2022 NFL Draft Running Back Stock Watch: Kenneth Walker III, Ronnie Rivers lead their teams to upset wins

Passing is the hallmark of the modern day NFL but several of the league’s most efficient offenses rely on the ground game to set up opportunities through the air. Vision, balance and burst are critical to the success of those units. Throughout the college football season, CBSSports.com will be monitoring running back prospects in an effort to provide exposure long before April’s NFL Draft.

Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State: Stock Up

Michigan State took the lead for the first time in the second quarter on a Walker touchdown reception of seven yards. He had 172 yards on the ground. In three games, he has recorded 493 rushing yards and six touchdowns. More impressively, he is averaging 8.6 yards on 57 carries. If you read my prospect previews during the preseason, Walker’s emergence should not surprise you. The Wake Forest transfer was fantastic in a platoon-type situation last season. He has earned the right to be a feature back in Mel Tucker’s first season. 

Ronnie Rivers, Fresno State: Stock Up

Fresno State narrowly lost to Oregon on the road. Then, they upset UCLA on the road after the Bruins were praised for beating LSU. Hats off to head coach Kalen DeBoer for not only providing his players with exposure against a higher level of competition, but beating them. Those games will be important for NFL talent evaluators attempting to ascertain just how good the Bulldogs’ prospects are. 

Rivers was more effective through the air than on the ground in the first three weeks. The upset win over UCLA was made possible by Rivers. He had 24 touches for 162 yards and two touchdowns. He did fumble the ball once but Fresno State was able to retain possession. The Bruins were the final Power 5 opponent on Fresno State’s schedule this season. 

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Mataeo Durant, Duke: Stock Steady

Northwestern does not look like the team that warmed hearts a year ago, but it was still a good win for Duke. The Blue Devils’ running back amassed 143 yards and two touchdowns on 26 touches. One of those touches was an 11-yard pass from Gunnar Holmberg. Durant looked comfortable in the passing game and showed a natural feel for attacking gaps in the defense. Listed at 6-foot-1, Durant is one of the taller running back prospects eligible for the draft. 

Leddie Brown, West Virginia: Stock Steady

Brown was underwhelming in the Mountaineers’ first two games but he played an integral role in West Virginia’s upset bid of No. 15 Virginia Tech. His 80-yard rushing touchdown was reminiscent of a surfer breaking through the barrel. In other words, the gap was closing quickly but he squeezed through and found nothing but open water. On the day, he recorded 196 yards and one touchdown on 22 touches. He was responsible for a fumble, however. 

D’vonte Price, Florida International: Stock Down 

FIU was actually tied with Texas Tech, 14-14, in the second quarter. Price had five carries for 27 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown, on the team’s second possession of the game. The rest of the game resulted in ten carries for 24 yards (2.4 YPC). The Red Raiders put their foot on the Panthers’ throats and dominated the rest of the game. It is unrealistic to ask that offensive line to consistently beat DeMarvin Leal and crew. As a result, Price was hamstrung.

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