My personal strategy on drafting running backs in devy leagues is to only take guys I believe have a shot at being a three-down back in the NFL. If I think a players best projection is a role player, I won’t own them. I believe every back on this list has the potential to play all three downs. Once these backs have put up multiple seasons I will begin to weigh-in analytical analysis a lot heavier. After year one, I base most of my evaluation off of their film. 

For each player breakdown I have included the below:

  1. Projected Combine height and weight (thanks to @noahmoreparties)
  2. Player breakdown
  3. Devy outlook 
  4. Current composite ranking/grade
  5. Projected NFL draft capital 
  6. Projected NFL role
  7. Play-style example

Below are the three tiers I have this group of ten players currently in. The first tier is the elite group which are widely consensus. The second tier are backs who have the ability to be elite, but we need to see more from them on the field. The third and final tier are backs that most likely won’t be elite, but can still perform at a high-level and have long careers.

There is still a lot of football left for these players college careers, so this list could change pretty quickly. Some players will rise, some will drop, and new backs will probably join the list. As of today, this is currently how I have the 2022 running back class tiered and ranked. Below is each individual player’s breakdown.

Player Breakdown – Breece Hall is a super-smooth and versatile all-round back. What amazed me was how quickly he gets to top speed and can eat up yards. Beautiful ability to change direction without losing speed as well. He can absorb contact extremely well and has really nice lateral agility and cutting ability to move through traffic. Can contribute very well in the passing game and be split out if needed.

I really think he’s got the room to add to his frame as well. Hall should comfortably be able to get to at least 215 pounds easily, but 220 would be better. Run defense in the Big-12 is optional, so I’d be curious as to how he’d fair in say the SEC. Not too many flaws in his game after putting up a superb freshman season. The limit is sky high for how much he desires to develop.

Devy Outlook – Hall’s devy value is pretty high at the moment and rightly so. He will most likely end up as a better pro prospect than [David] Montgomery. A lot of people him have him as their 2022 RB1, so to secure him you’re having to pull the trigger in the second or third round right now. With a full season ahead of him as the lead back at Iowa State in year two, all he needs to show is typical development between year 1 and 2 and that should help him cement himself at the top of this class. 

Devy Watch – RB7
Dynasty League Football – RB5

Draft Capital – High End Day 2
NFL Role – 3 Down Role

Player Breakdown – Isaiah Spiller became a workhorse at Texas A&M after Jashaun Corbin went down in his freshman season. Spiller is an extremely Impressive runner and displayed some of the best mental processing I’ve seen from a freshman. Doesn’t quite have the high-end speed you want, but it’s at an adequate-to-good level and can still be improved. He has a big frame and can be quite physical when he wants to be, but at the same time he can play with really good vision and can create big chunk plays with enough explosiveness.

Spiller has an all-round game with the ability to be a plus in the passing game as well; has all the tools you want in a three-down back. Unsure how much more explosiveness he can add to his game, but putting up what he did as a freshman in the SEC is no small feat. Very similar play style to Joe Mixon, just slightly less explosive.

Devy Outlook – By the time he leaves for the NFL, Spiller will likely have a huge portfolio of work. He should be their lead back for the next two seasons and put up big numbers. This is only going to make his value sky rocket. I can’t see much competition slowing him down either. For now, he’s being drafted as a late top-10 devy RB, but this will only climb. I think he’s a lock to be a top back come dynasty rookie drafts, but adding some more explosiveness and speed would open his ceiling right up. 

Devy Watch – RB8
Dynasty League Football – RB11 

Draft Capital – High End Day 2 
NFL Role – 3 Down Role.

Player BreakdownZach Charbonnet has NFL-ready size to pair with really nice speed and explosiveness. He has an extremely developed frame which translates to his play-style; runs a bit stiffer than you want and it doesn’t look as natural as some other runners. He’s able to make small cuts without losing too much speed, but struggles to maintain speed when bigger changes of direction are needed. His running style is best suited when initial lanes are there and he’s able to go down hill like a battering ram.

He’s not a very good route runner and would need to be used like Derrick Henry in passing game with screens and slow developing plays. Naturally very strong in pass protection as you’d expect. Not a fan of how they use him with Hasaan Haskins. I would really love to see him featured, but I’m not confident that will happen at Michigan. Right now he’s a really raw, big, explosive back who is relying on pure athleticism. Once the game slows down for him and he becomes more efficient in his running he should be a really good prospect.

Devy OutlookRight now he’s better potential than prospect. His development for the NFL will really be held back by how Michigan utilize their players. Michigan was not a good landing spot for him in my eyes. He has some of the highest physical upside of the class, but his pro prospects will come down to how they continue to develop his overall game. He’ll likely still end up as a good prospect, but how much of his potential will he fulfill before he gets drafted, I’m unsure. 

Devy Watch – RB14
Dynasty League Football – RB8

Draft Capital – Mid-High End Day 2
NFL Role – 3 Down Role (2 Down Floor) 

Player Breakdown – Eric Gray from Tennessee is a solid, compact runner with explosive cutting, lateral agility and top-end speed. He has the ability to change direction, burst out of his cuts, and has what you’d consider long-speed. In my eyes, he is a home run-hitter with the ability to contribute in both the running and passing game. At times it feels like he can give him self up too easily in contact, but on the whole he showed above average contact balance. He should be able to improve this area of his game, much like his explosiveness, as he develops his body over the next two years.

A bit concerned at the drop-off in performance during the middle of the season. He played really well in the first two games of the season, then didn’t do much at all until the last two games of the season. You could see they started to really trust him with the load by their final game which is a good sign leading into next year. Explosive back with an NFL tool kit and three-down potential.

Devy Outlook – Gray is a back I’m higher on than most. Coming in after the top-3 backs above and the first in tier two, his ranking is based off a smaller body of work. I think Gray’s upside is higher than both Spiller and Hall, but I need to see that workload over a longer period to really move him up. He will eventually become Tennessee’s lead back, but he has another year of dealing with Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan before he completely takes over. The good thing about Gray right now is you can get him far cheaper than the guys above him. 

Devy Watch – RB24
Dynasty League Football – RB28

Draft Capital – Mid-High Day End 2 
NFL Role – 3 Down Back

Player Breakdown – Trey Sanders lost his freshman year to injury, but in the Alabama backfield, patience is already a much needed virtue. Sanders had an ideal frame coming in to college and his time will come to really show what he can do. From his high school film, he displays really high-level potential. He has great burst and acceleration and although I wouldn’t say he’s a “burner”, he has good long-speed. Super-versatile skill-set and is very comfortable in the passing game. Really good vision, makes good decisions navigating traffic and uses his body well to avoid unnecessary contact. Has the ability to make people miss with good lateral agility, but I want to see him run down hill a bit more which he’ll have to do in college. His ranking in the top-5 benefits from the unknown. 

Devy Outlook – Sanders has the potential to take over Brian Robinson Jr.’s role as the number two in the Alabama backfield behind Najee Harris. If he can do that and perform well in that role, you’re looking at a massive opportunity and huge spike in value going into his junior year. A lot of talent at the position on this team, but he has the goods. I’d say his price is just right in devy right now; his value hasn’t necessarily dropped, other players have just moved ahead of him with big seasons.

Devy Watch – RB24
Dynasty League Football – RB28

Draft Capital – Mid-High End Day 2
NFL Role – 3 Down Back

Player Breakdown – Tyrion Davis-Price is a big, explosive back for the Tigers and a really nice one-cut, downhill runner. Has really good speed for a guy his size. When he makes a cut and is running down, he is a freight train. Absolutely welcomes contact. If he continues to work on his agility and can add more explosive at the same size, I think he has potential to become pretty special and join the top group. Extremely good goal line back and was surprised how he held is own in the passing game. Right now, he’s a better pro prospect than [John] Emery due to how it all unfolded last season. Would love to see him featured and absolutely fed, but unfortunately he has to deal with a fairly loaded backfield.

Devy Outlook – Super-unique blend of size and speed. Anytime you have that combo, the potential is exciting. He is another player I’m a bit higher on than consensus. Right now, his value is super-low coming at the end of devy drafts while people still flock to his teammate(s).

Devy Watch – RB23
Dynasty League Football – RB48

Draft Capital – Mid Day 2. 
 NFL Role – 3 Down Role Potential, 2 Down Role Floor. 

Player Breakdown – John Emery Jr. is a weird evaluation. He was a highly-touted five-star back, but barely did anything his freshman year for the national champion LSU offense. In the time he did have on the field, he showed great lateral agility, speed, and physicality. He displays lethal cutting ability and great acceleration out of his moves. Strong through contact and looked natural contributing in the passing game. Solid all-around back, but you’ve got to wonder what was happening last season. At times, he was RB3/RB4 last year, which isn’t good for a back that had his hype. I’d be really uncomfortable drafting him high in devy leagues; I feel like there is more going on behind the scenes and the spring reports indicated he was still somewhat buried on the depth chart.

Devy Outlook – Emery has the potential, no one is doubting that. The way his first year unfolded and how things were looking in spring, I’m personally skeptical it comes together. I think there is more going on that we’re not being told. The potential is there, but buyer beware. 

Devy Watch – RB14
Dynasty League Football – RB15

Draft Capital – Mid Day 2 Potential 
NFL Role – 3 Down Back / Back Up

Player Breakdown – George Holani is one of the purest inside runners in the 2022 group and had arguably the most impressive freshman season of the entire class. After this running back class’s first season, I would say he is the most refined runner of the 2022 group. He has great burst through the first two levels with great footwork and really good vision.

A very hard-nosed runner with great contact balance, his compact frame allows him to bounce off defenders. Looks like a bit of a gym-rat and my only concern is his frame looks a little maxed out already. He is probably destined for a specific role in the NFL, but I’m not ruling out three-down potential from what he put on tape. Holani is a candidate for three, 1000-yard seasons over his college career.

Devy Outlook – Holani’s value is pretty fair at the moment. Late-round guy, but should have a really big college career. This will naturally get coverage and increase his value. His development from year one to year two will be interesting and give us a better insight into what his NFL value will be. I think he is the type of player that can be a three-down back if a team falls in love with him, but I need to see a bit more in the next two seasons to believe it with conviction. 

Devy Watch – RB25
Dynasty League Football – RB57

Draft Capital – Mid-Low End Day 2 Potential 
NFL Role – 3 Down Potential, likely Committee/Role Back.

Player Breakdown – Kenneth Walker is an extremely patient runner and has the best lateral agility in the class. He displays ability to shed and break tackles and can leave defenders in the dust when he cuts. PFF has him as averaging the fifth-most broken tackles per rush in FBS. He doesn’t have the top-end speed, but has enough to pair with his elusiveness to get chunk plays. Only 3 receptions in the passing game, which is not a good look, but he should have the opportunity to improve this area in year two.

His play style is very similar to David Montgomery and Devin Singletary, so the upside is there, it’s just not super-elite. A bigger frame will only help him shake off more defenders, but this biggest area of his game that will improve his value is his speed. How he handles a big load in year two will really show what his all-around game is. 

Devy Outlook – Walker is about to have an opportunity not all college backs get. Cade Carney and his 158 carries are gone, so has a massive chance to secure lead back duties and a dominant portion of the run game. He’s currently going quite late in devy drafts, if at all. The upside as well as the opportunity are there, and Walker could be a big riser after the upcoming season.

Devy Watch – RB26
Dynasty League Football – Unranked

Draft CapitalMid-Low Day 2 Potential 
NFL Role – Lead Back in Committee

Player Breakdown – Re’Mahn Davis is one of my favorite backs in the 2022 class and I wanted to be higher on him. He already has a NFL frame and comes in the mold of Zach Moss, Michael Warren, etc. Slightly thicker, but has a ton of wiggle. Probably some of the best feet and hips of the whole class, especially for his size. Really nice vision and extremely efficient through traffic. I was really impressed with what he did in the passing game.

Only thing he really lacks is the top-end speed which likely hurts his prospects. There are certain plays where he looks like he has it, and he did manage to pop a few long touchdowns, but it’s not always there. If he displayed the speed more frequently, I’d be higher on him. Davis is a guy I will happily move him up if he can improve the this area of his game. 

Devy Outlook – Davis is going very late in drafts if at all. He should become pretty well known by the time he is draft eligible. This “style” of back can be very successful in the NFL, but they fall into a group where lack of lack of high-end speed can be fatal. I’d say his 40 would be around 4.65, which isn’t great, but any worse and the odds stack up against him. He is free in devy drafts, but will most likely become a sleeper as he gets closer to the NFL Draft. 

Devy Watch – RB27
Dynasty League Football – Unranked

Draft Capital – Low End Day 2/High end Day 3 Potential
NFL Role – 3 Down Back Upside. 

For more devy, dynasty and running back related content follow me on twitter @jamescheeeyne

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