2022 NFL Draft rankings: RB (Part 1)

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Statistical rankings below courtesy of PFF and Football Outsiders. Team run blocking is one of my metrics that combines various tools – including FOA’s average line yards, opportunity rate, power rate, and stuff rate, and PFF’s run-blocking grades – to give an all-encompassing idea about team run-blocking strength. This can help show who was in advantageous and disadvantageous situations last year (in this case only, the lower the ranking, the better). Team run-block ranking based on the 70 draft-eligible FBS RBs in my system – sub-divisions not included. All other rankings are based on 80 draft-eligible players with PFF grades.

20. Isaih Pacheco | Rutgers | 5102/222

DOB: 03.02.99RAS: 8.812021 PFF grade: 47 (out of 80)Elusive rating: 78 PFF receiving grade: 32 PFF pass blocking: 24 YCO/A: 53Team run block rank: 69 (out of 70)2021 gap runs: 772021 zone runs: 83

Meet the 2022 RB class’ Speed Score champion. Pacheco turned in an eye-opening 4.37 forty at 216 pounds for a 118.5 SS. For some context, two classes ago, this would have ranked No. 2 between Jonathan Taylor (121.7) and AJ Dillon (117.3). Not only well-built and fast, but Pacheco reaches top-speed in a blink. He steals the corner with impunity as a runner because of that burst.

I love the way Pacheco plays, fearless and breakneck. Despite this style, he was always healthy in college. He’s a well-built speed-to-power generator whose legs don’t stop kicking until you’ve cut them out from under him. Though he was a four-year contributor, Pacheco didn’t always get a chance to shine because he played behind one of the nation’s worst offensive lines (only one FBS RB prospect in this played behind a worse line!), and next to consistently-abysmal quarterbacks.

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But he provided a puzzle for Big 10 defenders. Pacheco is patient behind the line, but has a kinetic – perhaps even frenetic – running style beyond the LOS that naturally plays off his size/speed combination. He was put into a lot of no-win decisions in college and didn’t always make the right choice, confronted with defenders in the backfield post-handoff as often as he was. He picked up a few bad habits, notably reps where he’d lose his natural patience and press the LOS as quickly as possible to avoid a negative gain while, in some cases, missing a cutback hole.

Pacheco comes equipped with strong hands. Once he corrals it in space, he’s able to reach top-gear in a mere few steps, so he must be accounted for. He’s also a solid pass-blocker. Functioning as the last-line-of-defense behind that leaky Rutgers OL, Pacheco got plenty of reps to show his stuff.

I believe playing behind an NFL offensive line will provide a big boost for him. What you’re hoping for is his patience plays up and he’s able to run with more tempo and altered speeds – he has the acceleration and deceleration for it. He has immediate passing-down utility, and that delicious size/speed combination to develop as a runner. Highly intriguing Day 3 sleeper.

Comp: Kylin Hill

21. Zonovan Knight | North Carolina State | 5107/209

RAS: 5.752021 PFF grade: 53 (out of 80)Elusive rating: 12PFF receiving grade: 28PFF pass blocking: 28YCO/A: 28Team run block rank: 31 (out of 70)2021 gap runs: 362021 zone runs: 103

“Bam” Knight posted 790-plus yards from scrimmage all three campaigns on campus. Befitting his nickname, Knight runs with unmistakable attitude. He’s also a well-rounded back with one trump-card trait: He has top-three contact balance in this class.

Knight is difficult to square up in space due to his creativity and subtle movements leading up to the contact point. Breaks arm tackle attempts. Does a good job setting up and leveraging opponents to unlock running lanes. Last year, he ranked No. 12 in this class in elusive rating, and No. 14 in broken tackles forced.

Knight also provides real utility in the passing game. He’s one the smoothest route-running backs in this class. He’s also a fixer in pass-pro, smart, physical, capable, and enthusiastic. Knight is only ranked as low as he is because he’s an average athlete that weighs 209. He lacks long speed and needs space to work up to top-speed.

This caps his ceiling, but Knight should hang around for a while as a depth piece and rotational back that can handle early-down work and stay on the field on passing downs. It would be nice if he could gain another 15 pounds without depreciating his quickness any further. That would play up the physical bent to his running style and give him a chance to ascend to low-level NFL starter.

Comp: Lamar Miller

22. Hassan Haskins | Michigan | 6017/227

DOB: 11.26.99 RAS: N/A2021 PFF grade: 2 (out of 80)Elusive rating: 45PFF receiving grade: 15PFF pass blocking: 17YCO/A: 45Team run block rank: 18 (out of 70)2021 gap runs: 1862021 zone runs: 83

A well-built grinder, Haskins broke out as a star his last season on campus, helping to lead Michigan to the CFP. This was his first and only year as a bellcow and he thrived, dropping 1,327 rushing yards on 4.9 YPC with 20 rushing TD over 14 starts to earn third-team Associated Press All-American honors.

Haskins is a physical, forward-leaning runner with very good contact balance. He labors to change directions, and he isn’t going to out-run anyone, but he’s able to pick up yards in the open field because his footwork and vision are good, and he’s got a nasty stiff-arm to fight off defenders.

While Haskins didn’t get as many opportunities in the passing game as some of his contemporaries, he projects to be, pardon the pun, passable in this area in the NFL. He isn’t going to snap any ankles on his route breaks, and he isn’t much of a YAC threat. But Haskins has soft hands and can be relied-upon in the check-down gain to salvage yardage. He’s also, it must be mentioned, a fortified, willing, and physical pass blocker.

What we saw out of Haskins last year, that’s the hope for him in the NFL. The concern you have is that he doesn’t have any standout physical traits. But you know he’s going to bring the lunchpail on early-down meat-and-potatoes work, and he’s got at least the hands and the pass-pro reliability to be usable on throwing downs.

Comp: Gus Edwards

23. Kennedy Brooks | Oklahoma | 5105/209

DOB: 10.08.98 RAS: 5.92021 PFF grade: 8 (out of 80)Elusive rating: 8PFF receiving grade: 71PFF pass blocking: 46YCO/A: 9Team run block rank: 13 (out of 70)2021 gap runs: 932021 zone runs: 103

Brooks managed to rush for 1,000 all three seasons he was active at Oklahoma (he opted out of the 2020 season). This despite sharing a backfield with the likes of RBs Trey Sermon, Rhamondre Stevenson, T.J. Pledger, and Eric Gray, and playing beside dual-threat QBs Jalen Hurts, Kyler Murray and Caleb Williams. Brooks, the main reason Sermon and Pledger transferred elsewhere to finish their careers, the main reason you didn’t know about Stevenson until the 2020 season (when Brooks was sitting out), averaged an incredible career 7.0 YPC.

Patience is a hallmark of his tape. So many running backs in this class are one-note runners who rarely toggle speed. Brooks waits for his blocks to develop and bumps the odometer up and down as the situation calls for it. A player of average size, average speed, and average athleticism, Brooks found himself in open space far more often than you would have assumed anyway due to his rhythmic game, the patience, vision, and deceleration/acceleration combination.

Brooks’ short-area quickness is the one thing that did shine through on his athletic profile, with a 60th-percentile or above 10-yard split and broad jump. Brooks is a durable, patient back best-suited for a zone system. He isn’t much of a receiver, and he’s middling in pass-pro, so the utility, at least for now, ends at early-down work.

To be fair, Oklahoma didn’t seem as interested in developing this aspect of his game, perhaps due to the need to get the other runners on the field, so perhaps at least a dollop of passing-down utility is laying dormant inside him. Even if it’s developed you’d figure his NFL team would always have better pass-catching options on the roster.

Either way, Brooks is an interesting developmental prospect for spread teams that utilize zone concepts, particularly if that organization already has a satellite back to compliment his skillset.

Comp: Bilal Powell

24. Max Borghi | Washington State | 5093/210

DOB: 04.23.99 RAS: 7.462021 PFF grade: 9 (out of 80)Elusive rating: 18PFF receiving grade: 52PFF pass blocking: 27YCO/A: 29Team run block rank: 66 (out of 70)2021 gap runs: 662021 zone runs: 74

When Borghi signed with Mike Leach out of the Colorado prep ranks in 2018, he was getting comped to Christian McCaffrey. Four years later, we can forget about that. And it’s not just because Wazzu switched offensive schemes (from the Air Raid to the Run ‘n Shoot) away from Borghi’s skillset after Leach left (the Run ‘n Shoot doesn’t utilize RBs in the passing game nearly as much).

Even so, Borghi’s got the skill to play in the NFL beyond his rookie contract. That’s because he’s a highly-skilled receiver and space-player – one reason he got those comps to C-Mac in the first place (the primary other being skin color) – who also contributes on special teams.

Borghi’s NFL team will funnel the majority of his touches to him as a receiver. You can think of Borghi as a slot-receiver playing running back. He runs great routes, has good hands, and he understands how to leverage defenders. He catches the ball and fluidly turns upfield to attack as a runner. He’s also an above-average pass blocker, understanding his assignments and getting his pads low enough to complete them.

The problem with Borghi’s evaluation is that he may never offer much as a runner. Borghi is quick, and he makes people miss, but he doesn’t have a good feel for running between the tackles. Sometimes, he doesn’t appear to want to – fleeing to where he’s comfortable, in space, bouncing an excess amount of his runs outside. Sometimes he misses holes and takes a loss to do so. He lacks play strength and is generally taken down by first contact.

Borghi is worth a draft pick because he will contribute to an NFL passing game immediately, and he’ll chip in on special teams. Just keep in mind that there’s a good chance that he’ll never be more. Best suited for a pass-happy team that already has an established early-down back or two on the roster.

Comp: Eno Benjamin

25. Ty Chandler | North Carolina | 5112/203

DOB: 05.12.98RAS: 8.822021 PFF grade: 17 (out of 80)Elusive rating: 19PFF receiving grade: 48PFF pass blocking: 37YCO/A: 13Team run block rank: 26 (out of 70)2021 gap runs: 762021 zone runs: 96

Chandler made a good decision to transfer from Tennessee to UNC last offseason. The Tar Heels had just lost Javonte Williams and Michael Carter to the NFL, and Chandler was fleeing a program going through a coaching change that was returning a loaded backfield. In his only season at UNC, Chandlers ran for 1,092 yards and 13 TD.

Chandler’s calling card is speed. He boldly told the media that he was going to run the fastest 40 time amongst RBs at the NFL Combine the day before testing and almost called his shot. He blazed a 4.38 that finished just behind position leaders Pierre Strong Jr. and Isaih Pacheco (both ran 4.37s).

Unfortunately, Chandler’s speed isn’t evident on every play, because he needs a runway to build up to top-gear. He doesn’t offer a ton on runs where he doesn’t get that runway, because Chandler accelerates sluggishly, doesn’t toggle his speed (in part because decelerating kills his momentum and forces him to restart the process of reaching top-speed from scratch), and doesn’t make defenders miss in the hole.

Chandler needs everything right around him to access the explosive element of his game that makes him dangerous, good blocking and/or defenders committing gap-integrity mistakes. At top-speed, he’s tricky to deal with, with subtle foot-direction turns to prevent defenders from squaring him up. He doesn’t shy from contact and accelerates into it. You can see this part of his skillset playing up when he’s returning kicks. This is the area where Chandler will provide immediate utility to the NFL.

Chandler is a get-you-by receiver, nothing more. He knows how to run a route and converts from a receiver to a runner fluidly after securing the ball. But as is the case with him as a runner, he needs open space in front of him to create problems. That’s when he gobbles up yard quickly and presents a speed-to-power issue for smaller defenders at the contact point.

As a blocker, Chandler looks for work and doesn’t shy away from contact. But there are numerous examples on film of him making the wrong decision to free the more-dangerous pursuer for an unabridged path to the quarterback. And Chandler has a habit of getting out over his skates lunging towards oncoming defenders instead of keeping a power base to give himself the best chance of providing an impediment.

Chandler’s worth a call on Day 3 because he can return kicks immediately and act as suitable depth during his developmental phase. He’s got the world-class speed to go with a fleshed-out skillset. But due to Chandler’s lack of burst and wiggle, I wonder if, as a running back, NFL defenses will be able to erase the long-speed element to Chandler’s game that led to his flashiest moments on the collegiate gridiron.

Comp: Xavier Jones

26. ZaQuandre White | South Carolina | 6001/215

DOB: 12.21.98 RAS: 4.032021 PFF grade: 25 (out of 80)Elusive rating: 2PFF receiving grade: 18PFF pass blocking: 55YCO/A: 2Team run block rank: 55 (out of 70)2021 gap runs: 382021 zone runs: 47Comp: TJ Yeldon

27. Snoop Conner | Mississippi | 5101/219

DOB: 08.01.00RAS: 6.992021 PFF grade: 50 (out of 80)Elusive rating: 69PFF receiving grade: 21PFF pass blocking: 67YCO/A: 68Team run block rank: 29 (out of 70)2021 gap runs: 512021 zone runs: 78Comp: Alexander Mattison

28. Keaontay Ingram | USC | 5115/220

DOB: 10.26.99 RAS: N/A2021 PFF grade: 11 (out of 80)Elusive rating: 28PFF receiving grade: 41PFF pass blocking: 74YCO/A: 17Team run block rank: 10 (out of 70)2021 gap runs: 612021 zone runs: 89Comp: Chris Ivory

29. Jashaun Corbin | Florida State | 5111/203

DOB: 08.20.00RAS: N/A2021 PFF grade: 51 (out of 80)Elusive rating: 35PFF receiving grade: 42PFF pass blocking: 14YCO/A: 3Team run block rank: 592021 gap runs: 1002021 zone runs: 42Comp: Deon Jackson

30. Sincere McCormick | UTSA | 5084/205

DOB: 09.10.00RAS: 3.862021 PFF grade: 23 (out of 80)Elusive rating: 71PFF receiving grade: 50PFF pass blocking: 22YCO/A: 66Team run block rank: 36 (out of 70)2021 gap runs: 1092021 zone runs: 185Comp: Devin Singletary

Thor’s recent NFL Draft work:

Coming Wednesday: RB rankings (Part 2)


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