2022 NFL Combine preview: 10 RBs the Lions should be watching

Pride of Detroit

The 2022 NFL Combine kicks off on March 1st with the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends but you’ll have to wait until Thursday, March 3rd for their on-field drills and testing.

This is the latest in a series of articles that will explore the participants at the Combine that the Pride of Detroit staff believes the Detroit Lions should keep a close eye on during positional activities. Previously, we reviewed the quarterbacks.

Next up: Running backs.

Team need

A quick note on team need at running back. The Lions will likely be returning their entire backfield from 2021 (assuming Godwin Igwebuike is offered an ERFA contract) and on the surface, it appears running back won’t be a high priority. But when you look closer at their situation as a whole, adding a back could make some sense.

D’Andre Swift has dealt with multiple injuries since entering the league, Jamaal Williams is in the final year of his deal, and the other three backs have limited experience: Craig Reynolds has 62 touches, Jermar Jefferson 19, and Igwebuike just 25.

So when you combine general manager Brad Holmes’ exposure to drafting running backs in virtually every draft when you consider his time spent with the Rams, injuries at the position, contract situations, and experience, it’s possible the Lions could add more depth to the position.

What to watch for

Running backs are always fun to watch at the combine because they can really showcase their explosiveness and reaction speed. When evaluating the backs, keep an eye on their balance through the hips, how they get in and out of their breaks, how quickly they accelerate through cuts, ball location on passing drills, and how natural they are at catching the ball.

Now, on to the prospects.

Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State, 5-foot-10, 212

Suggested by Alex and Mike

The best back in this draft class, Walker’s one-cut running style is a perfect fit for the Lions’ offensive scheme if they feel they need to upgrade the RB1 spot. He is an instant impact player and can be asked to carry the load solo or lead a committee. Grabbing him at pick No. 34 seems like an inefficient use of resources given the team’s other needs, but he surely won’t be on the clock at No. 66 when they pick next.

Breece Hall, Iowa State, 6-foot-1, 220

Suggested by John

Another complete back who possesses the necessary skills to contribute on all three downs at the next level. Like Walker, his price range is likely out of the Lions’ reach, but if they are looking for a bruising back that can also hit the home run to lead their rushing attack, he could be very tempting.

Tyler Allgeier, BYU, 5-foot-11, 220

Suggested by Ryan

A power running back (are you sensing a theme here?) who would thrive in a one-cut scheme. There’s a lot to like about the BYU product, and he makes sense as a potential Williams replacement, as long as his pass blocking continues to develop. Allgeier is commonly referred to as the best sleeper in this class, but he generally seems to be regarded as a late third, early fourth-round prospect on most draft boards.

Hassan Haskins, Michigan, 6-foot-0, 220

Suggested by Erik

A power runner who runs the ball like a linebacker, which is the position he started off his career in An Arbor at. He can be a load to tackle, and single-handedly wore down the Ohio State and Penn State defenses as the Wolverines went on to victory. He’s not as elusive as NFL RB1s, but he has flashed some open field wiggle—hurdling defenders on multiple occasions—and is a problem when he gets some momentum. He’d be a terrific complement back in most schemes and should be available on Day 3.

Dameon Pierce, Florida, 5-foot-9, 220

Suggested by Jeremy

The Lions got a long look at Pierce at the Senior Bowl and he checks a lot of boxes the staff looks for at the position. An RB1 or RB2 in a committee, Pierce can play the banger early-down role, but also has above-average pass blocking skills—something that is a must for running back coach Duce Staley.

Brian Robinson Jr, Alabama, 6-foot-1 12, 226

Suggested by Morgan

One of the biggest backs in this class, Robinson runs to and through contact with the power to break tackles early and often in runs. His lack of speed and urgency limits his ceiling but he is another back capable of holding down an RB2 role in a committee.

James Cook, Georgia, 5-foot-11, 190

Suggested by Hamza

Amongst the backs featured on this list, Cook is the only one whose game is not power-based. A one-cut runner that is a weapon in the passing game, Cook would act more as Swift-insurance, as opposed to a complement to the Lions’ current RB1. He was scheduled to be on the Lions-coached roster at the Senior Bowl but opted out of participating.

Quick thoughts

  • Zamir White (Georgia, 5-foot-11, 215) was the thunder to Cook’s lightning in Georgia’s backfield and fits the power mold of many of the backs listed above.
  • Abram Smith (Baylor, 5-foot-11 12, 211) stood out at the Senior Bowl game and is another power runner who leans on his days as a linebacker to dial up his intensity.
  • Pierre Strong (South Dakota State, 5-foot-11 12, 202) is a big-play threat—10 rushes over 50+ yards—who could develop into an RB1 with time. If you’re looking for a sleeper, this could be your guy.

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