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After a great rookie campaign full of electrifying and punishing runs, Javonte Williams earned the right to lead the Broncos backfield in 2022. With Melvin Gordon remaining unsigned, it seems to me that George Paton and the Broncos have their eyes set on the NFL Draft to add to their running back room.
The headliners of this year’s running back class include Breece Hall, Isaiah Spiller and Kenneth Walker, and barring a surprise trade-up or a worrisome drop into late Day 2, we’re going to assume those players won’t be available for the Broncos when they finally pick. Regardless, there are plenty of quality options at the position that will be available on Day 2 and Day 3 of this April’s NFL Draft.
Zamir White, Georgia
Age 22 | 6’ | 214 lbs. | 4.4s 40-yard dash
2021 Stats: 160 carries, 856 yards, 11 TDs, 9 receptions, 75 yards
Zamir White was the lead back in a heavy rotation for Georgia’s backfield the last two seasons. White possesses a great combination of size and speed that allowed him to bulldozer SEC defenders and break off chunk runs for the Bulldogs. His ability to break tackles and move the pile jumped off the tape but he also shows good vision and lateral agility to survey fronts and quickly move to open holes. With only 382 carries under his belt in college, White enters the NFL with plenty of life left in his legs and will have the chance to greatly contribute to the Broncos’ running back room. His lack of production in the passing game may ultimately result in the Broncos going a different direction but Zamir White would give Denver a hard-hitting combination with Javonte Williams.
James Cook, Georgia
Age 22 | 5’11” | 199 lbs. | 4.42 40-yard dash
2021 Stats: 113 carries, 728 yards, 7 TDs, 27 receptions, 284 yards, 4 TDs
The other half of Georgia’s talented backfield duo in 2021, James Cook is the younger brother of Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl running back, Dalvin Cook. James Cook acted as a change of pace back to Zamir White while also providing dynamic-playmaking ability out of the backfield as a receiver. As a runner, Cook shows good vision and the ability to step out of tackles with speed and elusiveness. He lacks the ideal build and skillset to provide reliable production running between the tackles but as a pass-catcher, he was electric for the Bulldogs. Similar to White, Cook enters the NFL with limited wear on his body with only 230 career rushing attempts and 67 career receptions. Cook would give the Broncos a home-run threat out of the backfield that would make the entire offense harder to defend.
Tyler Badie, Missouri
Age 23 | 5’8” | 197 lbs. | 4.45 40-yard dash
2021 Stats: 268 carries, 1604 yards, 14 TDs, 54 receptions, 330 yards, 4 TDs
Tyler Badie entered the 2021 season with a great opportunity to show off his skillset as the lead back for the Tigers after serving as a change of pace back behind Larry Rountree III and Damarea Crockett from 2018 to 2020. The Tiger’s offense in 2021 went as Badie went, proving that he was the most talented skill player for the Tigers. Badie is on the small side as NFL running backs are concerned but showed an intriguing skill set as a runner and pass-catcher. The Mizzou team captain’s low center of gravity and speed allowed him to be very productive in the running game, consistently breaking off chunk runs. His ability as a pass-catcher will be his selling point to NFL teams as he showed confident hands, and enough wiggle to create separation through his routes and after the catch. Badie could end up being an excellent value pick for the Broncos.
Brian Robinson Jr., Alabama
Age 23 | 6’2” | 225 lbs. | 4.53 40-yard dash
2021 Stats: 271 carries, 1343 yards, 14 TDs, 35 receptions, 296 yards, 2 TDs
Brian Robinson was a five-year contributor to Alabama’s backfield who finally got a chance to start and did not disappoint when asked to take the reins as the lead back in 2021. While Robinson had the benefit of playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the country while at Alabama, his size, vision and reliability on third down make him an intriguing option for any team looking to add a running back in the 2021 NFL Draft. Robinson’s size and physical nature made him a bruising back for the Tide while he also proved to be one of the best backs in pass protection in this class. As one of the more well-rounded running backs in 2022, Robinson would be a great addition to the Broncos backfield.
Kyren Williams, Notre Dame
Age 21 | 5’9” | 194 lbs. | 4.65 40-yard dash
2021 Stats: 204 carries, 1002 yards, 14 TDs, 42 receptions, 359 yards, 3 TDs
The lead back for the Fighting Irish the last two seasons, Kyren Williams lacks the size to be an every-down running back in the NFL but showed tremendous upside and ability as a receiver. Combining for 78 receptions and 672 receiving yards the last two seasons, Williams showed confident hands and the ability to not only be a threat out of the backfield but line up in the slot and create issues for opposing linebackers and safeties. Although he won’t be a bell cow in the NFL, Williams showed that he is capable of handling carries between the tackles. His 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine was slightly concerning but when you take a look at his size, traits and production it’s easy to compare Williams to New England Patriots running back James White.
Rachaad White, Arizona State
Age 23 | 6’ | 214 lbs. | 4.48 40-yard dash
2021 Stats: 182 carries, 1000 yards, 15 TDs, 43 receptions, 456 yards, 1 TD
A junior college transfer from Mt. San Antonio College (Walnut, CA), Rachaad White joined the Sun Devils in 2020 where he saw limited production. However in 2021, White had a great season leading a dangerous rushing attack for the Sun Devils. In his breakout season, White showcased great patience, vision and playmaking ability, showing glimpses of being a complete back. The Senior Bowl standout ended up being ASU’s second-leading receiver in terms of receptions and receiving yards in 2021. After an impressive showing in his first full year as a starter, White could end up being a Day 2 pick this April and would be a dynamic addition to the Broncos backfield.
Dameon Pierce, Florida
Age 22 | 5’10” | 218 lbs. | 4.59 40-yard dash
2021 Stats: 100 carries, 574 yards, 13 TDs, 19 receptions, 216 yards, 3 TDs
Florida had one of the more consistent and heavier rotations of running backs in college football in Pierce’s time with the Gators. With only 329 carries over his four years in Gainesville, the Georgia native is entering the NFL with fresh legs. Pierce possesses a boxy, strong build that allowed him to consistently drop the shoulder and power through defenders with very good contact balance. However, his greatest traits as a runner are his patience and vision where he routinely maneuvered around defenders finding cutbacks and second-chance opportunities. Pierce has good third-down ability and showed that he can be more than serviceable in pass protection and as a receiver. While Pierce isn’t a threat to go the distance on any play, he is consistent in all departments and could end up being a very nice addition to a committee backfield. Pierce has glimpses of former Broncos running back C.J. Anderson in his game.
Jerome Ford, Cincinnati
Age 22 | 5’10.5” | 210 lbs. | 4.46 40-yard dash
2021 Stats: 215 carries, 1319 yards, 19 TDs, 21 receptions, 220 yards, 1 TD
Ford originally committed to and played at Alabama in 2018 and 2019 in a stacked backfield before transferring to Cincinnati in 2020. Ford split carries with Gerrid Doaks in 2020 before inheriting the starting job in 2021. He is another guy in this class that enters the NFL with limited wear as he only charted 319 carries and 31 receptions in college. Ford has the size, speed and versatility to continue growing as a player in the NFL. His biggest knock is going to be his struggle with fumbles when given more opportunities with the ball at Cincinnati. However, his upside is significant as he showed ability not only as a runner but as a pass-catcher with confident hands and quickness in the open field to shake defenders through his routes.
Pierre Strong Jr., South Dakota State
Age 23 | 5’11” | 207 lbs. | 4.37 40-yard dash
2021 Stats: 240 carries, 1673 yards, 18 TDs, 22 receptions, 150 yards
Pierre Strong has been a standout running back for the Jackrabbits over the last four seasons. After an impressive pre-draft process at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, Strong has elevated himself from a late-round sleeper into a guy who could become an early Day 3 pick. Strong had a tremendous 2021 season and lead South Dakota State to a win over FCS powerhouse and rivals at North Dakota State. Strong showed off his breakaway speed and knack for big plays routinely for the Jackrabbits, now the question is whether he can carry that ability over into the NFL.
Ty Chandler, North Carolina
Age 23 | 5’11” | 204 lbs. | 4.38 40-yard dash
2021 Stats: 182 carries, 1092 yards, 13 TDs, 15 receptions, 216 yards, 1 TD
A four-year player for the Tennessee Volunteers, Chandler took the opportunity to join the Tar Heels as a graduate transfer in 2021. With big shoes to fill after Javonte Williams and Michael Carter left North Carolina for the NFL Draft last year, he delivered by topping all his previous season bests while at Tennessee. Chandler showed the ability to impact the game as a runner and receiver for the Tar Heels. He possesses confident hands in the passing game and has an extra gear in the open field to rip off big gains. While he is an older prospect with some wear on the tires, Chandler did exactly what he had to do as a graduate transfer to prove that he is worthy of an NFL Draft selection.
For more analysis of mine and the rest of the DNVR Draft Pod crew’s on this year’s running back class, listen to our breakdown here.