Winding down the 2021 season and already in the middle of the fantasy playoffs. But here’s a little something for everyone – 2022 rookie running backs! The incoming class is not considered to be a great one and once again, the first one is likely to be selected in the second round. But that means any team can reach the best rushing talent in the draft, even teams with great offensive lines. Najee Harris sets an encouraging example from this year.
These six were chosen by scanning numerous of the best NFL draft sites and finding their cumulative best backs. There’s plenty of consensus with the Top-3 but the field really spreads out quickly. Consider this the starting point for these players who can help or hurt their draft stock with bowl games, the combine and Pro Days. Staying healthy and out of trouble pays off as well.
(All times EST; weight, height, and 40-times are unofficial)
1.) Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M (6-1, 225 pounds, 4.5 40-time)
FRI DEC 31 TaxSlayer Bowl, 11 AM, (ESPN)
Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M
The Junior came within 54 yards of having three 1,000 yard seasons as a rusher. He’s bigger than most – almost fullback size – and he’s probably the slowest with an estimated 4.5 40-time, but he’s at or near the top in almost all current rookie rankings. He’s big enough to pick up the blitz, offers all the benefits of a power-back who can stay on the field for all three downs since he’s caught 74 passes in college. His college resume is solid though he never ran for more than 1,011 yards in a season but he’s always gained around 5.5 yards per carry. He’ll be viewed as a full-time back by the team that drafts him.
2.) Breece Hall, Iowa State (6-1, 215 pounds, 4.43 40-time)
WED DEC. 29, Cheez-it Bowl, 5:45 PM, (ESPN)
Clemson vs. Iowa State
The junior is the prototypical size and speed for a three-down back and he’s been very productive at Iowa State where he gained up to 1,572 yards and 21 scores in a season. He totals 82 catches in his three years and is considered to be excellent in pass protection. Has the quickness to make defenders miss and the power to keep his balance when contacted and fight for extra yards. Great hands and demonstrates talent in every phase of his position. He too should be considered as a three-down back.
3.) Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State (5-10, 210 pounds, 4.26 40-time)
THU DEC 30, Peach Bowl, 7:00 PM, (ESPN)
Pittsburgh vs Michigan State
He’s faster and more electric than the first two backs listed. Has the ability to accelerate quickly with a second gear and is very dangerous in the open field. This junior wasn’t a full-time back until this year but already gained 1,624 rush yards with 198 touchdowns. He’s less used as a receiver in the scheme at MSU and totals just 19 receptions in college. There’s no reason to assume he cannot develop his receiving skills quickly, his speed and shiftiness makes him a very viable target out in the flats on a pass play. Very athletic and a threat to score on any play.
4.) Zamir White, Georgia (6-0, 215 pounds, 4.38 40-time)
FRI DEC 31, Orange Bowl, 7:30 PM, (ESPN)
Michigan vs. Georgia
There is less consensus on White who comes out of the running back factory known as Georgia but hasn’t rushed for more than 779 yards in a season but always averaged over 5.2 yards per carry. He was in a timeshare for the Bulldogs that is how they handle their backfield. He’s only caught 15 passes in college but Nick Chubb and D’Andre Swift didn’t do a lot of receiving there. He’ll do himself a favor with a good performance in the Orange Bowl.
5.) Kyren Williams, Notre Dame (5-9, 199 pounds, 4.44 40-time)
SAT JAN 1, Fiesta Bowl, 1 PM, (ESPN)
Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State
The Junior topped out at 1,125 rushing yards and 13 scores last year but he also added up to 42 receptions in a season. He’s multi-talented and not only noted for rushing and receiving but also for blocking. He can be a physical runner despite a smaller frame than many running backs. But he can run inside or outside, catch the ball and has the speed to make him dangerous when he reaches the second level of the defense. He’s an all-purpose back that can run, play the slot, return kicks – whatever the team needs.
6.) Rachaad White, Arizona State (6-2, 210 pounds. 4.46 40-time)
THU DEC 30, Las Vegas Bowl, 10:30 PM, (ESPN)
Wisconsin vs. Arizona State
The Senior only played in two seasons at Arizona State where he topped out this year with exactly 1,000 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, and also 43 catches for 456 more yards. He is elusive and a game-breaking running back. He’s also invited to the Senior Bowl. He has great lateral speed and a second-gear for home-run potential whenever he has the ball. He is considered one of the best pass-catching backs in the draft and his stock could be hurt because his high school career was limited by injury, and he ended up at a small Div. II college and redshirted. He transferred to Mount San Antonio Community College. From there he almost jumped to UCLA but ended up with ASU. His lack of playing for a single school makes it harder to evaluate him but plenty of analysts are interested in his talent more than his back history.