


Player Comparison: Chris Perry / Leonard Fournette


7. Rachaad White 6’0 214 Redshirt Senior Arizona State


- White transferred to Arizona State for his last two seasons and put up a monstrous 1,000 yard, 15 touchdown campaign in 2021. He exploded in both the run and pass game, catching 43 balls for 456 yards and one touchdown so he’s a certified PPR star. The former Sun Devil runner had a great Combine, coming in a little heavier than his listed weight but posted a ridiculous 38” vertical and a respectable 4.48 40, which is in line with his play style. He reminds me of Buck Allen in terms of physical profile.


Round Grade: Fourth


RAS: 9.84


Player Comparison: Rashaad Penny / Javorius “Buck” Allen


8. Tyler Badie 5’8 197 Senior Missouri


- The former Mizzou star had a decent Combine performance, clocking in at 4.45 in the 40 and generally looking not lost in the drills. The undersized back needed to show out, however. Play style reminds one of former Texans / Miami Hurricanes runner Duke Johnson. Physical profile resembles former Florida State utility back Chris Thompson who has carved out a niche role as a third-down receiving back after being a fullback of sorts in college. Some creative team will likely do the same for him as a Day 3 selection. He can be an ideal COPB.


Round Grade: Fifth


RAS: 6.83


Player Comparison: Duke Johnson / Chris Thompson


9. Zamir White 5’11 216 Redshirt Junior Georgia


- The other half of the dynamic Georgia backfield had a standout Combine show. Zeus is remarkably similar to former Cowboys star and Golden Gophers legend Marion Barber (9.82 RAS). He took a backseat to Cook during the stretch run to the national title but played a large role throughout the season to get them there. A 4.4 40 at his size is quite the move for the young man. He gets a fifth-round grade but has some RB1 potential for a team due to the lack of wear and tear and top-level athleticism. Built to take a pounding in between the tackles.


Round Grade: Fifth


RAS: 9.81


Player Comparison: Marion Barber


10. Tyler Allgeier 5’10 224 Redshirt Junior BYU


- The uber-productive runner from BYU had a pretty decent showing in Indy coming off a stellar 2021 campaign that saw him post over 1,600 yards and a whopping 23 touchdowns. He’s certainly not the most athletic in the class but the overall package is tantalizing in multiple schemes. He proved to the world that he could be productive without Zach Wilson taking the heat away last season. Thus the top ten ranking on the board. Allgeier could be a sneaky value play in the later rounds in fantasy, depending on what team he ends up on. He profiles athletically similar to former Wisconsin star and Cowboys backup Corey Clement even down to the two years of standout production and career touchdowns. Day 3 selection.


Round Grade: Fifth


RAS: 7.02


Player Comparison: Corey Clement


11. Dameon Pierce 5’9 218 Senior Florida


- Pierce was woefully underutilized during his time at UF until his senior season. While the RAS isn't great, it'll play at the pro level. While he probably won't be an RB1, he can be a pretty solid RB2 that can be used everywhere out of the backfield. The former Gator profiles similarly to Spencer Ware of LSU and Kansas City fame. He’s solidly valued in the early to middle Day 3 range at this point.


Round Grade: Fourth to Fifth


RAS: 6.60


Player Comparison: Spencer Ware


12. D’Vonte Price 6’1 210 Senior FIU


- As one of the taller backs in the class, Price has to contend with the fear of playing too upright. The rusher from the perpetually rebuilding Panthers program has great instincts and is quite sturdy at the hole. He blew the Combine testing out of the water with an eye-opening 9.72 RAS that included an electrifying 4.30 in the 40. The underrated FIU back compares physically and stylistically to former Oklahoma State runner Tatum Bell and longtime veteran back Jalen Parmele. He can be an ideal hammer in short-yardage situations despite the “light” 210 with his physicality. A sixth-round RB2 sleeper candidate? Maybe.


Round Grade: Sixth


RAS: 9.72


Player Comparison: Tatum Bell / Jalen Parmele


13. Zonovan Knight 5’10 209 Junior NC State


- While the RAS score is concerning after a hideously discouraging Indianapolis session, don’t mistake Knight for being not athletic. He’s plenty explosive with the pads on and has special teams versatility, which will be his meal ticket as an RB2 in an RBBC type of situation. The dude is simply, good. Just give him the rock and get out of the way. A home run threat from anywhere who led N.C. State in rushing all three years of stay in Raleigh. He compares both athletically and stylistically to former Arkansas legend Felix Jones. A sixth-round grade awaits him due to the depth of the class and the ongoing devaluation of his position. Some enterprising team could deploy him as a mini slot weapon a la lighter Deebo Samuel in reverse.


Round Grade: Sixth


RAS: 4.49


Player Comparison: Felix Jones


14. Ty Chandler 5’11 204 Redshirt Senior North Carolina


- Chandler, unsurprisingly, blew up at the Combine, showing off primo athleticism that allowed him to produce a 1,300 scrimmage yard behind a somewhat makeshift line at North Carolina. He spent a graduate transfer season in Chapel Hill after spending four relatively underwhelming years in Knoxville. Athletically, he profiles in a similar fashion to longtime Colts runner Marlon Mack and veteran Bernard Pierce. A home run threat from anywhere on the field should play well as a potential bell cow RB1 but a right now solid RB2. He’s very smart and instinctive with the ball in his hands. A possible early Day 3 three pick that could sneak into the latter stages of Day 2 if a team loves him.


Round Grade: Fifth to Sixth


RAS: 8.70


Player Comparison: Marlon Mack / Bernard Pierce


15. Tyler Goodson 5’9 197 Junior Iowa


- The former Hawkeye runner tested very well in Indianapolis, posting elite testing numbers including a 4.42 40 and a 36.5” vertical jump. He was productive as a junior, rushing for 1,151 yards and six touchdowns while catching 31 passes for 247 yards plus one touchdown. Goodson profiles physically similarly to D’Andre Swift of Detroit and Georgia fame. He likely won’t be RB1 in his career but with his athleticism, he can be an ideal RB2 getting some time on third downs. Due to the depth in the class, he’ll probably be drafted on Day 3 and be considered as a steal that late. It’s entirely possible that he sneaks into the fourth round.


Round Grade: Sixth


RAS: 8.62


Player Comparison: D’Andre Swift


16. Keaontay Ingram 5’11 221 Senior USC


- Ingram transferred to USC from Texas where he had produced to the nth degree before being injured during his junior season. He had an excellent Combine performance, which resulted in a high RAS grade. He almost cracked the 1,000-yard barrier in his lone season in Hollywood, rushing for 911 yards and five touchdowns. The former Trojans back tends to get a little lost due to the depth of the class but he has proven to be a dual-threat as a runner. USC and Texas were going through sad and unconscionable changes for programs that once dominated the scene during his career. He could be a valuable RB2 for a team in the fourth round if not the middle of Day 3. Physically, he compares to former Ohio State runner Trey Sermon but stylistically compares to another Big Ten back, Melvin Gordon.


Round Grade: Fifth to Sixth


RAS: 9.01


Player Comparison: Trey Sermon / Melvin Gordon


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