Pre-Combine 2022 NFL Draft RB Rankings

Feb 28th 2022

Hayden Winks

With the 2022 NFL Combine here, I'm dropping my way too early RB rankings for the 2022 NFL Draft class. I didn't want to be scared to compete and wait for testing scores to drop before I got some free takes out on the internet. I'll come back in March with my final rankings after I enter each back into my draft model (I'll drop clips from their film, too), but that won't help the folks entering fantasy football drafts right now:

1. Kenneth Walker (Draft Grade: Early Round 3)

A 3-star recruit out of high school, Kenneth Walker started out as an extremely patient, bursty early-down rusher at Wake Forest before becoming a Heisman candidate as a true junior in 2021 for Michigan State. Walker led college football with 89 missed tackles forced per PFF (0.34 per carry) with a high-end 4.5 yards after contact. He presses the offensive line and manipulates linebackers well with good vision and timing before making second level defenders miss with elusiveness, short-area burst, and quality power. Walker’s breakaway speed is average but shouldn’t limit him from being a consistent efficient early-down player because of his controlled chaos rushing style and contact balance. His third-down ability is his biggest question mark as he only had a 5% reception share at Michigan State and used cut blocks as a crutch in pass protection. Walker was late to getting to the check down often, too, likely because of his overall inexperience on passing downs. Overall, Walker possesses above-average rushing skills and projects as a 200-250 carry player immediately. Anything in the pass game is a bonus. Underdog Fantasy's 2022 best ball ADP (96th overall).

2. Breece Hall (Round 3)

Hall was a 4-star recruit and 3-year starter at Iowa State. He was an early declare after totalling 1,750 total yards in back-to-back seasons. Hall is built and plays like a bellcow, maxing out at 273 carries (2020) and 36 receptions (2021). His elusive jump cut ability and passable power led to 74 forced missed tackles per PFF (0.29 per carry) in 2021 and a career 5.5 yards per carry average, but he lacks a stand-out trait. He stumbles in space often, only averaged 2.8 yards after contact in 2021, has mediocre long speed, and really struggled in pass protection (both with recognition and technique – what’s up with the cut blocks?). Hall’s value comes in disguising pass/run tendencies as a three-down player because he can run between the tackles and is fluid as a pass-catcher (11% receptions in 2021). Think 90% version of David Montgomery. Underdog Fantasy's 2022 best ball ADP (61st overall).

3. Isaiah Spiller (Round 3)

Spiller was a 4-star recruit and 3-year starter with 203, 208, and 204 touches before being an early declare. He is a mid-sized back who can play in both ground and pass games. Spiller has above-average top speed with quality short-area burst, plus has the elusiveness and flexibility to make defenders miss in space. PFF credited him with 56 missed tackles forced (0.31 per carry) and 3.6 yards after contact. Because Spiller isn’t going to make defenders miss with pure power, he looks for the big play often, sometimes too often. His chaotic rushing style and vision makes him a home-run threat rusher. In the pass game, Spiller is comfortable as a check-down option with some wheel and option route ability (29, 20, and 25 receptions each season), and he seeks out the blitz in pass protection. Overall, Spiller can be the 1A in a committee similar to Miles Sanders. Underdog Fantasy's 2022 best ball ADP (101st overall).

4. Kyren Williams (Round 3)

Before being a Notre Dame Leprechaun, Williams was a 4-star recruit. He was a 2-year starter with 246 touches in each season. Williams ran in a pro-style offense with both zone and gap runs, and he showed serviceable burst to the edge and second level to be an effective rusher. His elusiveness and power are fine but not difference-making, however, as evidenced by his 3.7 yards after contact and 0.28 forced missed tackles per carry. That’s totally fine because he’s the best passing-down back in the class, featuring the best pass protection (both with technique and blitz recognition) by a wide margin. On top of that, Williams is a fluid receiver capable of running routes beyond just check downs (wheels, options, screens). He caught 35 and 42 receptions before declaring early. Draft analysts throw the James White comparison out there often, but Williams is legitimately the next James White back. Underdog Fantasy's 2022 best ball ADP (129th overall).

5. Rachaad White (Round 4)

A 3-star JUCO recruit out of California’s Mt. Sac, White transferred to Arizona State where he averaged 135 total yards and 1.46 total touchdowns per game from 2020-21. He has serviceable wiggle at the first level with enough power to occasionally run through arms (0.24 missed tackles per carry and 3.4 yards after contact), but White doesn’t have the top speed of high-end NFL backs. Instead, White’s value will be on passing downs. He was very fluid as a receiver (3.4 receptions per game) with routes beyond checkdowns. Out of 251 RB qualifiers, White was 2nd in PFF receiving grade and had good awareness on blitzes/stunts in pass protection. Overall, White is a passing down complement with enough three-down ability to be vaulted into a bigger role in case of injury. Underdog Fantasy's 2022 best ball ADP (159th overall).

6. Tyler Allgeier (Round 4)

Allgeier was a 0-star recruit and 2-year starter in his junior and senior seasons at BYU. Playing behind a bulldozing offensive line against a Mickey Mouse strength of schedule, Allgeier eclipsed 1,800 total yards and 23 touchdowns (all rushing) in his final season. He averaged 4.2 yards after contact and forced 0.28 missed tackles per carry, both very solid marks. His career 6.4 YPC is even more impressive. Allgeier did so largely with power and size-adjusted speed, not with bend and wiggle. He has quality hands (28 receptions in 2021) for a bigger back, but his bread gets buttered on early downs. Allgeier is an early-down backup capable of operating as a bellcow back in a pinch. Underdog Fantasy's 2022 best ball ADP (189th overall).

7. Zamir White (Round 4)

White was the 9th overall high school recruit (5-star) and the RB1 overall in his class. Early on at Georgia, White suffered two torn ACLs and struggled in 2020 before somewhat bouncing back last season (62 total yards and 0.73 total TDs per game). Physically, he looks like an NFL back (6’0/215) and flashes rare burst to get to the second level and beyond. That gives him plenty of upside if the rest of his athletic profile improves. White needs to make more defenders miss in open space (0.23 forced missed tackles per carry) and improve his vision/timing with more on-field reps to reach his ceiling. He was a committee back each season, heading to the sideline often on passing downs in favor of 2022 prospect James Cook, so his fit in the passing game is a total projection. Overall, White hasn’t played like an NFL starter yet, but the physical tools are there if he can get healthier and develop. Boom. Bust. Underdog Fantasy's 2022 best ball ADP (222nd overall).

8. Jerome Ford (Round 4)

A 4-star recruit, Ford signed with Alabama before transferring for more playing time at Cincinnati. He broke out in his redshirt senior season (1,539 total yards and 20 total touchdowns) and declared early afterwards. Ford has an NFL compact frame (5’11/215) with inside rushing ability. He’s a no wasted movement ball-carrier with zero hesitation on making cuts. His decision-making and timing are on par with NFL backs, too, but he has below-average wiggle for his size. He forced 0.24 missed tackles per carry and averaged 3.1 yards after contact. Ford caught 21 passes in his final season and was fine identifying blitzers, but he had technique failures and wasn't as fluid as other backs when the ball was in the air. Overall, Ford will pick up all yards made by the offensive line and has enough burst/speed to rip off the occasional big play. Underdog Fantasy's 2022 best ball ADP (233rd overall).

9. Dameon Pierce (Round 4)

A 4-star recruit, Pierce never was a full-time player in four seasons at Florida despite having a 5’10/215 frame. He was held to 123 and 119 touches in his last two seasons but did score 16 touchdowns as a senior. Pierce is a low-to-the-ground power rusher with a jump cut and truck stick, leading to 3.65 yards after contact and an elite 0.39 forced missed tackles per carry. Defenders are simply sorer leaving games against Pierce, who seeks defenders at the end of his runs. His vision is passable and he caught 19 passes as a senior despite the playing time issues. It’s unclear why Pierce didn’t play more, but the tape shows more of a ceiling than what his production would indicate. This sometimes happens at the upper-end programs. Leave the light on for him. Underdog Fantasy's 2022 best ball ADP (224th overall).

10. Brian Robinson (Round 4)

Robinson waited patiently at Alabama behind a million NFL running backs before totaling 1,639 yards and 16 touchdowns as a redshirt senior. The 4-star recruit has muscles on top of muscles (6’2/224), a physical profile that translates between the tackles. Robinson can run through tackles (forced 0.29 missed tackles per carry), consistently falls forward for an extra yard, and has a decent cutback on zone runs. He unfortunately doesn’t have enough speed to create beyond that (3.3 yards after contact). Robinson caught 35 passes (more than most big backs) but was poor in pass protection, opting for cut blocks way too often. Overall, Robinson projects as a backup with some short-yardage committee value. Underdog Fantasy's 2022 best ball ADP (179th overall).

11. James Cook (Round 5)

Dalvin’s younger brother, James Cook, was a 4-star recruit and 4-year committee back at Georgia. He is undersized (5’11/195) and was often subbed in on passing downs, leading to 27 receptions as a senior. The Bulldogs used him in pony personnel (2-back sets) as the motion man capable of creating in space off of end-arounds. Cook’s best traits are his short-area explosiveness and long speed, but he had underwhelming wiggle for a back of his size. Overall, Cook looks like a slightly faster Kenny Gainwell, someone who will always have a capped workload. Underdog Fantasy's 2022 best ball ADP (226th overall).