There might not be any “blue chip”, superstar running backs in the 2022 NFL Draft, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a good class of runners.
The collegiate ranks are producing quality running backs at an impressive clip. Likewise, the adoption of college offensive principles at the NFL level means that they’re producing a lot and early in their careers. Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks is one of those runners who can do most things an offense can ask and could see success early in his career.
Could Brooks be a low-cost option for the Giants’ backfield?
Prospect: Kennedy Brooks (26)
Games Watched: vs. West Virginia (2019), vs. LSU (2019), vs. Tulane (2021), vs. Texas (2021)
Games Played: 37
Yards (YPC): 3,320 (7.0 per. carry)
Yards (YPC): 209 (7.2 per catch)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 29 (29 rushing, 0 receiving)
Games Played: 13
Yards (YPC): 1,253 (6.3 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 73 (8.1 per catch)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 13 (13 rushing, 0 receiving)
Best: Contact balance, vision, versatility, hands
Worst: Pass protection, short-area quickness
Projection: A high-volume runner in a rotation with scheme diversity
Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks brings a good combination of size, speed, vision, contact balance, and versatility to the position.
Brooks is a good-sized back, listed at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, with a powerful lower body. He primarily played beside the quarterback in the shotgun, though he did take snaps from behind center in certain situations.
Brooks is efficient in the backfield, committing to his reads early and wasting little movement in the backfield. He runs with good tempo, giving his linemen time to establish their blocks before accelerating through the hole. Brooks is also an impressively savvy runner behind the line of scrimmage, using fluid hips to subtly cue defenders to attack the wrong gap before accelerating through his intended running lane.
Brooks typically runs relatively low to the ground, keeping his hips, pads, and overall center of gravity low unless he’s in the open field. That low center of gravity – and a very strong lower body – give Brooks fantastic contact balance. He routinely weathers hits, altering his body angle slightly to turn shoulder checks into glancing blows, and runs through arm tackles. Brooks is a very hard runner to bring down at the second level and has a habit of turning missed (or broken) tackles into chunk plays.
He flashes some upside as a receiving option as well, though this wasn’t widely used in Oklahoma’s offense. Brooks was mainly relegated to being a check-down option for the Sooners and did not run a varied route tree. That said, he appears to be a “hands” catcher, does a good job of presenting a clean target to his quarterback, and secures the ball before turning upfield.
While Brooks is a good athlete and a fluid mover, he appears to lack great short-area quickness and agility. His play visibly slows when he’s forced to string multiple moves together or pick his way through a congested backfield.
Brooks’ greatest weakness is his pass protection. While he doesn’t appear unwilling or uninterested in pass blocking, he did appear unsure of his assignment on several occasions. At times he can be seen just standing around, and he only rarely attacks pass rushers with the same aggression as he shows with the football in his hands. That did appear to improve in his later tape, and it could simply be a coaching issue. If so, it’s a correctable problem and he has the tools needed to be a reliable pass protector with the knowledge and willingness to use them.
Overall Grade: 7.0
Kennedy Brooks projects as a relatively high volume runner in an offense that uses a running back rotation.
Brooks should be able to run in any blocking scheme an NFL team is likely to use. He has enough speed to gain the edge in off-tackle runs, the balance and play strength to run between the tackles, the vision to execute zone schemes, and the discipline in following his blockers to play in man-gap schemes.
He’s an athletic runner who moves with surprising fluidity, but he also probably shouldn’t be described as “shifty”. He isn’t the type of back who can make free rushers miss in a phone booth, but he is able to turn poor tackle attempts into positive yardage and keep the offense on schedule. He also has enough speed to be a big-play threat on any broken tackle.
Teams will likely have concerns about his pass protection, however. Brooks looks like he should be a capable pass protector, but is frustrating when actually kept back to block. Instead, he’s much more useful as a check-down option, provided the offense isn’t counting on a sixth blocker to pick up schemed pressure. Brooks’ pass protection and lack of elite athleticism could knock him down draft boards.
But, if a team can coach up Brooks’ pass blocking to being “reliable”, he could wind up being a value pick, as the rest of his traits suggest a productive runner in a variety of situations.