Introducing the top pure ball-carrier in the 2022 NFL Draft – Kenneth Walker III
Kenneth Walker III – 5’ 9”, 211 – Michigan St, RB, Junior
After 2 lackluster seasons with Wake Forest, Kenneth Walker III exercised the transfer portal option, eventually landing in Lansing with the Spartans. He absolutely burst onto the scene in the 2021 season recording 1,636 rushing yards – 6.2 YPC – and 18 TDs on 263 attempts.
There’s plenty for Walker to iron out in the passing game but make no mistake, he’s the most talented ball carrier in this class.
ESPN has a show called “The Draft” for prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. On the first episode, they talk about how MSU landed RB Kenneth Walker in the transfer portal.
Mel Tucker called him a “10 play guy. If you have to watch more than 10 plays on a player, he’s not for you.” pic.twitter.com/4iiGg069Sm
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) April 7, 2022
What I Like
+ Power Running
+ Footwork/ Agility
+ Skilled Tackle-Breaker
+ Contact Balance
+ Ball Security
+ Natural Hands
+ Scheme Versatility
Kenneth Walker has an ideal compact frame for the position. He displays great lean on contact and consistently runs through defenders between the tackles. He forced 89 missed tackles last season and right around 4.5 yards after contact per attempt.
Most forced missed tackles in a season by a Big Ten RB:
1️⃣ Kenneth Walker (2021) – 89
2️⃣ Jonathan Taylor (2019) – 87pic.twitter.com/QlrtUrACIK
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 11, 2022
The former Spartan eludes defenders in a variety of ways. He utilizes a dead-leg, can spin off contact, break head-on tackles, or make defenders miss in space. His contact balance is elite and his raw power is obvious.
Walker consistently does the dirty work and grinds out first downs in clutch situations. He displays fantastic lateral agility and stellar footwork. His stop/start ability is elite, allowing him to gear up and down while he searches for a hole.
Kenneth Walker's 1,168 yards after contact this season were the most by a P5 RB since 2019 🔥pic.twitter.com/90uaWg0hrS
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 4, 2022
He has the natural athleticism to stretch things out and turn the corner, however, he typically prefers to work vertically. Walker shows good flexibility and can fit through small seams coming out clean on the other side.
Walker gets north/south in a hurry. His long speed on film looks a little above average, not the 4.38 he recorded at the combine but solid.
Durability is a plus with just one real year of tread and zero games missed in three seasons. Walker recorded just one fumble on 260+ touches last season. Walker also hasn’t dropped a pass since his true freshman season.
He defeats contact well but there’s more to the running back position than simply running through defenders.
What I Haven’t Seen Yet
– Contact Avoidance
– Creativity in Space
– Blocking Ability
– Receiving Production
– One-year Wonder
Walker is fairly elusive but really struggles to keep his legs clean. Its difficult for him to take advantage of his clean footwork when there’s constantly defenders draped around his lower-half. He often keeps two hands over the football – which is ideal – but it keeps him from utilizing his hands to push defenders off.
While Walker’s long speed is pretty decent, he’s still not an every-down threat to take it to the house. He doesn’t gear down very often in the open field and absorbs far too much unnecessary contact. He typically chooses the quickest path to the end zone and stays on it.
Some fear Kenneth Walker may be a two-down grinder bc he did not catch many passes. I am more concerned w/ pass pro; essential to stay on the field on 3rd down. He defaults to cut blocking rather than squaring up and often aims too low, allowing defenders to disrupt the pocket pic.twitter.com/765TtrlC4s
— Robert Branden Viera (@VieraNFL) April 8, 2022
Walker may be the best pure ball-carrier in the 2022 NFL Draft class but he’s probably the worst pass blocker of any RB prospect. He can ID a blitz but has shown a serious lack of technique and has some really ugly PB reps. Still, the traits are there for him to potentially improve with solid coaching.
He’s been fairly quiet as a receiver as well, with just 19 career catches. None of his 16 targets last season were beyond 10 yards downfield. His abilities as a receiver are – at best – an unknown.
We like the low tread on Walker’s tires but we are curious as to why he never started a single game for Wake Forest. He’s been outspoken throughout the pre-draft process about not being a ‘fit’ with the Demon Deacons. Still, he’ll have questions to answer during interviews.
Goal #1 for him, though, should be developing his skills in the passing game.
As the top ball carrier in the 2022 NFL Draft class, Walker will be highly sought after. He fits in well with either zone or gap rushing schemes and will absolutely be a day-one starter. He’ll act as the primary ball carrier for whatever offense he lands on but should not be considered an every-down contributor at this time.
If Walker can develop his pass blocking and receiving skills, he has a good shot at becoming one of the top RBs in the NFL. Khalil Herbert had a productive rookie season carrying the football but lacked the receiving skills needed to stay on the field in a 3-down role.
Both are explosive runners capable of handling a heavy workload, and were one-year wonders during their final collegiate seasons. But there’s a good chance that Walker is already the more talented ball carrier. He’s my RB2 but Kenneth Walker has a shot at being the first RB selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
|5′ 10″||210||30 3/8||9 1/2||4.38||DNP||34||122||DNP||DNP|
NFL Comp: Khalil Herbert
Role: Scheme Versatile Primary Ballcarrier