Assume it’s too early to look ahead to next year’s class of rookies. If you can trade away/for future rookie picks, you better know what and whomst you’re getting yourself into. Similar to Dwight Howard and the 2021 running back class, 2022’s running back group is top-heavy. The best of them are really good, but a sharp dropoff ensues. The pecs are filled, the biceps popping, even the outline of the 6-pack is setting in when the sunlight hits just right, but mannnnnnnne you better not be wearing shorts.
Here are my favorite running back prospects in the class of 2022, and some who might be favorites come this time next year if they act right.
Breece Hall must live in comfort knowing that if for whatever reason his NFL career doesn’t work out, his career as a trapeze artist will be an elite one. This man’s contact balance makes a sumo wrestler feel like he’s walking on a tight rope. Hall has more tricks up his sleeve than David Blaine wearing two hoodies.
Hall entered college as one of the most highly-touted recruits the Cyclones have landed in their program’s history. He blew away the 40-time in high school and comes straight from the n*t of NFL lineage.
Breece Hall – 6'1 215lbs – 19.4 years old. Ridiculous in the run game as a True Soph. Hall will debut in the NFL in 2022 at 21.2
Cousin: Roger Craig – 49er RB
Dad: Jeff Smith – KC/Tampa RB
40 Entering College: 4.43
BO Age: 18.4
Proj Comp – DeMarco Murray… pic.twitter.com/15JVXEZWXI
— Cody Carpentier↗️ (@CarpentierNFL) October 31, 2020
This isn’t going to make sense, but Breece Hall is deceivingly shifty as fuck. If you’re shifty as fuck, it’s hard to be deceiving, but his cuts happen at a speed that make you feel like you don’t know that they just happened. They’re not Saquon or Shady level of lateral, so they’re not flashy, but it feels like someone edits the videos of his game film and right before a defender closes in on him, they select that little 1-second clip, set it to fast forward at 2x speed and then they let it resume. It’s like, taking Le’Veon Bell’s patience, but turning up the speed. That also doesn’t make sense. I’m going to call him Breece Bitcoin Hall because nothing about him makes cents. Cents, sense, scents – he doesn’t stink. lawdamercy im on a roll. You don’t often see dudes move with his quickness and patience at the same time, not built like Hall (6’1-215).
Following his true freshman breakout season in 2019, Hall took no prisoners in 2020 cementing himself atop the nation’s best running backs. He led the NCAA in rushing yards (1,572), carries (279), yards after contact (935) and finished with the second-most rushing scores (21).
23 receptions (11.0 ypr) as a true freshman gets me wet. This year’s numbers might look disappointing on the surface, a raw dog reception (23) total identical to that of 2019, but all the catches to be had out of the Cyclone backfield were his this time around. In 2019, Hall only narrowly out-caught his backfield mates 23-19 (54.8% of RB catches) — In 2020, that number grew to nearly 68%, and his total team target share grew from 5.8% to 7.2%. I won’t be surprised when Hall becomes even more involved through the air in 2021. 30+ catch season incoming otwtfyb.
Hall typically hasn’t been asked to do much in the receiving game outside of run into the flat to catch dump-offs, but he’s a natural hands catcher and his super athleticism lends itself to earning an even bigger role in 2021 and beyond.
If that alleged 4.43 40-yard dash time is real, I’ll like him about as much as any running back prospect that’s come out in recent years.
This list wasn’t really meant to be in order, but after diving into Breece Hall, it feels like I wrapped a 200lb anchor to my legs and nobody is going to pull me up from having him ranked as the RB1 in this class. Only Eddie Lacy Jr. could move the sticks at this point.
The Aggies phenom running back who earned himself freshman All-SEC honors in 2019, is the consensus RB2 in this class, flirting with the hot takes of dynasty twitter’s RB1, Breece Hall.
As a true freshman, Spiller was raw yet wildly impressive, racking up 1150 total yards and 10 touchdowns, seeing an 8.6% target share against SEC defenses. You don’t do that unless you’re a really good running back.
Purely going off of film Spiller seems to be a sum of his parts running back. Each thing that he’s good at, which tend to be most, add up to a really good running back. I’m not ready to anoint him elite at any given trait.
He’s big, shifty, powerful and elusive. Sometimes he plays a bit too shifty for his size, bouncing runs outside instead of using his 225lb frame, but more often than not it’s an asset, not a liability. Spiller’s first cut at the line of scrimmage keeps linebackers up on Friday nights.
Isaiah Spiller, RB Texas A&M has looked great so far this season. He looks like a different runner from 2019. You can see the improvement in his game. He's my RB2 in the '22 class right now, right behind Breece Hall, but he's right at his heels for RB1.
Back-to-back runs vs Ark pic.twitter.com/qrK2yy4HXn
— JWack (@JaredWackerlyFF) November 5, 2020
Looking at the numbers, I’m a bit torn on Spiller’s upside as a receiver. He came right into the A&M program and commanded an 8.6% target share (70th percentile), catching 29 passes. In 2020, Spiller only say 26 targets, but the overall target share he commanded went up to 9.0%, and his yards/reception shot up nearly 3 full yards (7 -> 9.7). However, on just 26 targets, he dropped 4 passes. That’s not great when your aDOT is at the line of scrimmage. We’re going to bypass the butterfingers for now and see if it’s an issue in 2021.
I don’t hate this comp – the difference I see between these two backs is their initial instinct when taking a handoff. Zeke is a downhill runner out of the gate. He wants to punch your mother in the face. Assuming your mother is playing linebacker. Spiller’s first instinct, despite being down with the thiccness, is to hit a one-cut at the line of scrimmage. Not necessarily a good or bad thing, but Spiller operates on a shift-first, do power later. Zeke lowers the head before lowering his leg angle.
I’m intrigued to see his 40-time. His raw dog time is probably gonna be in the 4.5s, but at 225lbs, his weight-adjusted speed score should suffice to warrant top rookie capital. He ain’t a blazer but the boy can mooooooove when he sees open grass.
Spiller will be a bluechip prospect in 2022 rookie drafts.
Yo, if this dude had another 10 or so pounds on his frame, I’d have him nestled in the same tier as Breece Hall.
Eric Gray played his first two years for the Volunteers before he volunteered to gtfo of there and take his talents south to Oklahoma where the departure of Rhagawdre Stevenson leaves a gaping hole for a featured back to step in and claim.
Gray’s numbers weren’t overly impressive as a true freshman, but he came in and led the backfield in rushing touchdowns, yards per carry, receptions, receiving yards and receiving scores. And don’t forget our favorite phrase of all time… “he did this in the SEC”.
Gray took over as the lead back for Tennessee in 2020, averaging 114 yards from scrimmage in his 9 games played, catching a staggering 30 passes along the way. On a 3-7 team, Gray was the lone bright spot. It’s no wonder his ass wanted to get out of there before he declares. He might fuck around and go for 1,700 yards in Norman next year.
What do we love so much about Gray. Everything.
He has a deadly first cut at the line of scrimmage. He’s almost never brought down by the first defender in the backfield. They’re usually left grasping for air. Gray knows where the right hole to hit is, changes direction, rockets through and he gonnnnne. His short-area burst is phenomenal and that one-cut move he covets might be even better in open space. Some dudes can move well laterally, but lose the speed as soon as they hit right on the joystick — Gray is a rare runner who almost seems to accelerate when he makes a cut. It’s like he’s stepping on a turbo button when he does it. Tackling Gray on his cut is an impossible task to ask for opposing defenders.
Gray earned the Gator Bowl MVP and it was one of the most impressive single-game performances I’ve seen from a running back in my short life.
Ray G had a comp that I really like for Gray: Kareem Hunt.
He’s overly elusive, he’s powerful enough, he’s an asset in the receiving game. What more do we need to see from Eric Gray in 2021 to comfortably launch him into outerspace? At first I was going to say a featured back workload, but running the numbers, he averaged nearly 21 touches/game in 2020. I’d still like to see the volume remain high over the course of a 13-14 game season. If Gray can rip off a 220+ carry season for the Sooners, with already having a 30-catch year on his resume, it’s going to be mighty hard to keep him outside of the top-3 running backs in the 2022 class.
I’ll be honest, this is the first chalky player in 2022’s top-5 I wasn’t overly impressed by. It seems every year there’s a consensus top-5 guy coming off of a monster year that I’m able to sniff out from a mile away while the Twitter fish fill the hype tank until it overflows. It was Chuba Hubbard before this, Kylin Hill as well. It’s Williams this year.
First thing working against Kyren Williams is his 5’9-195lb size. He does a good enough job running low to the ground that it doesn’t necessarily impact his play on the field much, but he lacks power and his lil ass legs hold him back from having breakaway speed. If i had to guess he’s running in the 4.5s.. not a ringing endorsement for someone sub-200lbs. While Williams does have some impressive highlights, he doesn’t do it consistently – it seems like it’s either a home run play, or he’s getting stopped in his tracks. The guy averaged 5.3 yards per carry behind Notre Dame’s 2nd highest ranked run-blocking offensive line in the country (Per PFF). Both running backs that Williams shared work within 2020, Chris Tyree, a true freshman (6.8 ypc) and C’Bo Flemister (5.2 ypc), were as efficient if not far more on the ground.
I wanted to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, so we dove into the numbers on Williams’ NCAA rankings in 2020:
- Broken Tackle Rate: 17.5% (74th)
- Elusive Rating (PFF): 71st
- YAC/attempt: 2.7 (t-81st)
It wasn’t all bad for Williams. His skills in the passing game are the real deal Holyfield. His receiving yards (311), receptions (35) and yards per route run (1.59) all ranked amongst the best in college last year. He’s a phenomenal athlete on 3rd downs. He’s not Kenny Gainwell with the routes, but his pure athleticism ensures that he’ll gobble up anything thrown near the line of scrimmage, and he’ll look good doing so.
I see Williams’ NFL career being similar to Gio Bernard. Can be a really nice piece in a running back by committee. Let’s be real here, no NFL team is willingly featuring a 195lb back.
When we’re talking about impactable fantasy players there isn’t much to offer in this class outside of these top four guys. At least not yet. A lot can happen in a year. You can have a baby. A pandemic can ruin a country. The Knicks can be byke. All that to say, I’m sure there are more than 4 good running backs in all of college football that we’ll find out about soon.
Of the remaining group, there are a handful of guys getting recognition and to have on your radar.
Jerrion Ealy from Ole Miss is a bit of an undersized (5’9-190) back who came on strong during his freshman year for the Rebels, averaging nearly 7 yards per carry, scoring 7 times and catching 20 passes. Unfortunately, Ealy didn’t progress much during Covid season.
His 1.7 receptions/game mark stayed exactly the same, while his yards per carry dipped from 6.9 down to 5.1. He’s a shifty player, that can do most things on the football field well but we’re going to need to see a bounceback in 2021 for him to crack my top 5. More volume on the ground and through the air, plus an escalation in efficiency. The skeleton and competition for success is there, so keep ya eyes open.
Zamir White out of Georgia’s been a hot name for a while in the devy world (I think. I don’t play that shit). White sat behind the gawd D’Andre Swift as a freshman in 2019, but took over the backfield in 2020 seeing 144 carries compared to the next closest back’s 47 (Kenny McIntosh). White is a big boy (6’1-215), but the size seems to limit his lateral ability. He’s built well, to a fault. It feels like all of his momentum is constantly going forward and when he does too much side-to-side shit he starts falling forward. He’s a pretty stiff runner, doing a great impression of a hot dog when the ball gets tucked into his stomach. Alright, I’m exaggerating, he’s more shifty than I gave him credit for, but it’s not his calling card.
He also straight-up does not catch passes. You could talk me into side-stepping analysis on White’s two-catch season in 2019 because Swift was still a Bulldog, but following that up with 6 catches as the lead back in 2020? BIG time red flag – his 0.45 yards per route run mark was among the worst in the class. White will continue to get love, as any starting Georgia running back should, but it’s likely going to be unwarranted unless we see him transform into a new runner next year with a newfound 3-down skill set.