This year's running back class is a melange of varied skill sets, backgrounds and bodies. It really, truly feels like a buffet for every team looking to satisfy a specific trait or fill a need. I tried to categorize this eclectic group as best as I could. So, let's take a look at the potential running back candidates that might walk into NRG Stadium as a member of the Texans early next month.
Breece Hall, Iowa State (5-11 ¼, 217 lb.)
4.39 in the 40
Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State (5-9 ¼, 211 lb.)
4.38 in the 40
10-2 broad jump
Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M (6-0 ⅜, 217 lb.)
4.61 in the 40
Hall has been RB1 for me for a couple of seasons but Walker III's dominating season made all of us take notice in 2021. Spiller's emergence in 2020 for the Aggies turned the season around and he carried that through 2021 as well. These three stand above the crowd in my estimation. I'd be MORE THAN FINE with GM Nick Caserio drafting any one of those three noted above. They have tremendous ability in the passing game as well, including Spiller, whose pass catching acumen popped a bit more in 2021. The great thing, though, about this running back class is there's plenty left on the bone if those three don't end up in Houston.
The Hammers - Downhill with power and strength
Brian Robinson Jr, Alabama (6-1 ⅝, 225 lb.)
Zamir White, Georgia (5-11 ¾, 214 lb.)
Dameon Pierce, Florida (5-9 ⅝, 218 lb.)
Every offense wants to control the clock and the ball in the last four minutes of a game. These three do that and then some. Robinson finally got a chance to show what he could in 2021 and made life miserable for opposing defenses. White has some serious jets, but he's a bull in a china shop running the rock. Pierce was so incredibly under-utilized at Florida but the contact balance, power and strength are all there for him to be a hammer at the next level.
The Passing Game Champions
Kyren Williams, Notre Dame (5-9 ¼, 194 lb.) - pass protection and receiving skills
James Cook, Georgia (5-11, 199 lb.) - outstanding receiving skills as a true receiver threat
Williams' pass protection was so good throughout his career that clips of his pass blocking went viral, especially so after the win over Clemson in 2020. The Irish star has soft hands out of the backfield as well, so he's going to boost the passing game efforts in a couple of ways. Cook is just about as good a receiver as he is a running back. Dalvin's brother has electric skills featuring top notch speed, but his ability as a true receiver is without peer in this draft class.
Rachaad White, Arizona State (6-0 ⅜, 214 lb.)
When I first saw White in 2020, I thought he was a receiver. Long and lean, wiry but strong. Then, he took a handoff and it was clear he's a running back. An intriguing, fast and explosive running back. Oh, he has good hands as well, so he's got those receiver traits too.
The former LBs turned Hammers
Tyler Allgeier, BYU (5-10 ¾, 224 lb.)
Hassan Haskins, Michigan (6-1 ¾, 228 lb.)
Abram Smith, Baylor (5-11 ⅝, 213 lb.)
Quan White, South Carolina (6-0 ⅛, 206 lb.)
All four of these backs have the exact, expected running style of a former linebacker - downhill, incredibly un-fancy and wildly physical.
Mighty Mice - the 5-8 or smaller club
Tyler Badie, Missouri (5-8, 197 lb.)
Jaylen Warren, Oklahoma State (5-8, 204 lb.)
Ronnie Rivers, Fresno State (5-7 ½, 195 lb.)
- Badie is one of my favorites on day three because he's as capable an inside runner as any of the hammers noted above. He bounces off tacklers and excels running between the tackles. Warren and Rivers aren't carbon copies of one another but they are similar. That said, Rivers is a bit better pass receiver. That receiving ability could really open a door for Rivers on day three for some team.
The Forgotten - RB off the radar screen heading into the draft with PLENTY of ability
Tyrion Davis-Price, LSU (6-0 ⅜, 211 lb.)
Kevin Harris, South Carolina (5-9 ⅞, 221 lb.)
Jashaun Corbin, Florida State (5-11 ⅛, 202 lb.)
C.J. Verdell, Oregon (5-7 ¾, 194 lb.)
Keontay Ingram, USC (5-11 ¾, 221 lb.)
There's so much forgotten/hidden value in this quintet. Davis-Price went for 287 against Florida in October and put on a show. Harris was a Harris 100 candidate in my first version before the season started, but a pre-season injury and the emergence of Quan White slowed his production in 2021. At Texas A&M, Corbin was on his way to being in that Top Three class noted above, but an injury halted his career in College Station so he transferred to Florida State and never had the success he's capable of having. Verdell was magical in a win over Ohio State early in the season and was tremendous…wait for it, when healthy in his career. He suffered a season ending injury for the second straight season and that kept him off the RB radar screen, so to speak. Ingram was supplanted by superstar All-American stud Bijan Robinson at Texas so he transferred to USC. In his one year as a Trojan, he averaged nearly six yards per carry on 156 carries. I'd love to see these guys healthy and available on day three.
Speed, thank you very much
Pierre Strong, South Dakota State (5-11, ⅜, 207 lb.) - 4.37 in the 40 at the Combine
Isaiah Pacheco, Rutgers (5-10, ⅜, 216 lb.) - 4.37 in the 40 at the Combine
D'Vonte Price, FIU (6-1 ⅜, 210 lb.) - 4.38 in the 40 at the Combine
Mataeo Durant, Duke (5-11 ⅜, 196 lb.) - 4.38 in the 40 at his Pro Day
Strong may be, pound for pound, the best overall athlete in this group. When he has the ball in his hands, those jets are legit. Durant didn't get an invite to the Combine but his speed is electrifying and he could complement a true RB1 early in his career as a change of pace/out in space option.
Swiss Army Knives - Returns, runs and receptions
Trestan Ebner, Baylor (5-10 ¾, 206 lb.)
Bam Knight, NC State (5-10 ⅞, 209 lb.)
Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss (5-8 ⅛, 189 lb.)
It's pretty simple on this one, each of this triumvirate mastered every single phase of carrying the football in their careers. Returns, runs and receptions should be its own statistical category and if it were an accumulative total, these three would be at the top of the charts.
This menu of running backs has me excited heading into the Draft in April. Which one will hear his name called in Houston? I wouldn't be upset with a couple of them, if I'm being honest. Let's GO!!