Scouting 2022 Rookies: Passing-Down RBs with Upside


Let’s continue the rookie profile series by diving into three passing-down RBs with upside. These guys have the skills to project to third down roles and have shown some upside in college to be more, here are my evaluations.


In case you missed them, I wrote about the consensus top three as well as some bigger backs in this series so far. While draft capital will likely change some rookie rankings, it won’t change a player’s athleticism or what’s on their college film. With that in mind, let’s talk through some of my favorite pass-catching backs, who all have upside to potentially be lead backs.

Rachaad White, Arizona St, 23 years old

Rachaad White has had a strong rise throughout his time with the Sun Devils. A JUCO transfer back in 2020, he took the Pac-12 by storm with his size/speed combination. White is a dynamic athlete, running a 4.48 40 yard dash, with a vertical jump of 38″ and a 125″ broad jump.

For an athletic comparison, that’s similar to Cam Akers out of Florida State, so White is built to handle more than just passing downs.

Tape Evaluation

Starting with some aspects that are cause for concern, White doesn’t play to his 214-pound weight. He also doesn’t break a ton of tackles. That’s why, to start, White’s role is likely to be as a pass catcher and general offensive weapon. I also didn’t see a high-level vision, he missed some holes at times and usually was bailed out by his athleticism.

That being said, if he can grow in those areas or is placed in a scheme that highlights his speed, watch out. White consistently beat quality athletes to the edge and downfield. At the second level, he makes guys miss regularly.

While not an elite blocker, White is solid enough and shows a desire that’ll grow with NFL coaching. His hands are a huge plus, and he’s used as a receiver some, highlighting his future potential.

Comparisons, Draft Capital, and Role

I’ve given a lot of role info above, but at minimum, White is a committee back who sees the passing downs work, and at best, could develop into a workhorse RB. Ideally, he sneaks into round three, but as long as he gets into round four he should get a shot either year one or two to show his talents.

As for a comparison, I like the one in the tweet above talking about Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson, two strong pass-catching RBs. I think White’s likeliest outcome is comparable to Kareem Hunt as an upside back in a timeshare. White has got the talent to be an Alvin Kamara type, but it’ll all come down to utilization. Put him in Arizona or Houston and watch him blossom.

James Cook, Georgia, 22 years old

James Cook had a solid career at Georgia, though he never lived up to the hype. Sometimes, having an elite professional for a sibling (yes, he’s Dalvin Cook‘s brother) makes it hard to measure up.

Choosing the Bulldogs didn’t help either, as no RBs carry the full workload for Georgia, which prefers a committee approach. All seem to go on to strong professional careers though, and Cook should join that group.

One knock I have, and it’ll likely cap his ceiling, is his weight. Cook weighed in at 199 pounds at the NFL combine, which limits his potential to grow into a workhorse RB. Typically these RBs will split work, which is the way the league is trending already, though Austin Ekeler only weighs 200 pounds.

Cook’s 4.42 40 yard dash, 33″ vertical, and 124″ broad jumps all show his athleticism.

Tape Evaluation

I like to lead with the negatives, and the main concern with him is highlighted above. Guys Cook’s size just don’t hit elite status very often. Ekeler is clearly an outlier, as most other top fantasy RBs are closer to 215 pounds.

As expected with a back Cook’s size, power and tackle-breaking are not strengths for him. I also saw inconsistency with his speed to get to the edge on defense against top competition.

Cook obviously has good speed and is a natural pass catcher. His teammate, Zamir White, who’s also in this RB class, was lightly used because of how good Cook is in this role. When running the ball, he shows good patience and is great at reading blocks and setting up defenders. His burst is fantastic, very similar to his brother.

Comparisons, Draft Capital, and Role

Again, like Rachaad White, I view Cook as at least a third-down back in a timeshare, but with upside to do it all. With his smaller size, I view Cook as less likely to get that role though. As the first tweet I shared shows, his mock draft capital is up into day two in the third round. If he can sneak in there, this would likely catapult him up rookie drafts, especially in the right offense.

It’s hard not to see older brother Dalvin Cook in how James Cook runs. I see a possibility of a Kenyan Drake type of role for Cook, occasionally getting the opportunity to be a lead back, but never truly getting a backfield to himself. His landing spot is going to be important, Cook needs to land in a spot where they employ a committee approach.

Kyren Williams, Notre Dame, 21 years old

Kyren Williams has done himself very few favors so far in the pre-draft process. As a result, the NFL and fantasy football worlds have dropped him precipitously down their boards. Currently RB11 off the board per the top tweet in this article, I think the hate has gone too far.

Williams is only 194 pounds and ran a 4.65 40 (yikes), but he still profiles as a committee back who will be a great passing-down specialist.

Tape Evaluation

Williams’ size will be an impediment to becoming a bell-cow back, let’s get that out of the way. He’s also not the fastest, which moves him down a lot of rookie boards. I saw a lot of runs where the play just gets pushed outside and he just runs lateral to the line and doesn’t turn upfield, which with his athleticism, isn’t ideal. It is coachable though, and what he does well he’s really good at.

Kyren Williams might well be an NFL-caliber pass protector from day one. His tape has him blocking LBs and DEs and holding his own despite his small stature. He also has quality hands and can get out in the slot some as a receiver. I saw some punt returns and he was explosive doing that, which if he falls to day three of the NFL draft will help him dress on game days.

He shows good vision between the tackles despite his size and reads blocks very well. Williams displays good patience waiting for holes to open and is a slippery runner. He’s got a lot of moves, including a quality stiff arm, and shows great agility which he put on display during his pro day.

Comparisons, Draft Capital, and Role

Williams is a near lock with the lack of speed and size to fall to day three, hopefully just into round four. He’s ready to go as the pass-catching back in a committee, hopefully, similar to Kenneth Gainwell last year who fell in the draft but still got on the field. Lots of Dion Lewis comps, from Shane Hallam above to Lance Zierlein.

I like the Lewis comp, but I also am reminded of James White. That’s the exact role (and team) I would place him into. Sit a year behind White and take over in 2022 working with a QB who targeted White 12 times in his two healthy games in 2021. Feels like a perfect match to me.

Conclusion

The RB class has a lot of smaller, shiftier backs in it. The three highlighted above are some of my personal favorites. They’re listed in my current order of preference, though from mock drafts it seems Cook could go ahead of White. As long as he gets a valuable pick, I’ll still prefer White in that scenario.

Landing spot and draft capital (to get opportunities) matter most for rookies, so keep an eye on them all throughout the remainder of the draft process. White, before accounting for draft capital, is in a tier with Isaiah Spiller and Zamir White to me. Cook and Williams fall in with Brian Robinson. Expect some late first buzz for White, while Cook and Williams are likely second and third-round rookie picks.


Thank you for reading my article about Upside Passing-Down RBs! Please remember to follow me for more content via Twitter @FFFBallers  and @IDPGuys as well as check out my IDP Guys author page and the IDP Guys website.

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