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2022 NFL Draft

2022 NFL Draft: Is There a Worthy First Round Running Back

running back

In recent years the debate has raged on: is it worth taking a running back in the first round?

Looking at the last five years, the answer is that you probably shouldn’t.

In 2017, the Jaguars drafted Leonard Fournette and the Panthers selected Christian McCaffrey in the Top 10. Fournette now plays for Tampa Bay and McCaffrey has been great when healthy, but those days are few and far between.

In 2018, Saquon Barkley was selected #2 overall. Rashaad Penny and Sony Michel were also taken in round one. None have had any significant impact on their teams (Michel now plays for the Rams).  

In 2019, the Raiders took Josh Jacobs. While Jacobs has been good, was it worth a first-round pick? Probably not.

In 2020, the only RB taken was at pick 32 when the Chiefs took Clyde Edwards-Helaire. CEH has been solid when healthy but would they not have been better served to take another position.

Last year, the Steelers selected Najee Harris and the Jags took Travis Etienne. Harris has made no significant impact on the Pittsburgh offense and Etienne never played a down.

So, to summarize, you probably shouldn’t take a running back in the first.

However, we are here to talk about the what-ifs and not the whys. Let’s look at the handful of backs who could be first-round selections.

POTENTIAL 1ST ROUND RUNNING BACKS

Breece Hall, Iowa State

Hall has been highly productive for the Cyclones. He has rushed for nearly 4000 yards and has 50 rushing TDs. Hall is explosive and runs with good balance. He also showed more in the receiving game this season with 36 receptions. He is currently my RB1.

Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M

Spiller is the most explosive and best in the open field of the backs listed here. He is also the best in the passing game, in my opinion. Spiller is also very consistent and probably has more tread left on his tires. In the last three seasons, Spiller has averaged nearly 1200 yards from scrimmage per season. If he blows away everyone at the combine, I will probably move him ahead of Hall for the top RB spot.

Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State

Walker came out of nowhere this season after transferring in from Wake Forest. After rushing for 1058 yards over two seasons with the Demon Deacons, Walker dominated the Big Ten in 2021 with a 1646-yard campaign that saw him become a Heisman finalist. Walker is a powerful runner with an extra gear. He hasn’t shown much as a receiver in his career. That brings him down a notch in my eyes. However, it isn’t a disqualifier.

WILD CARD 1ST ROUND RUNNING BACKS

Tyler Allgeier, BYU

Allgeier declared for the draft after the team’s upset loss in the Independence Bowl to UAB. He mostly split time in 2020 with Lopini Katoa before taking over as the primary back for the Cougars in 2021, rushing for 1606 yards. Allgeier is the best BYU running back since Luke Staley. He has breakaway speed, good balance, and is good in pass pro. He is also a solid receiver. I don’t think Allgeier is going to be drafted in round one but it wouldn’t surprise me if he is RB1 on a handful of team’s draft boards.

Rachaad White, Arizona State

White is the best receiver of the five backs listed so far. In the COVID shortened 2020 season, White averaged 19 yards per catch before going on to catch 43 passes for 456 yards in 2021. The former JUCO player averaged 10 (!) yards per carry on his 42 carries in 2020. He then rushed for 1000 yards this season in 11 games. White is the only back listed here who is playing in the Reese’s Senior Bowl. There are many examples of off-the-radar RBs going in the first round. If that happens this year, Rachaad White is my pick for that.

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