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Rookie Profile Series: Sleeper Workhorse RBs

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Let’s continue the rookie profile series by diving into three of my favorite sleeper workhorse RBs. These guys all have traits for three down roles. All could be round three or four picks in the draft, here’s what I think about them.


For anyone who hasn’t seen the rest of my series, I wrote about the consensus top three, some bigger backs, and some upside passing down RBs so far. The guys discussed here are all currently being mocked outside the top three rounds. I don’t know if they’ll get enough draft capital to get a shot, but excited to see what happens. Let’s dive into my sleeper workhorse RBs.

Dameon Pierce
Florida Gators running back Dameon Pierce (27) runs upfield. The Gators lead 10-9 over the Central Florida Knights at the half in the Gasparilla Bowl Thursday, December 23, 2021, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner]2021 Oca 122324 Ufvsucfgasbowl

Dameon Pierce, Florida, 22 years old

Dameon Pierce is such a fun player to watch in college. I have no idea what his coaches were thinking, as Pierce never had more than 123 total touches in a season for the Gators. As a senior this past season, despite only 119 touches, he scored 16 times. That’s right, once every 7.5 touches Pierce found the end zone! While never a workhorse in college, he’s my favorite of the sleeper workhorse RBs.

Pierce has the requisite size to be a lead back, coming in at 5’10”, 218 pounds. He ran a 4.59 in Indianapolis, which while not crazy fast, is good enough for an RB at his size. He showed a lot of explosion too, jumping 34.5″ vertically and a 119″ broad jump. While not quite the same 40 time as Rashaad Penny (4.46 vs 4.59), they compare well size-wise, as well as both of their jumps.

Tape Evaluation

The biggest red flag in his film is just the lack of it. Why did a player, who is one of the best pass protectors in the class, and rock-solid as a runner, not see carries? His high in a game for 2021 was just 13 carries in a game. I don’t know about his pass-catching, he saw some usage there and it looked fine, just such limited exposure. Also, he didn’t display much patience as a runner.

What he is good at, however, is pass blocking. One of the best in the class and showed that skill off at the Senior Bowl. I saw good vision despite the lack of patience. Pierce is a strong runner, bouncing off tacklers and falling forward with regularity. He was also motioned out of the backfield and running downfield routes. It was so much fun watching him play.

Comparisons, Draft Capital, and Role

I see Pierce as a strong option for teams looking for a committee backfield. He reminds me of a lesser version of Doug Martin, strong in multiple facets and can be used in the run and pass game. Hopefully, he gets picked in the third or fourth round, and he’ll be a consideration for a round two rookie pick. One landing spot is the Jets to split with Michael Carter, think that would be good for him and the team.

Pierre Strong
South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong, Jr. runs up the field during the FCS semifinals against Delaware on Saturday, May 8, 2021 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. Sdsu Semifinals 007

Pierre Strong Jr., South Dakota State, Age 23

It’s not easy scouting an FCS player like Pierre Strong Jr., as tape is hard to come by. I think he’s going to be worth the watch though, as he’s gained tons of steam throughout the draft process. While Strong is undersized at 5’11” and 205 pounds, his explosion is exciting. He ran a 4.37 40 to lead all RBs, and registered a 36″ vertical jump and a 124″ broad jump. Let’s talk about what he showed in college.

Tape Evaluation

Strong has some fun tape, as he shows off that speed regularly. One thing he didn’t do a ton of was breaking tackles. He likely would do good splitting work but think he could handle the bell-cow role in a pinch. He also doesn’t have a ton of pass blocking film, which might limit his pass game usage early in his career. I also don’t see a ton of quick-twitch shiftiness. I’m still highly excited by his film though.

Like I said above, Strong demonstrates the speed he has regularly. He has great burst through the hole, often exploding through the line and into the second level. He shows good vision, reading blockers on both the front and backside of plays, allowing him to cut back for long gains if the defense doesn’t maintain gap discipline. Finally, he catches the ball well and was even utilized from the slot at times.

Comparisons, Draft Capital, and Role

I think Strong is likely to be a rotational back in a particular scheme, the wide zone. His speed and one-cut ability make me think of Raheem Mostert. Ideally, Miami takes him in the fourth round as a developmental piece to play a limited rookie role, then take over Mostert’s role in 2023. I don’t think he sneaks into round three, so likely he’ll wind up as a sleeper pick, ideally in round three of rookie drafts.

Kevin Harris
South Carolina Gamecocks running back Kevin Harris (20) avoids a tackle from North Carolina Tar Heels defensive back Tony Grimes (20)during the DukeÕs Mayo Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Thursday, December 30, 2021. Jg Mayobowl 123021 046

Kevin Harris, South Carolina, Age 21

This one is far and away the least likely due to opportunity. Pierce and Strong are both likely round four guys, while Kevin Harris is more likely to go undrafted and never get a shot. However, he’s got the requisite size at 5’10”, 220 pounds. While he didn’t run at the combine, he did jump 38.5″ vertically and 126″ broad, both top five at the position. The 40 time at his pro day was fine for his size at 4.62 seconds.

Tape Evaluation

The fact that Harris played in 2021 is impressive following back surgery at the end of 2020. He’s not the most agile back, but his size is a handful to drag down. He displays inconsistent vision, sometimes bouncing the plays outside instead of using his power. I also questioned some of the effort in pass protection, but this should be coached up at the next level. He also isn’t a burner, so don’t expect 80-yard TDs.

What Harris does well, though, is run people over. He delivers the contact to defensive players, and it usually results in him falling forward for additional yardage. He has good burst through the hole and can read and pick the correct hole well at times. Harris also displays strong chops as a pass catcher, catching balls out away from his body too.

Comparisons, Draft Capital, and Role

I think the best-case scenario is a late pick to a run heavy team, maybe in round five or six, unfortunately. He might sit a year behind a couple of guys too, but coaches are going to fall in love with his hard-nosed running style. My favorite landing spot is Seattle, mainly because I think his pro comparison is Chris Carson and I really hope he gets the same opportunity Carson, a former seventh-rounder, did.

Conclusion

This group is all late-round dart throws in fantasy drafts. When throwing darts, look for standout traits and strong team fits. Pierce is considered the best pass blocker. Strong was an FCS guy with, well, strong speed scores. Harris had a strong sophomore year before injury and has fantastic size and power. If they get strong landing spots I’ll be targeting them all as sleeper workhorse RBs in my drafts.


Thank you for reading my article! Please remember to follow me for more content via Twitter @FFFBallers  and @IDPGuys as well as check out my IDP Guys author page and the IDP Guys website.

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