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Pre-Combine NFL Draft rankings: Running backs

Prior to the NFL Combine, we rank the best running backs in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Syndication: The Des Moines Register Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

The NFL Scouting Combine begins on March 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Kansas City Chiefs are unlikely to invest more in the running back position in the 2022 NFL Draft, but hey, you never know. The consensus is this is a strong draft for running backs.

1. Kenneth Walker III | Michigan State | 5 feet 9 | 206 pounds

I first captured a glimpse of Kenneth Walker during his 2019 freshman season while he was at Wake Forest as I was breaking down a different prospect’s film. He caught enough of my attention I felt the need to share it with the Twitterverse.

From playing for the Demon Deacons to landing with the Michigan State Spartans as a transfer, his development as a collegiate running back has prepared him to potentially be the first running back taken in the 2022 NFL Draft. Walker was the heart and soul of the Sparty offense, leading them with 1,636 yards on top of 18 rushing scores. He lined up behind several backfield formations, which aids in his ability to read a front. He can offer something as a pass-catcher, but he is best utilized as a runner. He carries the ball with a chip on his shoulder but pairs it with lighter feet and agility for an intriguing combination.

2. Isaiah Spiller | Texas A&M | 6 feet 1 | 225 pounds

Spiller checks off the size box, and he plays with the physicality you’d expect from a 220-pound ballcarrier. He is a punishing runner who has produced on the field since he stepped on campus at Texas A&M. Spiller fell 54 yards shy of eclipsing 1,000 as a freshman but surpassed the milestone in each of the previous two seasons. He offers immediate value as an early-down back in the league with the skill set to fit in multiple schemes.

3. Kyren Williams | Notre Dame | 5 feet 9 | 199 pounds

Williams is the first in a handful of back on this list with ties to Missouri or Kansas. Williams hails from the St. Louis area. He played his high school ball for St. John Vianney, where he helped lead them to a 2018 state title. Williams chose to continue his career at Notre Dame, where he has been its lead back the past two seasons. He has a serious nose for the end zone, scoring 31 total touchdowns over the prior two seasons. Williams is a do-it-all back who offers value as a runner, receiver, returner and blocker. He is a little smaller than most of the backs in the class but could be on the field a lot in the proper organization.

4. Breece Hall | Iowa State | 6 feet 1 | 210 pounds

Hall has been a machine for the Cyclones the last two years. Hall is from Wichita, Kansas, but he chose to play for Iowa State and coach Matt Campbell. He finished his collegiate career with back-to-back All-American seasons. Throughout the 2020 and 2021 seasons, he scored 41 rushing touchdowns and ran for over 3,000 yards. Hall is an effective downhill runner who can make people miss with upfield maneuvers rather than a Barry Sanders-like joystick style. He can play a role as a pass-catcher, but it will never be a strong suit.

5. Brian Robinson, Jr. | Alabama | 6 feet 1 | 228 pounds

Alabama produces a lot of NFL talent and running back is no outlier. Alabama products like Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris are two of the more recent, and Brian Robinson falls right in line as having the potential to be given impactful NFL carries. Much like Jacobs, Robinson had to share the backfield every year, but all of that finally paid off for him in his final season. Robinson rushed for over 1,300 yards and totaled 14 touchdowns on the ground. He will fit in best in the league with a committee approach or serving as the primary backup. He lacks the elite burst and speed to become a true premier running back in the NFL but could find a niche in short-yardage situations.

6. Rachaad White | Arizona State | 6 feet 2 | 210 pounds

White was born and raised in Kansas City before playing collegiately for Mount San Antonio College for his first two years and then finishing his final two seasons with Arizona State. He is tough to bring down thanks to his elusive nature as a runner; he likes to make people miss more than trying to run them over. He possesses the necessary vision to make those defenders miss too. He has a huge opportunity in front of him at the NFL Combine to boost his stock. His best season came in 2021, but scouts will need more than that to invest much into him. This is a potential riser, though.

7. James Cook | Georgia | 5 feet 11 | 190 pounds

Georgia is another school known to send plenty of running back talent to the next level. James Cook, brother to Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, split time with Zamir White for the Bulldogs but could be the one who gets his name called first out of the two. Cook runs with an effortless glide but doesn’t appear to have the next gear to run away from defenses. He can set himself apart from the rest of the class with his receiving. He was fourth on the team with 27 receptions and scored on four. Cook could find himself with an Alvin Kamara-like role with his newest team. Whether he can be as impactful remains to be seen.

8. Tyler Badie | Missouri | 5 feet 8 | 194 pounds

The Mizzou product earned himself a lot of recognition for his 1,612-yard, 14-touchdown season. Badie had five games over the 2021 season where he ran for over 200 yards. He is excellent in the open field and is hard to bring down if he does reach the second level. His big-play ability is astounding, and while he lacks size, his speed makes him a threat from anywhere he is. Badie could fill the role that Jerick McKinnon is leaving behind with the Chiefs if that is somewhere Brett Veach would like to look.

9. Jerome Ford | Cincinnati | 5 feet 11 | 215 pounds

When you see all of the former Cincinnati Bearcats on these draft rankings, it becomes clear that they were one of the best college teams in the country. Jerome Ford is one of many who will get their name called throughout the draft weekend. Ford is a stereotypical back with size, speed and athleticism to create plays with the ball in his hands. He can make defenders miss in the box or space but also has the deceptive speed to turn a corner on a lousy tackle angle. He is not too versatile, so he will need to find a home with a run-heavy scheme.

10. Dameon Pearce | Florida | 5 feet 10 | 215 pounds

The running back class is deep, and many of these names could wind up being valued all over the boards. Dameon Pearce could fit into someone’s game plan and rank much higher than others. Pearce’s biggest knock is his lack of use at Florida. He was never the featured guy, but he has the skill set to be a serious contributor in the NFL. While he lacks elite speed or quickness, he makes up for it in the lesser keyed areas like pass protection or goal-line scoring. Pearce has a big week ahead of him to boost his draft stock.

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