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Rookie Running Back Impacts: NFL Draft Reaction Pt. 2

Every year we see a handful of incoming RB rookies finish as RB2 or better in fantasy football. While the best rookies are usually the ones drafted on or before Day 2 (Najee Harris, Jonathan Taylor), there are also recent examples of Day 3 picks and UDFA RBs who have had great rookie seasons (Elijah Mitchell , James Robinson).

In this article, I will cover RBs that were drafted in Round 4 of the 2022 NFL Draft.

To read my article on each of the Day 2 picks (Breece Hall, Kenneth Walker, James Cook, etc.), you can check it out here.

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Houston Texans: Dameon Pierce (pick No. 107)

Dameon Pierce landed in the perfect spot, a wide open backfield in Houston. Heading into the 2022 season, the Texans re-signed 32-year-old Rex Burkhead and career backup Royce Freeman to one-year contracts. The Texans also signed Marlon Mack, who is two years away from a torn Achilles, to a one-year contract. Now the team has spent an early fourth-round pick on Florida RB Dameon Pierce. Pierce’s talent could have seen him drafted on Day 2, but he only had to wait for the second pick on Day 3 to hear his name called.

In Florida, Pierce was used sparingly, winning just 106 and 100 runs in his final two seasons. He also won 17 and 19 receptions in each of those seasons. Although Pierce never saw a huge workload, it kept him healthy, missing just one game in four seasons with an apparent head injury. Nonetheless, Dameon Pierce was terrific every time he was on the court, scoring 5.5 YPC throughout his college career. Additionally, in his senior season, Pierce scored a touchdown on an absurd 13% of his runs (Breece Hall 8%, Rachaad White 8%, Kenneth Walker 7%). He also made this highlight game:

Dameon Pierce is an explosive running back with no tread on his tires and a nose for the end zone who is now joining a backfield with many questions. While I still expect Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead to part ways as starting reps to start the season, Pierce has an immediate opportunity to land the starting role in Houston. Once he inevitably impresses the coaching staff with a big play that their other RBs are unable to do due to their injury history and age, it becomes Pierce’s job to lose. Royce Freeman will remain an injury-barring substitute for the rest of the squad.

Las Vegas Raiders: Zamir White (pick #122)

Zamir White (6-0, 215 lbs.) was a solid punching prospect from Georgia. However, it landed in a spot that doesn’t seem optimal for immediate fantasy success. This is a new offensive program in Las Vegas that is led by Josh McDaniels, a coach who historically likes to rotate between different RBs for their specific roles on offense and keep them fresh. Looking at the Raiders’ decisions this offseason, it’s clear McDaniels wants to continue that trend in his first year as the team’s head coach.

First, the Raiders turned down Josh Jacobs’ fifth-year option, meaning he’ll likely sign elsewhere after this season. This is great news for White’s success going forward, but Jacobs will continue to be the workhorse for 2022. Then the team signed Brandon Bolden, the pass-catching specialist who played in New England with McDaniels, on a two-year contract. This contract is worth about half that of Kenyan Drake, who will also become a free agent after this season alongside Jacobs. These offseason moves tell me the Raiders will primarily use Jacobs and Drake this season, as the team has no future ties to the two. Whenever they need a break, White will replace Jacobs and Bolden will replace Drake, but none of the group members will be outstanding fantasy value unless the rest of the group is injured.

It should be noted that Jacobs played between 13 and 15 games each season throughout his NFL career, and it’s a safe bet that he will miss a few games again in 2022. During these weeks that Jacobs might miss, White will likely play a significant role, winning ~15 carries/game. If you remember last season, Jacobs missed time through injury and Peyton Barber was able to put up a 23-111-1 stat alongside Kenyan Drake.

Los Angeles Chargers: Isaiah Spiller (pick #123)

Isaiah Spiller enters the NFL as the youngest RB this season, as he will only be 21 at the start of the season. Spiller was expected to be one of the top three RBs drafted in this class by many, but ended up falling to an already potent offense in the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth round. After performing poorly at the combine, Spiller’s draft stock plummeted. Nonetheless, the talent everyone saw pre-combined still exists, and Spiller could play an immediate role in that offense.

The Chargers don’t want to give Austin Ekeler (who weighs just 200 pounds) the league’s second-most red zone. Hence, why they drafted a 6-1, 215-pound RB to Isaiah Spiller to handle short-range duties in this offense. Spiller is a more than capable receiver, handling more than 20 receptions and about 200 receiving yards each season at Texas A&M, but the team will continue to let Ekeler handle that job.

Meanwhile, the Chargers have tried to use Joshua Kelley (36 carries) and Larry Rountree (33 carries) to handle short-range situations, and they’re nowhere near as talented as Isaiah Spiller, despite his low capital of draw. Spiller will have no problem beating these two RBs in training camp, regulating each of them for backup duties. I still expect Ekeler to see a majority of red zone opportunities between the 5-20 yard lines this season, but we’ll likely see Spiller on the pitch once they’re inside the 5 If he can win 6-10 runs/game and score a few goal-line touchdowns, Isaiah Spiller could be great value in the 2022 Fantasy Football Draft.

Pierre Strong (5-11, 205 lbs.) was an interesting prospect with conflicting prospect ratings, but nonetheless landed on a New England Patriots team that historically used a multitude of different running backs on their offenses.

Firstly, this choice shouldn’t affect James White too much. If he can regain full health, White will likely continue to command his pass-catching work. Next up, the Patriots’ current backup, RB Rhamondre Stevenson, has a similar “punching” skill set to their starter, Damien Harris. Meanwhile, Pierre Strong is considered more of a threat in space and could be used for completely different purposes than Harris and Stevenson’s combination. This gives strong standalone value, without needing an injury in the backfield. It also means that Rhamondre Stevenson will likely keep his backup role from last season, as Strong will be used separately. Either way, you always have to be hesitant with running backs in New England because there will always be some kind of division between the whole group.

While I expect Pierre Strong to play an immediate role in offense as a rookie, I don’t think it’s more than 5-6 runs/game, and his upside is capped unless all other RBs in the attack are injured. This team doesn’t typically like to feed an RB, as Harris only saw 20-plus runs twice last season, and he wouldn’t be the running back you would assign workaholic duties to.

Tennessee Titans: Hassan Haskins (pick #131)

Hassan Haskins is a raw guard (6-1, 220lbs) from Michigan and, in my opinion, he was drafted in the perfect spot, as a replacement for Derrick Henry in Tennessee. There’s no chance of Haskins beating Henry for the starting role anytime soon, but he’ll serve as an immediate replacement should Henry get injured again. As Henry enters his 28-year-old season and has just suffered his first serious career injury, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to miss a few games again in 2022.

Hassan Haskins, who just finished a senior season with a 270-1300-20 line, will have no problem beating Dontrell Hilliard for the backup role at Tennessee, and could have great late-round hiding value. in this heavy attack with little competition behind Derrick Henry.

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