Show me a man who likes to draft running backs and you’re probably holding up a photo like this:
The Rams have drafted 11 running backs since Les Snead became the general manager in 2012. From Isaiah Pead in 2012 to Kyren Williams in 2022, perhaps no one person has been more aggressive at the running back position in the last ten years than Snead.
Todd Gurley, 2015
Isaiah Pead, 2012
Cam Akers, 2020
Tre Mason, 2014
Darrell Henderson, 2019
Zac Stacy, 2013
Kyren Williams, 2022
Sam Rogers (FB), 2017
John Kelly, 2018
Daryl Richardson, 2012
Jake Funk, 2021
No herein lies the rub. The only one of those players to rush for 1,000 yards is Todd Gurley. In fact, if you take the top-six rushing campaigns by all 11 of the players, FIVE belong to Gurley. What an odd modern day world we live in where people say that you can get just as good of a running back on day three that you can get in the first two rounds.
In addition to these 11, Snead also traded picks for Sony Michel, got more production out of a cup of coffee from C.J. Anderson than most of these picks, and signed Malcolm Brown as an undrafted free agent.
Running backs matter...to Les Snead.
Every year I want to make sure I’m doing a good enough job at highlighting the impressive work of Turf Show Times community member Ferragamo15. Next time, and every time, that you are on our home page, be sure to scroll down and read the right side of the page for updates of the latest 2023 draft profiles from Ferragamo15. But I will also be highlighting profiles on the front page for as long as he graciously decides to do them.
As a matter of fact, let me highlight some now.
USC RB Travis Dye (Profile Here)
This dude was fun to watch. USC running back, Travis Dye, is a very small RB. He’s essentially exactly the same size as Kyren Williams. Another important thing to know about him is he suffered what appeared to be a serious season ending knee injury about a month ago. It is possible his NFL dreams could crumble before they even get started. I don’t have any info on whether he’ll be able to play at all during the 2023 season. He might have to take a medical redshirt year and sit out until 2024. Due to his injury and his lack of size, my guess is that Dye won’t get drafted at all. At best he might be taken very late in the draft.
Utah RB Tavion Thomas (Profile Here)
Thomas did his best to pull a Terrell Owens impression in college, burning bridges everywhere he went. If we just focused on all the mysterious and vague off field issues he’s had and the times he’s butted heads with his different coaches, there would be no point in me writing a fanpost about him, because no team would even consider drafting him. The thing that keeps him on the radar as a pro prospect (even if just barely on the radar) is he’s actually a fairly talented football player.
ASU RB Xazavian Valladay (Profile Here)
In the midst of all of this turmoil and offensive problems, Valladay had nearly 1,500 yards from scrimmage and averaged 5.54 yards per carry. Along with Zach Charbonnet of UCLA, Valladay was named to PFN’s First team All PAC 12 team. He only made the 2nd team all conference team officially, causing many ASU fans to say he got robbed.
Having such a productive season on such a bad team makes him an interesting prospect to study. Could he be an under the radar sleeper? If he landed on an NFL team with a better OL, a better QB and superior coaching, could he blossom into a good starting RB in the pros?
I don’t think so.
Illinois RB Chase Brown (Profile Here)
University of Illinois has dressed its iconic Alma Mater statue in Chase Brown's No. 2 jersey. Brown leads nation in rushing (1,344) & jersey’s worn on Alma Mater statue (1) pic.twitter.com/wGkoDxMYOl— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) November 10, 2022
Overall, I have Chase Brown as being on the same tier as an NFL prospect as Kyren Williams, who the Rams drafted in the middle of the 5th round last year. Brown is faster and more explosive than Williams, but Williams is a better pass blocker.
Even though both Brown and Williams are smaller than desirable as NFL backs, I don’t think they are redundant. A team could pair them and have Brown play more on early downs and Williams more on passing downs. I think the team would need at least 1 to 2 more RBs to complete the rotation, because you’d need a bigger RB for short yardage and red zone situations then another RB for depth in case one (or more) of the starters got injured.
Tulane RB Tyjae Spears (Profile Here)
Tulane RB, Tyjae Spears is fast, but he’s very small. My NFL comp for him is Javian Hawkins, who I profiled back in 2021. Spears could return to college for another year. If he chooses to enter the draft, he’s probably at best a late round pick or more likely an UDFA. While he does offer some potential as a change of pace scat back, he had a major knee injury in college that could scare off pro teams.
The Rams showed interest in Hawkins prior to the 2021 draft. When I wrote about him, draft experts graded him anywhere from a late 3rd round prospect to about the 6th round. I put a late round grade on him. Sports Illustrated compared him to Tarik Cohen and had him as a 5th round player. Lance Zierlein also had him going in the 5th round.
South Dakota State RB Isaiah Davis (Profile Here)
Draft Grade and Pro Comp
7th round, Keaontay Ingram (6th round 2022 Arizona Cardinals, USC)
Davis is an interesting RB, because he has decent size, but instead of being a straight ahead, battering ram type of RB, he’s a bit slippery and difficult for defenders to square up. Add in his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and possibly return kicks, I think Isaiah Davis at least has a fair shot at making an NFL roster. In terms of overall grade, I’d say Davis is similar to Jake Funk, who the Rams drafted near the end of the 2021 draft. If Davis were to come out, he’d probably be on the fringe of getting picked, probably more likely an UDFA.
Kentucky RB Chris Rodriguez (Profile Here)
Kentucky RB, Chris Rodriguez Jr., could exemplify this “grab a name from the hat” draft phenomenon. I’m not sure what to make of him as a prospect. In both positive and negative ways, his game reminds me of Cam Akers. The primary difference between the 2 is Akers has better long speed, while Rodriguez is slightly bigger. This made it challenging trying to assign a grade to Rodriguez, because if Rodriguez could be just as good as Akers does that mean he should be viewed as a potential starting RB and drafted accordingly, maybe in the 3rd round? Or, if his ceiling is below Akers, does that make him only a backup RB, in which case he should only be a late round pick or perhaps an UDFA? Maybe it doesn’t matter, since NFL teams don’t seem to have a good handle on how to differentiate between 4th rd and UDFA RBs in any case.
ESPN's current overall draft rankings for @UKFootball players— Jesse Riffe (@JesseRiffe) December 26, 2022
13. Will Levis
124. Carrington Valentine
132. Chris Rodriguez
168. Tayvion Robinson
204. DeAndre Square
216. Keidron Smith
301. Jacquez Jones
307. Kenneth Horsey
325. Brenden Bates
Texas RB Roschon Johnson (Profile Here)
Texas running back, Bijan Robinson, is expected to be the first RB drafted in 2023 and could be a top 10 selection in the 1st round (CBSSports has him ranked 12th overall.) Roschon Johnson is “the other Texas RB” who isn’t nearly as talented as Robinson, but he does have several traits that could make for a solid pro career as a backup. My NFL comp for him is another RB from Texas who has been a Ram for many years, Malcolm Brown. Back in 2015, Brown was an UDFA. It was a very deep RB draft class that year, headlined by Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. I liked Brown as a late round prospect, maybe 7th round. He wasn’t a very dynamic runner, but I saw him as a reliable player who very rarely fumbled.
App State RB Camerun Peoples (Profile Here)
My NFL comp for Peoples is Bo Scarbrough, who played at Alabama and was a 7th round pick in 2018 by Dallas. Scarbrough had multiple serious leg injuries prior to reaching the NFL. He bounced around on 6 different pro teams over a period of 4 years.
North Dakota State RB Hunter Luepke (Profile Here)
To start our survey of the RB prospects, I intentionally selected a player who is unlikely to be drafted. Hunter Luepke will probably be listed as a fullback on most draft boards. My NFL comp for him is Zach Line, who played at SMU and was an UDFA for the Vikings in 2013. Like Luepke, Line was a “tweener” stuck between being a RB and a FB. Line eventually became a pretty good NFL FB, but since very few teams these days use a FB, he wasn’t used much. He got the ball sometimes in short yardage situations, with about 2/3 of his NFL career carries resulting in a first down.
I don’t know how much Luepke will be used as a regular FB. He’s not that good as a lead blocker. I like him best as a short yardage RB. What Skowronek does as a WR who sometimes can be used as a FB, I see Luepke as having similar flexibility, but from the RB spot.
Thank you to Ferragamo15 again for your incredible work. I’ll be adding this to TST’s 2023 NFL Draft story stream and anything else like this that comes across us in the future. Which running back could be the day three or undrafted free agent “steal” like Malcolm Brown?