There was some end-of-season thinking that the Jets might look at running backs in free agency and the draft. Not because Michael Carter wasn't up to the bellcow role but because, well, much of the NFL now is RB by committee, Carter's a 5-10, 200-pounder, he missed three games of his rookie season due to injury, and so on.
The Jets may still turn to RB but with veteran Tevin Coleman's re-signing and Ty Johnson, Austin Walter and La'Mical Perine under contract (and Zach Wilson's timely scrambling providing a big assist), they have most of the backs who helped guide the Green & White to the second-best yards/carry average (5.42) over the last seven weeks of the regular season.
This year's RB draft at the moment looks a lot like last year — Najee Harris the first back taken at No. 24 by Pitt (and a fine pick that was), four RBs total in the first three rounds, then Carter, that diamond in the day three rough who had the best yards/touch average (5.27) of any back selected in the first four rounds in '21.
Top of the Class
Breece Hall (5-11, 217), Iowa State — "Throwback" is a word heard often about Breece, who led all FBS backs the past two seasons combined in touches (591), scrimmage yards (3,526) and scrimmage TDs (46). Dan Schneier's fantasy analysis on CBSSports.com captures his strengths: "Hall demonstrated next-level athleticism (explosive jumps, elite straight-line speed), the ability to excel as a receiver, excellent vision and contact balance — and he stayed healthy despite a heavy workload at Iowa State."
A concern from analysts: Even though he timed at 4.39 seconds in the Combine 40, he runs with a LeVeon Bell delay-and-go style, which is fine if he's Bell 2.0 but not so good if NFL defensive speed limits his effectiveness
Kenneth Walker (5-9, 211), Michigan State — Similar to how Harris and Travis Etienne (who missed the Jaguars' 2021 season after Lisfranc surgery) went Nos. 24 and 25 overall a year ago, Hall and Walker could come off the board one after the other later this month. Some, such as ESPN analyst Todd McShay, think Walker, who transferred to MSU from Wake Forest last year, is the top back in the draft. He's compact and powerful, finished second in FBS with 1,703 rush yards, won the Walter Camp, Doak Walker and Big Ten Running Back of the Year awards and was named first-team AP All-America.
But the Spartans didn't use him as a receiver out of the backfield (13 catches, 89 yards) so he may need more work than Hall in a third-down role.
Best of the Rest
James Cook (5-11, 199), Georgia — The kid brother of Vikings RB Dalvin Cook, James has some intriguing personal traits to go along with his UGa national championship vibe. Splitting time in the Bulldogs backfield with Zamir White, Cook topped his offense and came in 15th in FBS with 7.2 yards/touch. His combine was good with a 4.42-second 40, a 10'4" broad jump and a 33" vertical. He shifts gears well and averaged 10.4 yards/catch last season but will need offseason strength work on his lower body to become the best NFL player he can be.
Isaiah Spiller (6-0, 217), Texas A&M — Spiller's hat is also in the ring as far as being considered by some outlets as the best back in this draft. But red flags went up at the Combine with an "underwhelming" performance. He didn't run the 40 and didn't finish high among RBs in the vertical and broad jumps. He said he was suffering from a hamstring injury and that he'd run at A&M's pro day, which he did, turning in a 4.63-second 40, matching his 9-6 broad jump and bettering his vertical from 30" to 33". He runs with good elusiveness but one scout said he tended to stay in elusive mode a little too long at times, and he put the ball on the ground in college.
Day 3 Diamond
Tyler Allgeier (5-11, 224), BYU — Dare we say that if the Jets are interested in a Rounds 4-7 back, want someone a little different size than Michael Carter, and think Zach Wilson would like to work with a fellow Cougar again, Allgeier could fit. He played in Wilson's BYU backfields for two years and had two strong rushing seasons in '20 and '21 (1,130 and 1,601 rush yards respectively and national-lead-tying 23 rush TDs last season). NFL.com's Lance Zierlein describes him a talented runner who will need to improve on his explosiveness and pass pro and who "could be tabbed as a solid backup in a move-based rush attack."