Kenneth Gainwell
Kenneth Gainwell is one of the most intriguing running backs head into the 2021 NFL Draft. Read up on his draft profile here! (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian)

Kenneth Gainwell 2021 NFL Draft Profile

University of Memphis phenom Kenneth Gainwell is among the upper echelon of running backs heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. Outside of Najee Harris who appears head and shoulders better than the group, it’s a wide open race to see who becomes the gem of this class. Could Gainwell be that guy? Let’s check out his 2021 NFL Draft profile.

Gainwell opted out of the 2020 college football season, so we didn’t see a ton of him. That’s a good and bad thing, in my opinion. The fewer touches a running back has heading into the NFL, the better. The more tread on those tires, the better. At the same time, it makes it tougher to scout Gainwell. Especially since a large number of his games are against lesser competition.

It took a while for Gainwell to emerge. Think about all of the running backs the Tigers have produced recently. Darrell Henderson, Patrick Taylor, Tony Pollard, and Antonio Gibson were all on the depth chart while Gainwell was in school. Now that’s impressive.

As the workhorse in 2019, Gainwell proved he was pretty damn good in his own right. On 231 carries, Gainwell rushed for 1,459 yards and 13 scores (6.3 YPC). He was also used a ton in the passing game. Add in 51 receptions for 610 yards and three touchdowns. This was one of the most valuable running backs in the country two years ago.

Gainwell measured in at 5-foot-8, 201, at his pro day. For a quicker change of pace back, you will take those measurements. The Memphis tailback also is a burner. He ran a 4.42 – 40 time which was about as expected. Gainwell has shown in the past he has plenty of wheels.

The thing that makes Gainwell so valuable will be his versatility. I think this is someone you will be able to line up in the slot as a receiver if you want. Boxing Gainwell into a corner would be a mistake. Especially considering he’s not the best between the tackle runner. Even when contact occurs, he’s a bit of a pinball back there rather than making people miss on his own.

Gainwell can break tackles but it’s rarely because of power. Make no mistake about it, Gainwell is quick. Very little wasted movement skills. He forced 56 missed tackles in just 14 games which was one of the best rates in the country. I’m just not sure it’s sustainable. As I said, Gainwell often bounces around and keeps his balance rather than forcing missed tackles.

I have Kenneth Gainwell ranked inside my top five running backs heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. His opt out has caused teams to sort of stop paying attention. I’m not sure he’s an every down back but he should have the skill set to make it as a talented player inside a rotation.

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