1. NY Jets draft target: Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis
Perhaps my personal favorite running back target in this year’s class, Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell is everything you look for in a Mike LaFleur running back and more.
He’s fast, agile, elusive, is an outstanding pass-catcher, and has great vision. If you were to make a Kyle Shanahan-inspired running back from scratch in a factory, it would look a little something like Gainwell.
A one-year starter at Memphis, Gainwell exploded onto the scene as a freshman in 2019 rushing for 1,459 yards and 13 touchdowns on an efficient 6.3 yards per carry. He also added a whopping 51 catches for 610 yards and three touchdowns.
He was Memphis’ do-it-all playmaker finishing with over 2,000 scrimmage yards en route to being named Freshman All-American, first-team All-AAC, and AAC Rookie of the Year.
That would end up being the only season of collegiate ball he’d play, however, after he opted out of the 2020 season citing COVID-19 concerns (four members of his family died from COVID-19-related issues).
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Gainwell has all the tools needed to be an instant star in an outside zone scheme. And he comes with very little mileage with just 235 collegiate carries to his name.
That’s a positive for a running back, not a negative. Just look at former Alabama star Josh Jacobs for proof.
Much like Carter, Gainwell lacks ideal size for the position at 5-foot-8, 201 pounds. He’s a tough runner, but he lacks the power and build to be a consistent between-the-tackles running back.
That wouldn’t be much of a concern with the Jets, however, as the same could be said for players like Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida who found considerable success under Shanahan in San Francisco.
If the Jets are looking for a perfect scheme fit at the running back position on Day 2 of the draft, Kenneth Gainwell is probably their best option.