Any opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.
In just a few days, college football's top prospects will be at Lucas Oil Stadium for the 2022 Scouting Combine.
The event, which was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be one of the best opportunities for players to get noticed by scouts and improve their stock, and with more than 300 athletes getting ready to converge on Indianapolis, it's time to get more acquainted with them.
Over the next week, Commanders.com will take a dive into each position to see what they have to offer. First up are the running backs.
The top prospect: Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
Regardless of where you go for draft evaluations, whether it's The Draft Network, Sports Illustrated or Pro Football Focus, they are in general agreement that Kenneth Walker III is the best the position has to offer. After putting up relatively modest numbers in two seasons at Wake Forest, he transferred to Michigan State and had a breakout year with 1,636 yards -- second-best in the NCAA -- on 263 carries.
Those numbers were part of what led to him receiving the Doak Walker Award for being the best running back in college football, but that's only part of what makes Walker so impressive. He tacked on 18 touchdowns, tied for eighth in college football, and had 89 missed tackles, 20 of which came against Miami. He also finished his career for the Spartans with Top 5 single-season ranks in yards, points and total touchdowns.
Despite his accomplishments, Walker still ranks outside of the first round according to many media outlets. A strong showing next week could change that, though.
Looking to improve their stock: Kyren Williams, Notre Dame
Kyren Williams might not have as many rushing yards as Walker or the size of Iowa State's Breece Hall -- another one of the top prospects available this year -- but that doesn't mean he's short on talent. Take a look at his final eight games with the Fighting Irish, and it's clear how much he can flash in an offense. He scored at least one touchdown in every game during that span, and he had back-to-back games of 100-plus yards against USC and North Carolina, both of which were wins.
"Williams has been a worker bee with a willingness to do the heavy lifting on all three downs and has premium third-down talent both in blitz pickup and as a route-runner out of the backfield," NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote in his draft profile of Williams.
Williams was a Doak Award candidate in 2021, but there are some areas that Zierlein believes he could improve upon, namely his acceleration and elusiveness after the catch. He should be able to put those skills on display in Indianapolis.
Most intriguing: James Cook, Georgia
There were moments in 2021 when James Cook flashed some of the same abilities as his brother, Dalvin Cook. He's got quickness, burst and the patience to wait for his blocks to develop. Plus, he developed a similar versatile reputation that Dalvin has established with the Minnesota Vikings, as he had 730 receiving yards and six touchdowns with the Bulldogs.
Cook has the potential to make splashy plays -- he had two touches result in gains of 53 and 67 yards in the College Football Playoffs -- but he needs to expand his skillset to get more carries at the next level. If he can show that over the next two months, starting with the Combine, he may convince a team to take a chance on him.
Full list of prospects
- Tyler Allgeier, BYU
- Tyler Badie, Missouri
- Greg Bell, San Diego State
- Max Borghi, Washington State
- Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma
- Leddie Brown, West Virginia
- Ty Chandler, North Carolina
- Snoop Conner, Mississippi
- James Cook, Georgia
- Jashaun Corbin, Florida State
- Ty Davis-Price, LSU
- Jerrion Ealy, Mississippi
- Trestan Ebner, Baylor
- Jerome Ford, Cincinnati
- Tyler Goodson, Iowa
- Breece Hall, Iowa State
- Kevin Harris, South Carolina
- Hassan Haskins, Michigan
- Keaontay Ingram, USC
- Bam Knight, N.C. State
- Sincere McCormick, UTSA
- Isiah Pacheco, Rutgers
- Dameon Pierce, Florida
- D'vonte Price, Florida International
- Ronnie Rivers, Fresno State
- Brian Robinson, Alabama
- Abram Smith, Baylor
- Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M
- Pierre Strong, South Dakota State
- CJ Verdell, Oregon
- Kenny Walker III, Michigan State
- Jaylen Warren, Oklahoma State
- Rachaad White, Arizona State
- Quan White, South Carolina
- Zamir White, Georgia
- Kyren Williams, Notre Dame