NFL Draft: Player Comparisons for the 2022 Running Back Class
A lot goes into scouting NFL prospects.
Of course, exactly how much we can balance the value of film evaluation and statistics will forever remain an unsolvable debate.
However, we can much more easily leverage the quantifiable side of prospect evaluation to see which incoming NFL players are most similar to historical prospects.
That's why I built out player similarity scores to add to my draft model.
Now that we have 40-yard dash times for (most of) the 2022 NFL running back class that was invited to the NFL Combine, we can get a good feel for how each prospect comps to past prospects.
To clarify, these are based 0% on playstyle or how much a player reminds me of NFL players and 100% on measurable variables such as height, weight, draft equity (or expected draft equity for the incoming rookie class), breakout ages, weight-adjusted speed, and various production metrics from their collegiate careers.
Let's get to it.
Players are listed in order of their consensus big board rank via NFLMockDraftDatabase, which also acts as an estimation of their eventual draft slot in the comparison process. Players with a top-200 big board rank are included.
Breece Hall, Iowa State
Big Board Rank: 46
|Rank||Breece Hall Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
Breece Hall is the closest thing to a complete package as we will find. His production metrics are all in the 65th percentile or better (and excluding the receiving only mark, he's in the 86th percentile or better). That's paired with better-than-average size and great athleticism (95th percentile). It's no wonder his comps look the way they do.
Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M
Big Board Rank: 48
|Rank||Isaiah Spiller Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
Isaiah Spiller has a few disappointing marks in terms of overall team production and rushing share, yet that's not enough to ding him too aggressively. That's because he's got a 99th-percentile breakout age and positive ratings in everything else that matters. He's an 88th-percentile prospect in my database, so while the big board has him close to Hall, my data sees a gap between the two.
Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
Big Board Rank: 62
|Rank||Kenneth Walker III Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
The conversation around Kenneth Walker III's profile is going to be a lack of receiving work. He was responsible for just 5.8% of Michigan State's receptions as a max output. That's 10th-percentile receiving production. However, he posted a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, good for a 90th-percentile speed score, and he dominated overall production at Michigan State (an 84th-percentile yards per team attempt rate). Historically, weak receiving has been a red flag, so he's a fascinating prospect.
Kyren Williams, Notre Dame
Big Board Rank: 70
|Rank||Kyren Williams Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
Kyren Williams' 4.65-second 40-yard dash is pretty alarming even without any adjustments, but with his small size (5'9", 194 pounds), that's the lowest adjusted speed score in my database dating back to 2004. A small back with good receiving marks (82nd-percentile) and positive pass-blocking grades, Williams could have a third-down role in the NFL.
James Cook, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 83
|Rank||James Cook Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
|5||Anthony McFarland Jr.||84.8%|
James Cook should fit in well with the modern NFL. His max rushing yards share puts him in the 3rd percentile in my database, but even as a bit player, he has a 43rd-percentile max receiving score. He's got an above-average adjusted speed score, as well. Expect an elusive, dynamic pass-catching option without a lot of rushing from Cook.
Brian Robinson Jr., Alabama
Big Board Rank: 88
|Rank||Brian Robinson Jr. Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
The size (6'2", 225) is there for Brian Robinson Jr., and he has some of the fairly typical market share concerns coming out of Alabama. His rushing share is there (70th percentile) and is paired with 42nd-percentile receiving. His straight-line athleticism seems a little better than the film scouting suggests. He should be a viable short-yardage rusher, but let's not rule out the potential for more.
Zamir White, Georgia
Big Board Rank: 114
|Rank||Zamir White Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
Zamir White has got good size (6'0", 214) and speed (89th-percentile adjusts speed score). The production itself is worrisome while he spent his collegiate career in timeshares and recovering from two ACL tears.
Dameon Pierce, Florida
Big Board Rank: 117
|Rank||Dameon Pierce Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
Dameon Pierce is thick (5'10" but 218 pounds). Everything else is pretty questionable, however. He doesn't have a red-flag-level worrying speed score (32nd percentile) but lacks production (he's got a high-water mark of the 16th percentile in any production metric I use).
Tyler Allgeier, BYU
Big Board Rank: 118
|Rank||Tyler Allgeier Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
|6||Benny Snell Jr.||86.8%|
Tyler Allgeier has some really nice marks in his profile: rushing shares, total production, and yards per team attempt rates of the 71st percentile or better. He posted just average adjusted speed, but so long as you're not aggressively slow at running back, you're generally fine. There are some pretty decent names on this list.
Rachaad White, Arizona State
Big Board Rank: 135
|Rank||Rachaad White Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
Arizona State back Rachaad White is going to be less of a film scout favorite and more of a data-centric favorite. He has an S-tier reception share (99th percentile) and plus adjusted speed (69th) while providing above average size, as well. Although he's a bit old and had a late breakout age, there are a lot of positive ticks in important checkboxes for White.
D'vonte Price, Florida International
Big Board Rank: 144
|Rank||D'vonte Price Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
|3||Pierre Strong Jr.||83.3%|
D'vonte Price clocked in with 4.34-second speed in the 40-yard dash, and adjusting that for his size, he's got an 89th-percentile athleticism score in my database. He's also around there in rushing share, overall team production, and yards per team attempt. Where Price lags is the receiving workload (27th percentile). There aren't many like him, historically, with green flags and red flags with little in between.
Pierre Strong Jr., South Dakota State
Big Board Rank: 146
|Rank||Pierre Strong Jr. Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
Pierre Strong Jr.'s 4.37-second 40-yard dash is going to draw your attention, and at his size (5'11", 207 pounds) that puts him in the 88th percentile in adjusted speed. He had some good efficiency (62nd-percentile yards per team attempt stats), but everything else fell shy of the midway point for running back prospects. Overall, he's a 47th-percentile prospect in my model.
Hassan Haskins, Michigan
Big Board Rank: 148
|Rank||Hassan Haskins Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
|7||Brian Robinson Jr.||84.4%|
If you're looking for size, you'll like the 6'2", 228-pound Hassan Haskins out of Michigan. He didn't run the 40 (or do many tests at the combine), and he has a 16th-percentile max reception share while having just one season as a true feature back for the Wolverines. Though it's not the most promising profile, fantasy potential in the right situation is there as a possible high-leverage back.
Tyler Badie, Missouri
Big Board Rank: 149
|Rank||Tyler Badie Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
Tyler Badie has a stark profile. He lags in size (sub-10th-percentile height and weight) and athleticism (43rd percentile) but is in the 89th percentile or better in rushing share, reception share, total production, and yards per team attempt. It's not a can't-miss profile, but the hits here -- Aaron Jones and Darren Sproles -- are pretty big hits.
C.J. Verdell, Oregon
Big Board Rank: 164
|Rank||C.J. Verdell Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
The story of C.J. Verdell requires some context. He broke out in his age-19 season at Oregon but had his seasons derailed by injury since then. He didn't run the 40 at the combine and is small (5'8", 194 -- both 4th-percentile ratings in my model). His receiving workload is very promising and thus draws him some comps to other receiving-first backs.
Abram Smith, Baylor
Big Board Rank: 165
|Rank||Abram Smith Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
Baylor's Abram Smith is a redshirt senior and already 23 years old. That should be factored into his evaluation. He was a fine rusher overall but lacked receiving work, which is probably expected, given that he transitioned from running back to linebacker and back to running back.
Snoop Conner, Mississippi
Big Board Rank: 166
|Rank||Snoop Conner Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
We saw Snoop Conner catapult in the big board rankings over Mississippi teammate Jerrion Ealy over the weekend. His 4.59-second 40-yard dash puts him exactly at a 100.0 adjusted speed score at his elevated weight of 222 pounds. The production wasn't there at Ole Miss, and that yields some underwhelming profile comps.
Jerome Ford, Cincinnati
Big Board Rank: 168
|Rank||Jerome Ford Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
|4||Pierre Strong Jr.||88.6%|
The NFL Combine was kind to Jerome Ford, who posted a 4.46-second 40 time at a respectable size (5'10.5", 210), good for a 68th-percentile adjusted speed. He boasts better-than-average rushing shares and yards per team attempt rates in my database. The older breakout age and receiving shares are the knocks.
Jerrion Ealy, Mississippi
Big Board Rank: 185
|Rank||Jerrion Ealy Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
|9||Anthony McFarland Jr.||81.6%|
Jerrion Ealy has two things going for him: he has an early breakout age (19.0, 83rd percentile) and a good max reception share (12.2%, 64th-percentile). Everything else is below the 15th percentile, especially the size (5'8", 189).
ZaQuandre "Quan" White, South Carolina
Big Board Rank: 186
|Rank||ZaQuandre White Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
Quan White jumped into the top 200 after the combine, and I'm not really sure why, but here we are. He had a good receiving share in college (54th percentile) but a lack of anything else to get excited about.
Keaontay Ingram, USC
Big Board Rank: 191
|Rank||Keaontay Ingram Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
Keaontay Ingram has NFL-ready size (6'0", 221) and good athleticism. He didn't miss too much of a beat as he transitioned from Texas to USC, but what I actually mean by that is that he held a pretty low reception share and yards per team attempt rate at both schools.
Zonovan "Bam" Knight, North Carolina State
Big Board Rank: 198
|Rank||Zonovan Knight Profile Comparisons||Similarity|
Zonovan Knight broke out early (18.4 years old) and has solid size (5'11", 209) but overall lacked big production scores anywhere. He also ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash, which equates to a 20th-percentile adjusted speed. Usually, early breakouts without great production or athleticism perennially feel like breakout candidates but don't always flip the switch.