As the 2021 NFL playoff race ramps up, the NCAA football campaign is entering bowl season, and the NFL Draft is becoming a hot topic again. Running backs ranked in the 2022 NFL Draft seem top-heavy with star talent, but there are still some quality NFL starters in the mix.
Isaiah Spiller and Breece Hall entered the season as the top two NFL draft prospects at their position. But they have been overtaken by some running backs with high production in 2021. Hall is seventh in the nation with 1,230 rushing yards, and tied for third with 17 touchdowns. Spiller, meanwhile, hasn't cracked 1,000 yards yet, and has just six touchdowns.
Lew Nichols lll from Central Michigan currently leads the NCAA in rushing yards, but he's only a freshman. Kenneth Walker lll from Michigan State has the most yards from draft-eligible players with 1,498 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has even cracked his way into Heisman contention.
Oregon's CJ Verdell suffered an injury that hurt his 2022 NFL Draft value, knocking him down the rankings. Oklahoma's Eric Gray saw his stock plummet after his team had an unsuccessful 2021 season. The NCAA season has been just as chaotic as the 2021 NFL season.
On that note, here is how the 2022 NFL Draft running back prospects currently rank.
2022 NFL Draft Running Back Rankings
#10 Sincere McCormick - UTSA
Playing for an undefeated UTSA squad has helped Sincere McCormick in the rankings, as he's eighth in the nation with 1,215 yards.
It's his second straight season with 1,200+ rushing yards and 10+ touchdowns. A 4.9 yards per carry average isn't stellar, but McCormick is a workhorse with power and vision, and is a goal-line threat. He could go as early as the fifth round of the NFL draft as a change-of-pace runner.
#9 Tyler Allgeier - BYU
Tyler Allgeier is fifth in the NCAA with 1,303 yards, and has the second-most rushing touchdowns. Allgeier has blossomed into an all-around athlete for BYU.
His former quarterback, New York Jets Zach Wilson, thinks he can flourish in the NFL. Allgeier is a power runner who has DK Metcalf-type speed. His upside is his ability to cut big plays throughout every game, and he could be a gem in the 2022 NFL Draft.
#8 Eric Gray - Oklahoma
Eric Gray is positioned to be a top-five running back with Oklahoma in 2021, but the wheels fell off the offense instead.
While at Tennessee before he transferred to Oklahoma, Gray was an excellent receiving back with superb balance and early bursts of speed. He isn't a 400-meter runner, but he can use his best attributes to his advantage.
#7 CJ Verdell - Oregon
A lower leg cut CJ Verdell's season short, and it doesn't help he had a poor 2020 campaign either.
Verdell was once seen as a top-five running back in the upcoming NFL draft. But most running backs are expected to get better through their college career, not take a step back.
Nevertheless, NFL teams are getting a physical, tough running back in Verdell who looks like Derrick Henry at times and has a prolific early college career to back it. A team could take a chance on him, and take him in the NFL Draft as high as the third round.
#6 Brian Robinson Jr. - Alabama
Brian Robinson Jr. is a fifth-year player for Alabama, and is having his best season with 945 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's matured as a receiver as well over his career.
Robinson Jr. doesn't have the best numbers compared to others on this list. But he burst onto the scene this season in a big way, and has a ton of buzz. Playing for Alabama greatly helps his NFL draft stock when you look at who has come out of that program at the position.
Robinson Jr. is a patient runner with a nice frame, and could be a project player for a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers or Philadelphia Eagles early on Day 3 of the draft.
#5 Kyren Williams - Notre Dame
Kyren Williams had 1,125 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2020, but sits with just 928 yards and 12 scores this season.
Part of that is because of Notre Dame's offensive line, which has been atrocious in 2021. Williams is still an elite running back with both short burst speed and long-range speed.
His physicality as a blocker makes him an asset over other top running backs in the 2022 NFL draft class. Throw in his abilities as a pass-catcher, and he's a well-rounded runner.
#4 Zonovan Knight - NC State
Zonovan Knight is an interesting 2022 NFL draft prospect, as he's part of a committee with NC State rather than a true star, and he's still highly ranked. He was on pace for 1,100 yards earlier in the season, but is going to fall flat of that mark.
Nevertheless, Knight should be looked at as a top running back who can lead a backfield when given a chance. He has some of the best vision and patience behind the offensive line from this draft class, and the agility and speed to get through the hole and create big plays.
He's also an ace in special teams. Some teams may shy away from him around the third round in this year's NFL draft, but he's worth the selection.
#3 Breece Hall - Iowa State
Once labeled as the number one running back for the 2022 NFL Draft, Breece Hall saw a slight decrease in his stats from 2020, and was jumped by Kenneth Walker lll.
Hall had an astounding 1,572 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, and currently has just 1,230 yards and 17 scores. He's still a dynamic runner and one of the most prolific in the NCAA in recent history.
His greatest assets are as a pass-catcher, blocker and his elusiveness at the line of scrimmage. Hall won't fall past the second round in the NFL draft, though.
#2 Isaiah Spiller - Texas A&M
Isaiah Spiller seemed to jump Breece Hall as the top running back in this year's draft class, only to be jumped himself by Walker.
After 1,036 yards and nine touchdowns last year, Spiller has just 984 yards and six scores in 2021. Spiller is still an NFL-ready running back who is built to last against the best and strongest hitters in the league.
The NFL tends to love running backs who they can also utilize in the passing game, and Spiller fits the mold. There is a chance he gets selected before Walker in the 2022 NFL Draft.
#1 Kenneth Walker lll - Michigan State
Kenneth Walker lll was relatively unknown entering the season, but has had such an amazing season that he can be viewed as a better prospect than Hall or Spiller.
A transfer from Wake Forest, Walker is second in the NCAA in rushing yards, and is one of the toughest to take down to the ground once he gets into the open field. He checks virtually every skill you need to succeed in the NFL as a running back, and should be the first one taken in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft.
Also check out: Complete 2020 NFL Draft Results