2022 NFL Draft: 3 Running Back Standouts Based on Adjusted Production

Adjusting for opponents faced, which running backs had stellar 2022 campaigns based on overall production?

As soon as the Super Bowl ends, NFL Draft season begins.

The NFL has announced the prospects invited to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine, a list that includes 40 receiver hopefuls.

Which of them had the best 2021 campaign from a production standpoint?

We can look at yards and touchdowns, sure, but why not expected points added (EPA)? We did that for the receivers last week.

For running backs, EPA is a bit trickier, given that the expected EPA on a carry in college football by a running back is -0.01 since 2014 (via's model).

So I instead took yardage outputs and adjusted them for opponents (based on some internal tweaks from numberFire's algorithm) to see who had the best 2021 season among the running back class.

Here is how the 35 FBS combine-invited backs fared (excluding Pierre Strong, who played at an FCS school, South Dakota State).

Running Back School Scrimmage
Yards Over
Kenneth Walker III Michigan State 487.5
Breece Hall Iowa State 477.0
Ty Chandler North Carolina 426.9
Jerome Ford Cincinnati 387.7
Abram Smith Baylor 326.8
Rachaad White Arizona State 276.0
Tyler Badie Missouri 272.4
Kennedy Brooks Oklahoma 265.6
Trestan Ebner Baylor 259.5
Quan White South Carolina 255.4
Keaontay Ingram USC 235.0
Jashaun Corbin Florida State 231.3
Hassan Haskins Michigan 230.8
Isaiah Spiller Texas A&M 227.2
Sincere McCormick UT San Antonio 225.6
James Cook Georgia 221.8
Dameon Pierce Florida 210.0
Bam Knight NC State 204.9
Jerrion Ealy Ole Miss 201.9
Jaylen Warren Oklahoma State 201.3
Brian Robinson Jr. Alabama 200.8
Kyren Williams Notre Dame 182.6
Max Borghi Washington State 174.6
Zamir White Georgia 165.3
Ty Davis-Price LSU 148.3
Tyler Allgeier BYU 148.0
Snoop Conner Ole Miss 119.7
Tyler Goodson Iowa 105.7
Ronnie Rivers Fresno State 104.6
Leddie Brown West Virginia 14.0
Kevin Harris South Carolina 8.4
Greg Bell San Diego State -38.4
Isaih Pacheco Rutgers -102.2

Some Added Context

Without any context, these numbers mean nothing, so let's dig deeper.

Running back production profiles can be skewed pretty easily, and it's quite possible that these numbers don't even matter. However, they pass the eye test.

Here are the top final season yards over expected outputs from drafted backs since the 2015 NFL Draft: Darrell Henderson (+986.3), Melvin Gordon (+919.3), J.K. Dobbins (+847.4), Tevin Coleman (+794.8), Khalil Herbert (+636.8), Derrick Henry (+624.7), Rashaad Penny (+616.7), Jonathan Taylor (+611.3), Michael Carter (+606.2).

The bottom of the list isn't very impressive, either: Kalen Ballage (-137.6), David Montgomery (-30.3), Matt Jones (-15.5), La'Mical Perine (+24.0), Joshua Kelley (+60.0), Kene Nwangwu (+61.6), Cam Akers (+73.1), and Kenneth Dixon (+80.0).

Here's the list of backs in the top three rounds to clear 400 yards over expected in their final season.

PlayerFinal Year
Yards Over
70Darrell Henderson986.3
15Melvin Gordon919.3
55JK Dobbins847.4
73Tevin Coleman794.8
45Derrick Henry624.7
27Rashaad Penny616.7
41Jonathan Taylor611.3
86Zack Moss582.7
41Dalvin Cook569.8
89D'Onta Foreman568.1
32Clyde Edwards-Helaire563.7
48Joe Mixon553.2
54Ameer Abdullah553.1
4Ezekiel Elliott539.7
35D'Andre Swift483.8
35Javonte Williams466.5
90CJ Prosise459.7

We've got three backs in this class who clear that threshold.

Despite only 19 receptions over three seasons during his tenure at Wake Forest and Michigan State, Kenneth Walker III leads the pack in yardage over expectation this season. Walker's consensus big board rank -- via NFL Mock Draft Database -- is 60th overall (and 3rd among running backs). He'll need to show some added receiving prowess at the NFL level, but the yardage over expectation output is quite promising (more on that later).

Breece Hall of Iowa State is the consensus RB2 in the draft (44th overall), just trailing Isaiah Spiller. The adjusted yardage output profile is much stronger for Hall.

Third on the list is an interesting name. Ty Chandler from North Carolina has a big board rank of 210 with a peak of 153.

The tier of Jerome Ford, Abram Smith, Rachaad White, and Tyler Badie is a quartet worth monitoring in the middle rounds, as well.