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NFL Draft Projections - Top Rookie Running Back Landing Spots

Isaiah Spiller fantasy football rankings NFL draft rookies draft sleepers

We all know that running backs don’t matter. Well in the draft, this seems truer than ever. It has become rare you see a back go in the first round. But this is completely opposite in fantasy drafts.

If you look at any fantasy draft, mock or real, you will find most of the picks are at the position. With this in mind and knowing at least one rookie back has finished in the top 24 for the past eight years running, it is important to find the perfect fit for those coming out.

There are some fits we see coming a mile away. Najee Harris to the Pittsburgh Steelers was so clear, I could see it. ON the other hand, there are baffling picks every season. Like Rashaad Penny to the Seattle Seahawks. So, our attempt here will be to give you a little synopsis of a few of the top backs in the 2022 draft and what team would be a good fit for them to be the next top-24 rookie.

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James Cook, Georgia

Georgia is not known to use one back in a dominant role. The same is true here as James Cook was used as a compliment to Zamir White in the run to the National Championship. Despite this, the brother of Dalvin Cook, has tremendous ability and will have him drafted in the middle rounds of the NFL draft.

We all know the defense at Georgia was the star. Not the offense behind Stetson Bennett. Even in previous seasons, the defense was the standout. With this in mind, the career numbers for Cook are even more impressive as a result. On 230 career carries, cook averaged 6.5 yards/carry with a total of 1,503 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. Unlike a lot of college backs, Cook was also used in the passing game. During his career, he showed this ability with 67 catches, 730 yards and six touchdowns.

We have seen many a Georgia running back succeed in the NFL. Nick Chubb is one of the best backs in the NFL and Sony Michel has developed into a solid back himself. James Cook, in the right fit, could be the next Bulldog to make the leap to stardom.
Whatever team he goes to, he will likely be a third-down back as a rookie. At 5’11 and 190 pounds, he does not have the bulk to hold up to the punishment at this point. But he has the pass-catching ability to be a weapon for a team looking for a combination. Much like Chubb and Kareem Hunt on the Cleveland Browns.

Best Fits: Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears

 

Jashaun Corbin, Florida State

So why is Jashaun Corbin listed here and who is he? Good question.

The reason he is on here is simple, Emory Hunt has him listed as his number one overall running back in the draft. Hunt was a former college running back and UL-Lafayette and knows a lot more about running backs than you or I ever will. Therefore, I trust him. Hence, Corbin is getting a look. Deal with it.

Corbin started his career as the running mate of Isaiah Spiller at Texas A&M. After realizing he was not going to get his shot as the guy, he decided to transfer to Florida State and play behind a worse offensive line in a worse conference. Although the talent surrounding him and the opponents were not quite the same level, he, like teammate Jermaine Johnson, used this fact to produce a good season which will allow him to get drafted.

Listening to Emory Hunt talk about Corbin, he is the perfect mixture of Kenneth Walker III and James Cook. He is a great runner, but he also has the receiving chops to be a three-down back in the NFL. Much like Breece Hall. If he turns out to be this type of player, getting him, likely in the fifth or sixth round will be a steal for the team who winds up with him.

During the 2021 season, Corbin averaged 6.2 yards/carry. With 143 rushes for 887 yards and seven touchdowns, he almost matched the production of former teammate Spiller on far fewer touches. On top of his rush work, Corbin also accounted for 25 receptions for the Seminoles' weak offense. These are not elite numbers and are why he will not be drafted as a top pick, but they are numbers that should allow him to be drafted to a team that really wants him in late rounds.

As a change of pace back and a pass-catching specialist in the mold of James White or J.D. McKissic, Corbin can make a difference on a roster in the NFL. He may not be the top choice of a player to get into the top-24, but he is certainly capable of getting there. Not to mention, no matter where he goes, he will not be drafted in fantasy drafts. So, he could make a great waiver wire addition much the way Phillip Lindsay was during his rookie season.

Best Fits: Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears

 

Breece Hall, Iowa State

The three-year starter from Iowa State, Breece Hall is a talented back who many feel is the best at the position in this draft. In a way, he is like a souped-up version of Cook. He has the pass-catching ability, but he has also been a starter and has had the carry volume needed to get his body ready for NFL punishment. His better size of 6’1 and 220 pounds does not hurt either. Nor does his sixth and 10th place finishes in Heisman trophy voting the past two seasons. Sure, Heisman voting is not everything. Look at Rashaad Salam or Tim Tebow. But it shows talent.

Where Cook had a total of 230 carries in College, Hall has more than tripled this number with 712. He has also tripled the touchdown production with 50 and has a total of 3,941 yards. His 5.5 yards/carry average is great considering the number of attempts he had to endure to get there. With 82 receptions over his time at Iowa State, he has also shown the pass-catching ability he will need to be a three-down back in the NFL. Although everyone has been drooling over his combine workouts, it is his production in college which should really leave you drooling. He is a better version of the man he replaced in college. David Montgomery. And if he goes to a good fit, he will be even better in the NFL as well. If the Buffalo Bills do not mind using a first-round pick on him in the draft, he would be perfect there. He would also be the clear favorite to be even a top-12 back in his rookie season if this were to happen. We will just need to wait and see if Buffalo is willing to make this type of investment on a running back or not.

Perfect Fits: Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons

 

Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M

With the best class money can buy, Isaiah Spiller might be leaving Texas A&M a season too early as the team might be poised to finally get to an SEC Championship game. Nevertheless, Spiller is in the NFL draft and has the explosive abilities to make a mark at the next level.

The Aggies were a run-first team. This, along with a strong offensive line, allowed Spiller to show what he can do in the best conference in college football.
During his junior season in 2021, Spiller ran the ball 179 times while also catching 25 passes out of the backfield. With 1,011 rush yards and 189 receiving, he was able to combine for 1,200 yards of offense and seven touchdowns. This was done on a team with a lack of talent at quarterback and who had many struggles on this side of the ball.

At 215 pounds, Spiller has the size to hold up. The key will be his ability to work behind a line that will not be as good in comparison to the line he had in college. Sure, the players will be better. But so will the defensive players be going up against them. A case could have easily been made that, unlike Hall, Spiller needed another season in college to become his best self. But he is in the draft and here is hoping he becomes a great pro.

Best Fits: Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots

 

Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State

A one-year standout, Kenneth Walker III is the best pure runner in this draft. The unknown for him is his pass-catching ability. Coach Mel Tucker and the offensive staff has said he is able to do this. But the lack of actually having him do it leaves a bit to be desired in knowing for sure if he can.

After spending the start of his career at Wake Forest, Walker decided to transfer to Michigan State before 2021. This was the best decision he could have made. The Spartans were rolling in 2021. This included a massive come from behind victory against hated rival Michigan. In this game, Walker led the charge with 23 carries for 197 yards and five touchdowns. This was a major reason he was named as an All-American at the running back position for the 2021 season.

With 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns on 269 carries, Walker III can be the lead back for first and second downs. With only 12 catches, we will need to take a wait-and-see approach about the pass-catching prowess at the next level. But, of course, we have seen Derrick Henry, Adrian Peterson and others become fantasy elite without being able to catch the ball. So, it is not out of the question. Either way, Walker III will make his real impact in the run game. Not in the passing game. This is what he will be drafted on, and this is what he will be expected to do. So, for fantasy purposes, he needs to go to a team that will not expect him to be an all-around back. He needs to be used like Nick Chubb is used in Cleveland rather than how Christian McCaffrey is used in Carolina in order to obtain success as a rookie.

Best Fits: San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Chargers



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