DRAFT PROFILE: Kenneth Gainwell, Running Back, Memphis
Measurables: 5’11” 191 LBs
Kenneth Gainwell is a 21 year old running back for the Memphis Tigers. Hailing from Yazoo City, Mississippi, Gainwell played his formative years at Yazoo County High School where he was a three-year starting quarterback for the Panthers. Gainwell had two seasons where he passed and rushed for over 1,000 yards and finished his career 108 touchdowns, including one kickoff return for a touchdown. As a Senior, Gainwell was awarded the title of Class 3A Mr. Football as he led his Panthers to a 14-1 record and an appearance in the Class 3A state championship game! Gainwell committed to Memphis during his senior season with the expectation that a move to running back would in his future. After redshirting his freshman season, Gainwell came in and was named the Tigers’ starting running back following the departure of teammate Tony Pollard. On his lone season as a starter, Gainwell rushed for 1,459 yards with 13 touchdowns, and added 51 receptions, 610 yards and three receiving touchdowns as well. Gainwell was named the All American Conference Freshman of the Year and first team All-AAC honors, while being selected as the National Freshman of the Year by the Football Writers Association of America. Gainwell is a little undersized for the position but has the positional versatility to make up for it. Not only has he aligned as a running back and slot receiver, Gainwell also took snaps a wildcat quarterback on read option and direct-snap run plays as well. Gainwell instantly becomes a dynamic play maker after the ball is in his hands with quick footwork, some shifty jukes and his taylor made spin move that he utilizes so often. Gainwell showcases good vision when a hole opens up, but also good patience behind the line of scrimmage while waiting for his blocks to set up. Gainwell’s pass catching ability was on full display in the 2019 season as he finished as the third leading receiver on the Tigers offense. Not only speed, elusiveness and pass catching, Gainwell shows a surprising amount of strength in the run game as he is given the momentum to build and drop his hips to his base to create a wrecking ball coming at defensive secondarys. With only one year of time at running back, Gainwell could see a little bit of a transition period in his early NFL career, but the quicker an offense can get Gainwell involved in the offense, the more comfortable he will become at the position. He does have a long/lean build so adding a few pounds of functional weight may need to occur for Gainwell to take on a featured role in an offense, but if he can find himself landing in a spread or wide zone offense after the draft, he should have a quick transition to a featured role in an offense.
- Positional Versatility
- 0 Fumbles
- NFL Level Offensive scheme in College
- Level of Competition
- Sample Size of Experience
- Long Speed
Le’Veon Bell. Much like Bell, Gainwell is extremely quick through the hole when his linemen create a lane for him but has the vision and patience to sit behind the line of scrimmage without panic and allow his blocks to set up for him on trap or pull plays. Additionally, the exceptional pass catching may be better than Le’Veon ever had. Bell did a lot of damage on screen and swing plays, while Gainwell can actually line up wide and still do damage. The burst, patience and vision are all there but there are concerns over his long speed to outrun tacklers, as he was caught from behind on several occasions on a long run.
Round 4. Given everything that Gainwell does well, he’s still a very raw running back prospect that possesses some natural gift of vision and athleticism that allow him to compete and succeed at such a high level. However, inexperience as a running back at an elite level may shoot his draft stock down boards of front offices. Whoever takes Gainwell may be getting late first, early second round talent at a premium.
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