Best running back fits in 2022 NFL Draft class

Perry: Prototypical Patriots running backs in 2022 NFL Draft class originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Running back is a position Belichick has selected 10 times in his tenure as Patriots coach. Going all the way back to his first, JR Redmond in 2000, to Rhamondre Stevenson in 2021, there are some trends that have emerged.

The most obvious? The Patriots like size. They’ve never drafted a back checking in under 200 pounds. With early-down runners, they typically look for someone in the 215-pound range.

Think Sony Michel (214), Damien Harris (216) and Laurence Maroney (217). But Patriots backs have climbed all the way up to closer to 225 or 230 pounds at times. Think Stevenson (231) and Stevan Ridley (225).

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Even third-down backs have had sturdy builds to help them hold up against the NFL punishment as ball-carriers and pass-protectors. James White checked in at 204 pounds in 2014, while Shane Vereen weighed 210 pounds in 2011. Certain Patriots backs have made their way to Foxboro despite being undersized, like Dion Lewis (193) and JJ Taylor (185), but neither was drafted by Belichick.

Patriots backs — early-down runners or sub backs — have been good athletes but not necessarily burners. Most posted 40-yard dashes quicker than 4.6 seconds, but not much quicker. Michel (4.54), Harris (4.57) and White (4.57) didn’t light up stopwatches. Belichick’s fastest backs — Vereen (4.49), Maroney (4.48) and Redmond (4.48) — hovered around the 4.5 mark as well. Ridley (4.65) and Stevenson (4.64) were outliers to a degree, but it’s pretty apparent long speed isn’t the priority here. Having adequate agility — a short-shuttle in the 4.2 range and about a 7.0-second three-cone — seems to be of greater importance.

According to multiple league sources, the Patriots were truly interested in signing Leonard Fournette this offseason — his visit to Foxboro wasn’t just a fact-finding mission — so this position is one we should pay attention to on draft weekend, even if it isn’t a glaring need. Harris is in the final year of his contract, and the Patriots just recently moved on from Michel in the final year of his rookie deal. Don’t be stunned if there’s an addition here.

Breece Hall, Iowa State, 5-foot-11, 218 pounds

Hall has an argument as the best overall fit in the draft class at this position for the Patriots. The issue is he’s so talented he may end up being a first-round pick. Not only does he have plenty of size to take on early-down duties for New England. He also ran a blazing 4.39-second 40, notched a 40-inch vertical and a 10-6 broad jump. He didn’t do agility testing prior to the draft, but his combination of size and speed — and pass-catching ability since he reeled in 36 receptions last season — is enough to put him firmly on our radar.

Kenneth Walker, Michigan State, 5-foot-9, 211 pounds

Not tall but put together well, Walker has the frame and physical gifts to excel in a variety of ways. He had just one fumble in 275 touches last season, and he averaged a whopping 6.2 yards per carry for the Spartans. His 4.38-second 40 time shows he’s more than athletic enough, but as was the case with Hall he did not do a three-cone drill or a shuttle prior to the draft. Walker also isn’t the most willing pass protector in this draft so while there’s talent there — and while he fits the mold physically — he may be deficient enough in some of the dirtier areas to bump him down Belichick’s board.

Hassan Haskins, Michigan, 6-foot-2, 227 pounds

Haskins wasn’t able to test prior to the draft because of an ankle issue, but he has the clear look of a Patriots-style back. His height and weight jump out in this class immediately, but he appears to have enough athleticism to go with that size that makes him a rarity. He consistently plows through first contact, and his teammates named him the team’s Toughest Player honoree.

He never fumbled in three seasons of extensive work, and he has nearly 300 collegiate special-teams snaps to his name, per The Athletic. If the Patriots are looking for another punisher at the running back spot, someone who’ll contribute in the kicking game early, Haskins could be their guy.

Rachaad White, Arizona State, 6-feet, 215 pounds

White only played four games in a COVID-shortened 2020 season, but he burst onto the scene after playing at lower levels with a 10.0 per-carry average on 42 attempts. That number was nearly cut in half last season but sat at a very impressive 5.5. He may be more of a “sub” back in New England, perhaps he could end up James White’s successor, because of his receiving chops (43 catches in 2021) and his play style. But he has enough bulk to work downhill if the Patriots wanted to try him there. He may not be running over defenders any time soon, but his quickness to sidestep them shows up on tape.

Zamir White, Georgia, 6-feet, 217 pounds

Nicknamed “Zeus,” White is one of the best combinations of speed and power in this year’s class. He clocked a 4.40-second 40 time and herunshard. In almost 400 touches with the Bulldogs in three seasons, he’s fumbled just three times, which the Patriots will also appreciate.

He has very little experience in the passing game so he won’t be spelling White any time soon. But he’s a straight-line runner who screams Patriots. Throw in Belichick’s affinity for Dawgs and White may be the best bet from this group to end up in Foxboro.

James Cook, Georgia, 6-feet, 204 pounds

Cook, meanwhile, was the back who saw more work through the air in Athens (67 catches for 730 yards and six touchdowns in four seasons). Though he ran for 6.4 yards per carry last season — and though workhorse Vikings back Dalvin Cook is his older brother — he may be best suited to take on a passing-back role thanks to an extensive number of routes and alignments he’s shown he’s capable of taking on.

According to Pro Football Focus, he dropped just one pass on 68 catchable targets in his career. If the Patriots are looking for an offensive chests piece who pose a one-on-one threat to just about any linebacker, Cook (4.42-second 40) has plenty of juice and receiving the ability to do just that.

Isaih Pacheco, Rutgers, 5-foot-10, 222 pounds


Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, one of Belichick’s best friends in coaching, once called Pacheco “the toughest running back I’ve ever coached.” That should go a long way in New England, but perhaps just as importantly, Pacheco is a next-level athlete. He tested that way, at least, running a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at this year’s combine.

The Scarlet Knights captain was an honorable mention All-Big 10 player after running for 647 yards and five touchdowns on 167 carries. His size, speed and the program from which he hails makes him an easy fit.

Tyler Goodson, Iowa, 5-foot-9, 202 pounds

Speaking of accomplished backs hailing from programs respected by Belichick… Goodson racked up all kinds of accolades while playing under head coach Kirk Ferentz. He churned up 2,551 yards rushing on a whopping 533 carries over the last three years in the Hawkeyes pro-style scheme. Though diminutive in state, he does crack the 200-pound threshold, and he didn’t miss a game during his time on campus despite his heavy workload. He also has plenty of movement skills to shoulder a real load in Foxboro (4.42-second 40, 4.12-second shuttle, 6.76-second three-cone drill).

His size makes him more of a sub back in the Patriots scheme, but he can handle those duties as well having posted 70 catches in his career, He could use some refinement as a pass-protector, but that’s nothing new for rookie backs in New England.

Tyler Allgeier, BYU, 5-foot-11, 224 pounds

One of the best pass-protectors in this class, Allgeier combines third-down ability (28 catches last year for 199 yards) with the kind of frame the Patriots love. In that sense — because when he runs between the tackles he has a real gritty demeanor reminiscent of other Patriots early-down runners — Allgeier has the potential to be a true all-purpose back.

He’s not a tremendous athlete. His 4.60 40 time is good enough, though, considering his size. It’s his shuttle time (4.36) that may give the Patriots pause. Compare that with Stevenson’s 4.15-second shuttle at 231 pounds last year, and it’s clear Allegeier is lacking in the quickness department. But he brings enough in the way of other attributes to land on this list.

Pierre Strong, South Dakota State, 5-foot-11, 207 pounds

An intriguing blend of athleticism, Strong has the speed to break away from defenders in space (4.37-second 40), the quickness to elude tacklers (6.95-second three-cone drill) and the explosiveness to hit the accelerator and go when the ball hits his hands (38-inch vertical, 10-4 broad). He’s coming from a much lower level of competition, though, and he has ball-security issues that’ll get him benched in Foxboro if they stick with him as a pro (five fumbles in 2021). But as a sub-back option (62 catches in four seasons)? If he can get a few things cleaned up, he looks like an upside play on Day 3.

Master Teague, Ohio State, 6-feet, 221 pounds

Teague is another big back who has the kind of athleticism that the Patriots covet in first and second-down runners. His 4.44-second 40 was impressive at his size, as was his 10-11 broad jump and 6.95-second three-cone time. Though he never starred at Ohio State, he has plenty of traits that could get a team to bite late on a draft weekend because of his potential as a between-the-tackles runner and special-teams options.

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