He’s one of the breakout stars of the 2022 college football season. But does Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III have a legitimate NFL Draft scouting report? As it turns out, Walker’s skill set should translate very well to the NFL, and he could be one of the first running backs taken in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Kenneth Walker III NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Running Back
- School: Michigan State
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 210 pounds
Kenneth Walker III Scouting Report
Few players have bolstered their NFL Draft stock the way that Walker has in 2021. As of writing this article, Walker has nearly matched his career highs in just three games. He’s reached a new career mark in terms of rushing efficiency, and it seems as though he’s only getting started.
In a running back class that might not have any runaway leaders, Walker’s sudden success bears importance. Could the Michigan State RB unexpectedly become one of the first running backs off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft? Let’s look at his recent Michigan State tape to see if the traits match the production.
Kenneth Walker’s athletic profile
Walker isn’t an overwhelming size threat to the level that Isaiah Spiller is, but he still passes the required threshold for density. Walker is 5’10”, 210 pounds, and has a frame that’s put together well. Within that frame, Walker has a lot of valuable traits, but his athleticism is what stands out both in space and in congestion.
Walker might not be an elite athlete, but he has a few very proficient athletic traits. The Michigan State RB is spry and explosive with his initial cuts in the backfield. He can divert course with suddenness. He gears up quickly after cuts and attacks open space with decisiveness.
Going further, Walker has loose hips, and they enable him to stack cuts and evasive maneuvers. He also has great lateral agility, which he’s shown more than once when evading surging defenders in the backfield. Furthermore, Walker has solid speed in open space. He stretches the boundary and makes use of open lanes once he reaches them.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Walker’s athleticism checks the box, but the Michigan State RB goes above and beyond with his execution. Walker’s most exciting executional trait might be his contact and overall balance and how he uses that balance.
Walker has high-level contact balance and density as a runner. He can shed leg tackles and contort to extend runs through congestion. When Walker is faced with immediate contact, however, he can lower his shoulder into impact and bounce off defenders. He often finishes his runs with physicality and actively seeks to maximize big gains.
Walker’s physicality plays a hand in emboldening his contact balance, but the Michigan State RB has great overall balance as well. He adjusts his rushing angles with ease while keeping speed and inspires confidence with how low he is as a runner. He has a great center of gravity and can lean into direction changes without sacrificing his movement freedom. With this balance, Walker is instinctive with how he combats and negates tackling angles.
Among other things, Walker is decisive and urgent when choosing initial lanes. He also flashes great full-field vision and can manipulate second-level defenders with his elusiveness. Going further, Walker has shown he can employ a stiff arm to negate defenders who encroach on his space. He’s also flashed as a receiver. The Michigan State RB shows glimpses of body control, and he has the lateral agility to make the first defender miss on designed catches.
Areas for improvement
Going down the RB checklist, there isn’t a lot that Walker lacks. Having said this, the Michigan State RB isn’t a perfect prospect. He can improve both as a runner and in other phases of his game.
Starting with his rushing ability, Walker sometimes falls into contact when his first cut doesn’t create space. He’ll sometimes defer to congested lanes when he has avenues to bounce outside. Additionally, Walker sometimes over-complicates his footwork in the backfield and lets defenders close in. He also occasionally works himself into a corner when moving to the outside.
Going further, Walker’s vision — while solid — can be spotty at times. It doesn’t seem to be an issue of what he’s seeing, but rather what he’s doing. He can go on auto-pilot with his cuts at times, but he’s shown he can play controlled and composed, nonetheless.
Physically, Walker’s size — while also solid — is not overwhelming for larger defenders. Furthermore, he doesn’t have surefire breakaway speed. He can extend space but won’t always get away.
Last but not least, Walker needs to improve his pass blocking. He’s not good there, and that will impact how NFL teams view his three-down viability. Walker doesn’t always square up and engage his opponents. He too often drops down when blocking, taking himself out of protection.
Kenneth Walker III’s NFL Draft scouting report overview
Walker will need to keep improving his pass blocking. Although that’s not often viewed as a primary function for running backs, it’s important for runners who wish to see the field on all three downs. Right now, Walker isn’t adequately protecting his quarterback, but there’s time for him to improve.
In the other, more lucrative functions — as a runner and receiver — Walker has shown immense promise. Although he doesn’t have a heavy sample size catching the ball, Walker displayed some coveted traits like body control and escapability after the catch. And as a runner, Walker’s tape speaks for itself.
He is a dense, explosive RB with great burst, vision, instincts, and creation ability. He ties that skill set together with near-elite balance, both against contact and amidst direction changes. It’s early, but Walker already looks like a complete running back. There’s little to suggest he can’t be a starting RB in the NFL.
Kenneth Walker III’s Player Profile
It’s been a winding journey for Walker, but when he’s had opportunities, he’s never had a problem producing. In high school, Walker amassed 493 carries, 3,485 yards, and 41 total touchdowns. He also broke the 1,000-yard mark as a receiver, logging 1,058 yards and 15 touchdowns on 64 catches.
That production helped earn Walker a three-star billing, and he eventually signed with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. He immediately entered the RB rotation at Wake Forest, but he never quite broke out as a starter. In his true freshman season, Walker put up 579 yards and 4 touchdowns on 99 carries. He matched that yardage output a year later and logged 13 scores on 21 more attempts.
Kenneth Walker’s career at Michigan State and NFL Draft ascension
In January, Walker entered the transfer portal. Not long after that, he announced his decision to attend Michigan State and play for head coach Mel Tucker. As it turns out, Walker would earn the starting role with the Spartans, and now, the true junior has already emerged as a budding star.
Walker has dominated through three games. In total, the Michigan State RB has 493 yards and 5 touchdowns on 57 carries. He’s also logged his first career receiving touchdown. Walker is currently averaging a career-best 8.6 yards per carry, almost 3 full yards better than his previous career-high of 5.9.
Walker is producing at a high level, but in an appealing twist for NFL evaluators, he doesn’t have much wear on his tires. The Michigan State RB is still young, but in his most recent starting action, he’s proven himself to be a tier above the usual running back.
When the offseason comes, Walker could have an interesting decision to make. If he keeps up this pace, he has the traits to be an early-round running back. However, the Michigan RB may need to improve in the passing phase if he wants to supersede the other backs on the board. But as of now, he’s trending safely toward the Day 2 range.