The running back position is going to be an interesting one to follow in the 2023 NFL Draft.
On one hand, the 2023 Draft is projected to have a very strong running back class. On the other, the running back position has been devalued in recent years. That means that there could be little incentive for teams — such as the New York Giants — to select a runner highly. It could also mean that there will be great values and hidden gems available later in the draft.
Appalachian State running back Camerun Peoples could be one of those hidden gems on the third day of the draft. He isn’t flashy, but his straight-forward running style was consistently productive for App State. That could make him an attractive option in the later rounds.
Prospect: Camerun Peoples (6)
Games Watched: vs. North Carolina (2022), vs. Texas A&M (2022), vs. Troy (2022), vs. Georgia State (2022)
Red Flags: ACL tear (2019)
Games Played: 37
Yards (YPC): 2,830 (6.2 per carry)
Games Played: 9
Yards (YPC): 593 (5.9 per carry)
Best: Play strength, downhill running, contact balance, competitive toughness
Worst: Agility, long speed, cutting ability
Projection: A rotational or short-yardage back.
Camerun Peoples is a tough-minded and powerful runner from Appalachian State.
Peoples has good size for the position at 6-foot 1 ⅝ inches and 215 pounds, though he looks bigger than that on tape. Peoples is able to play from both beside the quarterback in the Shotgun, as well as behind center in the I or Pistol formations. Peoples is able to run off-tackle, but he is primarily a straight-ahead runner who is at his best when he’s able to square to the line of scrimmage and run downhill as soon as possible.
Peoples runs with great power and is consistently able to push the pile or keep his feet churning to grind out yards after contact. He has solid vision but also shows good fidelity to the structure of the play. Peoples is much more likely to stay committed to his original running lane than trying to bounce the run or find a cut-back lane. He has very good contact balance which, combined with his power and initial burst, allows him to ignore arm tackles and bounce off of shoulder checks. He has enough speed to create chunk runs after breaking tackles or when finding the open field.
That said, nobody will confuse Peoples with a “burner”. He has enough long speed to maintain initial separation, but not out-run many second or third-level defenders. Likewise, he doesn’t have much quickness or agility beyond his initial burst.
Peoples is largely an unknown quantity in the passing game and he only has 11 receptions in 39 career games at Appalachian State. He appears to have some upside as a pass protector thanks to his play strength and willingness to take on contact. However he wasn’t asked to do it often in the tape viewed, which leaves questions regarding his technique and understanding of pass protection schemes.
Overall Grade: 6.8
Camerun Peoples projects as a change of pace, short-yardage, and goal line back at the NFL level.
He has good enough vision to play in both man and zone blocking schemes, however he will be at his best in an offense that emphasizes downhill runs. Likewise, he will probably be best used by offenses that are willing to play him behind center and give him a “runway” behind the line of scrimmage.
Peoples is able to play out of the shotgun and has some scheme diversity, but he lacks high-end acceleration and has just average at best agility as a runner. He makes up for it with great play strength and contact balance, allowing him to weather blows that other runners might avoid. Likewise, he is a very tough-minded runner who seems to almost seek out contact with defenders.
Peoples’ ability in the passing game is unknown at this point, and that will likely hurt his draft stock. He flashes the ability to frame the ball and be a “hands” catcher on check-downs, as well as be a reliable pass protector, but he didn’t do either often enough to list them as strengths of his game.
He might need to be part of a backfield platoon with a more dynamic or well-rounded running back, but Camerun Peoples definitely has a role on a modern NFL team. And while he might not be a true “bell cow” back, Peoples will certainly have value for a team looking to add a power element to their offense or find a runner for short-yardage situations. That could make him a later round pick with a good chance of contributing early in his career.