Rookie RB Pre-draft Preview

Time to look at rookie RB’s for the upcoming NFL draft, with PPR dynasty considerations. I mention Atlanta a lot, and that is because I consider that the ultimate RB destination, with Arthur Smith being one of the most RB-friendly head coaches in the NFL (see Derrick Henry and Cordarelle Patterson). The rankings below are based on current ECR, and may change after the NFL draft:

  1. Breece Hall: I covered him extensively in a previous post. He is most frequently compared to Demarco Murray. He is in a tier with only one other RB…

  2. Kenneth Walker III: Comparisons here are to Javonte Williams. The only knock on Walker is lack of much work in the passing game, but that can be learned. Between Hall and Walker, landing spot is everything. If one of them landed in Atlanta, and the other in San Francisco, I’d take the one in Atlanta first, even if it was Walker.

  3. Isaiah Spiller: He is a decent renaissance RB, meaning jack of all trades, master of none. He isn’t especially athletic as his combine and pro day numbers showed. He has some good highlights and stats, but what you constantly see is him being run down from behind once he gets into any kind of open field, so don’t expect a lot of big plays on the pro level. He runs a little upright, so not the most polished guy, although his footwork in traffic is pretty nice. He catches the ball well, and might be a good 3rd down back. Looks like somebody destined for an RBBC. Best case scenario is a poor man’s Austin Ekeler type, or he ends up on a team with great run blocking.

  4. Rachaad White: He is a potentially great 3rd down back, possibly the best in this class. As an RB, he is too upright to be great. But he has such reliable hands, he reminds me of Leonard Fournette with Tom Brady. So many times in White’s game film, you see the Arizona State QB just look his way when things break down, and White makes the play. Just don’t expect White to show up in early downs.

  5. Zamir White: He could easily be rated higher than this. He was in an RBBC in college, which kept his highlights and touches down, but what is there is darned impressive. He has size and speed enough for the top tier, and clearly shows good running instincts. He is especially deadly once he gets into the second tier of defenses, making those DB’s pay for their tackles. Don’t be surprised if the Falcons sneak and grab him in the draft, since he is a hometown Georgia boy. That would instantly pop him into the fantasy conversation with the likes of Hall and Walker.

  6. Brian Robinson Jr.: This Alabama RB is more like “Najee Harris Junior” (although a touch smaller than Harris). Decent, although not perfect receiving skills, combined with good size and punishing running, but also quick feet. He won’t break many 70 yarders, but he can be a bellcow. Sometimes he doesn’t lower his shoulders quite enough. I can easily see Atlanta grabbing this bruiser and using him like a Derrick Henry, but if so, don’t expect a long career.

  7. Dameon Pierce: Potential is all you can say about Pierce. Tons of athleticism, but not much film for a guy playing for Florida. The kindest comp I heard was from Andrew Erickson, comparing him to Damien Harris, and I will flagpole that as Pierce’s upside.

  8. James Cook: The little brother of Dalvin Cook (both literally and figuratively). At 5’11" and 190 pounds, he is too small to be an early down runner. He catches well, so he can easily convert to a 3rd down back. If he could just get an extra 10-20 pounds on that frame, it is really easy to see him take on a role similar to his big brother. He has those good instincts. Even then, we have to remember Dalvin’s injury history. I might rate Cook above Dameon Pierce.

  9. Jerome Ford: He has decent size, but there just isn’t a lot about him that excites me. A good landing spot makes him interesting, although likely not exciting. I picture him as the guy you pick up in week 10 when the starting RB goes down with an injury.

  10. Tyler Algeier: A slightly slower version of Brian Robinson. It is just hard to tell how good a BYU RB can be on the NFL level when they are playing against Boise State. Andrew Erickson compared Algeier to James Conner. That’s upside.

Clearly not a deep RB class, so grab your RB’s early and go home in dynasty drafts. If you dig too deep, you are looking at more coal than diamonds. There may be somebody past Tyler Algeier, but I’d wait and grab them off the waiver wire during the season.

1 Like

Thanks for this breakdown. Indeed, I don’t expect more than 3-4 RBs from this class to become fantasy relevant. Probably even less. Question is also which team(s) would even invest serious draft capital into the RB position. I’ve seen mock drafts with no RB going off the board in round 1 and 2.

Looking at the potential landing spots, there are few that stand out.

Good landing spots with 2022 starter potential:

ATL - Maybe the best landing spot for a rookie RB, who could become an immediate starter here.

HOU - Actually not the worst landing spot for an RB. Yes, their offense looks pretty terrible. But there is little competition in the backfield. There is some bellcow potential here.

MIA - They need a top RB, but they also have Edmonds, Mostert, Gaskin and Ahmed. A messy Niners-style backfield, but with some potential.

BUF - Singletary did well in 2021, and won’t go away. Good team outlook, but any RB they’d draft would find himself in an RBBC. Still a good landing spot, if they draft a top RB like Hall or Walker.

Landing spots where you may have to wait a year:

TEN - They need a talented replacement for Henry. A landing spot with great potential for a rookie RB, unless you need an immediate starter for your fantasy team.

NO - copy/paste the above, replace Henry with Kamara.

Landing spots with potential, in case the starter gets injured:

TB - I don’t see them relying on Fournette alone. If a potential rookie RB can keep Ke’Shawn Vaughn in check, there may be some fantasy potential here. Even a lot, if Fournette’s age starts showing.

LAC - Ekeler may need some support, and neither Joshua Kelley nor Larry Rountree showed anything exciting so far. Still, a risky landing spot for a rookie RB.

ARI - If they draft an RB on day 2, you can speculate on James Conner not having 2 solid injury-free seasons in a row.

Risk/reward landing spots:

LAR - If Akers struggles, a rookie RB could shine. If Akers stays healthy and plays well, you may have wasted a draft pick.

SF - Like the Rams, only more extreme. The Niners’ backfield is a weekly lottery, and I don’t expect that to change this year.

KC - If a rookie can leapfrog CEH and RoJo, he could become a league winner. If I wanted to bet on that is another question, though.

Landing spots to avoid:

CLE - Yes, Chubb and Hunt both got injured last year. But the Browns also have D’Ernest Johnson and Demetric Felton. And they now have a QB who can actually pass.

CAR - Sure, having CMC ahead of you on the depth chart seems like a guarantee for snaps to open up. But I wouldn’t take it for granted that CMC will miss more than half the season yet again. And the Panthers still have Chuba Hubbard.

1 Like

Thanks for the well-considered reply. A lot to think about here.

Aaaaand… the first RB off the board is Breece Hall. No surprises there.
And he was picked up by the Jets.

So much about Michael Carter’s fantasy value. And it’s not an ideal landing spot for Hall, either. He will be the Jets’ lead back, but Carter won’t go away.

If Kenneth Walker finds a good landing spot - Atlanta, Buffalo - he may be the new 1.01 for dynasty rookie drafts.

Edit: if Zach Wilson keeps trending up, we can probably remove the “terrible offense” tag from the Jets for the foreseeable future.

1 Like

I have Michael Carter in one of my dynasty leagues, and my first thought is “NOOOOO!!!”

On the bright side…I have the 1.01 pick in that league, so I can add Hall there, and have both of them. But I wanted them on different teams!

Oh well. Can’t always get what I want.

1 Like

Exactly the same here. I have Carter and the 1.01.

The Seahawks just grabbed Kenneth Walker. The Jets claiming Hall wasn’t a huge surprise, there was plenty buzz about they liking him a lot. But the Hawks claiming Walker - didn’t see that one coming.

And then the Seahawks grab Kenny Walker. Guess who my starting rb is in my other dynasty league? If you said Rashaad Penny, give yourself a gold star! I effing HATE this round!

1 Like

Penny’s performance in the last few games of the 2021 season was certainly mouth-watering. But other than that, he had 2 good games in 2019, and that was it. There was some hope that he could finally see a healthy and consistent season, but it looks like the Seahawks weren’t betting on it.

Initial gut feeling is that Walker may be my 1.01 now. Pairing Hall with Carter sounds tempting. But I already have Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. Picking Hall means risking I might end up with 4 potentially good, but highly risky RBs.

1 Like

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not looking at Penny and thinking RB1 .But I’d like
to see him last past the draft.

See it from the bright side - he could have lasted past the draft, played an awesome preseason, being hyped by everybody and their brother as a potential RB1, only to pick up a season-ending injury in Q2 of week 1.

Can’t say I’m in love with this offseason myself so far. I have Jaylen Waddle, and the Fins traded for Tyreek Hill. I have Jordan Love, and Aaron Rodgers decides to stay in Green Bay for another few years (which I love as a Cheesehead, though). I have Josh Jacobs and Daniel Jones, and the Raiders / Giants decline the 5th year option. I have Trey Lance, and the 49ers can’t get rid of Jimmy G.

And I have Michael Carter, only to see the Jets now drafting Breece Hall.

The only good thing that happened during the offseason so far was me being able to cancel my big-time offer for Javonte Williams in time before his owner got the news that the Broncos re-signed Melvin Gordon.

1 Like

I have heard the NFL draft is more destructive than constructive. I believe it now.

1 Like

At least none of us will screw up their dynasty rookie draft the way Bill Belichik does with the NFL draft. :crazy_face:

1 Like

Even when he does screw up the draft, Belichik still wins. I will let better minds than me figure that one out.