3 SEC running backs the Denver Broncos should consider in the 2022 NFL Draft

Georgia Bulldogs running back James Cook (4) runs the ball against the Michigan Wolverines during the first quarter in the Orange Bowl college football CFP national semifinal game at Hard Rock Stadium.
Dec 31, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back James Cook (4) runs the ball against the Michigan Wolverines during the first quarter in the Orange Bowl college football CFP national semifinal game at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos are likely to target a running back in this year’s NFL Draft, with Melvin Gordon on the way out and Javonte Williams a potentially awkward fit in Nathaniel Hackett’s offense.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at three supremely talented running backs from down south that the Broncos should consider looking at in this year’s NFL Draft.

Zamir White, Georgia

Georgia Bulldogs running back Zamir White (3) against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Jan 10, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Zamir White (3) against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Zamir White was once the top recruited running back in this class, a unanimous five-star talent, and a top-10 player in his recruiting class, and now, will likely be the running back drafted the latest of the three we will discuss.

So, what happened? White suffered two ACL tears, with one on each knee, during his time at Georgia. This, of course, limited his playing time, as he was unable to get on the field, but it continued to hamstring his playing time even after he returned. As a result of the injuries, the Bulldogs became concerned White couldn’t handle a full workload — a concern that will continue to nag him as he transition to the next level — and White had to split reps the rest of his collegiate career.

As we’ll soon see, that wasn’t bad news for the Bulldogs, but it was bad news for White.

Although he missed out on many opportunities to showcase his talents, it’s still very clear that he’s a supremely talented back, worthy of a late mid-round pick.

Despite his ACL tears, White is still a very explosive runner and he carries the ball with excellent physicality as well. He’s able to plant his foot and cut upfield in a hurry, quickly penetrating the secondary and tertiary levels of the opposing defenses.

Smaller defenders and those attempting to haul White down with more technique will routinely bounce off. White’s stocky frame also helps his contact balance.

Pair those abilities as a runner with his solid vision and patient running style and it’s easy to see him being a good fit for the Denver Broncos.

That said, his injury history, lingering durability concerns, and extremely limited receiving ability make him the least appealing of this article’s options.

James Cook, Georgia

Georgia Bulldogs running back James Cook (4) runs the ball against Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry (1) during the third quarter of the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Jan 10, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back James Cook (4) runs the ball against Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry (1) during the third quarter of the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A very large part of the reason White had to split reps upon returning from injury was the presence of Georgia’s running back — James Cook, the younger brother of the Minnesota Vikings star back, Dalvin.

Of course, Paton was a part of the front office that selected the elder Cook brother, but James Cook has plenty of merit on his own to be a high draft choice.

Cook is the superior of the two highly-touted Bulldog backs in this year’s draft and offers a lot of the same benefits as White.

Cook has excellent vision and a good feel for the flow of the defense. He not only scans for the hole, but for the movement of the second- and third-level defenders as well, helping him set up bigger gains.

He’s able to plant his foot and explode upfield through a crease in a hurry, making him a deadly back, even if he lacks the top-end speed to be a reliable home-run hitter from the backfield.

Cook shows a surprisingly strong amount of contact balance, as he’ll ricochet off defenders and carry his momentum upfield.

But, he also can do things White can’t, has a cleaner injury, and never fumbled during his college career, making him the more appealing pick.

Cook is a slippery back that is able to slide through tight creases with ease. His compact running style makes him a tiny target for defenders to connect with, and he’s also able to string together an impressive combination of jukes, cuts and spins, without ever really breaking stride or slowing his tempo.

He’s also able to impact the passing game in a major way. He’s a very gifted receiver who has natural hands and a highly appealing route-running prowess. His pass protection is also solid, though his lighter frame struggles to anchor against more powerful rushers.

Tyler Badie, Missouri

National running back Tyler Badie of Missouri (25) runs the ball during National practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL, USA.
Feb 2, 2022; Mobile, AL, USA; National running back Tyler Badie of Missouri (25) runs the ball during National practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL, USA.
Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Cook is a fairly similar talent to Tyler Badie, and the Denver Broncos would be very lucky to have either.

Badie’s another patient, decisive running back with the excellent vision that would make him an ideal fit in Hackett’s offense, but his appeal to the Broncos should go well beyond those broad strokes.

With his rare ability to score at practically anytime from anywhere on the field, Badie is a deadly and dangerous runner for opposing defenses to face. While at Missouri, nearly one out of every five carries for Badie went for more than 10 yards.

That’s thanks in large part to his remarkable twitch as a runner and ability to make opponents miss.

On top of that, Badie’s short, thick, dense frame provides him with the ability to run with power and impressive contact balance. His burst and thick frame combine to make him a headache to tackle, even when one does get their mitts on him.

He also has good promise in the passing game, as he’s dynamic as a receiver in space and a pretty effective pass protector too. His usage as a receiver at Missouri was fairly limited, so his route-running skills won’t wow, but he’s proven he can be productive both working out of the backfield and out wide.

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