As one NFL season ends, the next is set to begin with the NFL Draft on the horizon. In our latest installment of scouting reports to help guide your fantasy football team, we look at South Dakota State RB Pierre Strong Jr. What are Strong’s strengths and weaknesses, which teams could be potential landing spots for him in the NFL Draft, and what is his fantasy outlook?
Pierre Strong Jr. NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Running Back
- School: South Dakota State
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 5’11 3/8″
- Weight: 202 pounds
- Wingspan: 76 1/4″
- Arm: 32 1/8″
- Hand: 8 3/4″
Pierre Strong Jr.’s fantasy football scouting report
In every draft cycle, there are unknowns. Whether due to a depth chart issue or because they came from a small school, some prospects are difficult to get a read on — and that’s the case with Strong.
Everyone goes about evaluating players differently. For me, tape talks. Yes, I absolutely use analytics and believe they have their place. But I feel what you see on film — as long as you know what you are looking at — is the best measure of a player, rather than what a spreadsheet tells you they are.
This is also where the challenging part of this evaluation comes into play. There is basically no film out there on Strong aside from his FCS semifinal game against Montana State and some sparse highlights. That’s one of the issues with smaller school guys. Games aren’t as readily televised.
Strong’s collegiate production
It’s a shame because Strong was a producer last season. Handling 255 carries, Strong rushed for 1,600 yards with 17 touchdowns; 47 of his carries (18.4%) went for 10 or more yards, and over 850 of his yards came on plays of 15+ yards.
That’s a sign of a legitimate home-run threat. Strong also crossed 100 yards on nine occasions last season, one of which came against FCS powerhouse North Dakota State (156 yards and 2 TDs), who went on to win the title.
Strong also found work in the receiving game, hauling in 21 receptions for 144 yards. While it didn’t count due to a penalty, Strong showcased his hands on a would-be 53-yard touchdown against Minnesota in 2019 when he came out of the backfield and ran a seam right up the hashes and outran the defenders.
In one of the most random stats that I simply love, Strong also had 5 passing touchdowns in his career. As I said, it’s random, but I love it.
Strong participated in the Shrine Bowl
However, the NFL knew Strong was a producer. After amassing three 1,000-yard seasons, nearly 600 receiving yards, and 40 touchdowns in his career, Strong was invited to the Shrine Bowl, which helped put him on the radar of many observers.
It was a great week for the RBs as Strong, Florida State’s Jashaun Corbin, and North Carolina RB Ty Chandler all had solid showings. Strong had the best play of the game among the backs in attendance. In the third quarter, he caught a screen pass and took it 65 yards for a TD against the West team. That’s the evolution in his game coaches and scouts were looking for, as modern-day RBs need to have receiving capabilities.
Strong checks the boxes for a late-round fantasy sleeper in drafts
From the tape I’ve been able to find, Strong checks so many of the boxes. The film is littered with instances of high-level vision, between-the-tackles elusiveness, the ability to shed would-be tacklers, and long speed. I still need to get my hands on the All-22 to see if this consistently happens. Yet, as of now, I’ve seen enough to believe Strong might be one of, if not the best-kept secret in the 2022 running back draft class.
At 202 pounds, Strong is a bit lighter than you would like at RB. There are questions about the talent he played with and against. Being the best player on the field isn’t always the best thing. But what does the NFL think of him?
That’s what matters for fantasy, after all. If Strong is a sixth- or seventh-round pick, it’s going to be difficult for him to carve out a path, and we will have to adjust. Sure, Elijah Mitchell was a sixth-round selection, but he’s the exception, not the rule. However, if Strong goes earlier than that, it’s game on — as long as we like the landing spot. Even if we don’t, I’m still betting on talent more than the landing spot, as we know depth charts change year-to-year based on personnel and coaching.
If I’m in the late third or fourth rounds of fantasy rookie drafts, I will be gobbling up Strong as often as I can. In those rounds, I’m betting on talent. I think Strong has the talent to justify pushing all your chips in during those later rounds.
Potential landing spots for Strong
With the NFL Draft closing in, which teams make the most sense for Strong as projected landing spots? Based on Strong’s scouting report, fantasy managers should keep their eye on these franchises come draft day.
Kansas City Chiefs
Like him or not, the Chiefs’ decision to select Clyde Edwards-Helaire in Round 1 was a mistake. Edwards-Helaire has struggled to stay healthy, and Kansas City does not feel comfortable giving him looks in goal-to-go situations. CEH will undoubtedly be the starter next season, but I wouldn’t say he has a firm hold on the job. Moreover, the Chiefs are not the type of team to use a singular back. This is where Strong fits in.
Darrel Williams and Jerick McKinnon are both set to become free agents, and it seems unlikely that Kansas City will bring both back. In fact, they might lose both. They would desperately need someone to pair with Edwards-Helaire — preferably someone with receiving capabilities and a nose for the end zone. Sound familiar?
The Chiefs are 21st in projected 2022 cap space, so selecting an RB like Strong would be a far more economical way to bolster the depth chart. While we won’t immediately vault him up rankings (as we did with CEH), it’s hard to find a better landing spot than one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.
The Arizona Cardinals are facing an RB decision this free agency. James Conner was on a one-year contract and set to become a free agent, as is Chase Edmonds. Together, they represented 318 of the 361 attempts by Cardinals running backs last season. Eno Benjamin is still around, but he’s far from a running back you want receiving ample touches.
I assume at least one of Conner or Edmonds will return in free agency, but that would leave the No. 2 spot wide open for Strong. Even in games when both backs were healthy, Kliff Kingsbury showed no hesitation to rotate them in and out. If anything, Strong could literally be their next Edmonds as a do-it-all back. Strong will — pardon the pun — get stronger and come in closer to 210 pounds at the start of the season. I can’t help but be intrigued by this landing spot, especially given his versatility.
After multiple years of avoiding the position in the draft, surely Miami will address running back now. If they want to do it on the cheap, give me Strong all day long.
Look at the track record of new Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel and what he did for the 49ers’ rushing game. Since 2017 (when McDaniel joined San Francisco), they were 11th in yards per rush, seventh in TDs, fourth against stacked boxes, sixth in explosive runs, and had the fifth-highest percentage of runs that gained 10+ yards. I’m bullish on McDaniel’s impact on the Dolphins from a fantasy perspective, but they need an RB who fits this scheme.
In order to pull this transformation off, Miami needs to copy what worked in San Francisco — building an offensive line that can create holes in an outside zone-blocking scheme. Additionally, the Dolphins will require an RB who has the speed to hit said hole and possesses the skills to read lanes and hit the cutback if it’s there.
Once again, Strong could work perfectly here. While I don’t believe he is a 4.33 40-yard dash guy like Mitchell, Strong has juice. Where’s a better landing spot than with a coach who has a reputation of constructing a phenomenal rushing game? Sign me up.