There is no doubt that the 2021 NFL Draft running back class has a lot of talent. Despite possessing NFL quality traits, Texas RB Keaontay Ingram isn’t receiving the level of national attention afforded to others and, as such, is an underrated prospect in the class.
When you think about the running back prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft, certain names immediately spring to mind. The class is dominated by players that could have declared in 2020, including Chuba Hubbard, Travis Etienne, and Najee Harris. Interspersed with them are the likes of Jaret Patterson, Javian Hawkins, and Josh Johnson, who will hope to gain momentum after standout 2019 campaigns.
Keaontay Ingram is underrated as an RB prospect
Texas RB Ingram isn’t a name you often find grouped with the ones above. In fact, most NFL analysts seem to have a fourth or fifth-round grade on the junior back. After leading the Longhorns running back room as a sophomore in 2019, and showcasing an NFL skill set, Ingram is a name we should be talking about more in the 2021 class.
A high school All-American, Ingram was a major get for Texas when he committed out of Carthage High School. Ingram had set records at Carthage with 76 rushing touchdowns and secured back to back 2000-yard seasons. As a four-star prospect and the sixth-ranked running back in the nation, he received offers from multiple SEC schools, including Georgia, LSU, and in-state from Texas A & M.
— Callam Barber (@CallamBarber) November 11, 2017
Ingram could have been on the other side of the Red River Rivalry, entertaining an offer and attending a junior day at Oklahoma. He rejected the crimson and cream, choosing the burnt orange of the Longhorns.
Ingram impressed immediately for the Longhorns
It paid immediate dividends for both Ingram and Texas. Ingram became the first freshman to score a rushing touchdown in a season opener since Jamaal Charles in 2005. Ingram went on to contribute 708 rushing yards at 5.0 yards per carry, including his first 100 yard game with 110 yards against Baylor.
After preseason injuries to Daniel Young and Jordan Whittington, Ingram was tasked with leading the Longhorns running back room in 2019 alongside quarterback turned running back Roschon Johnson.
With 1,095 total scrimmage yards, he finished second behind receiver Devin Duvernay for Texas and finished ranked in the top 10 of the Big 12 Conference for rushing yards (sixth), yards per attempt (fourth), total scrimmage yards (seventh), and touchdowns (eighth).
Ingram compares favorably to recent Texas RB draftees.
Ingram posted four 100 yard games in 2019, the most for a Texas RB since D’Onta Foreman in 2016. Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, and Utah were all on the receiving end of these impressive performances as Ingram tallied 853 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in 2019, more than both Foreman and Charles accomplished in their sophomore years for the Longhorns.
Ingram is taking momentum into the 2020 college football season.
Over his last three games of 2019, he racked up 211 yards on just 22 carries for an astonishing 9.49 yards per carry. Despite Texas capturing Bijan Robinson in the latest recruiting cycle, Ingram will again lead the Texas RB room, allowing him to improve his draft stock and receive more national attention.
Ingram possesses an NFL skillset
Texas head coach Tom Herman described Ingram as an “NFL quality player”, so what are the qualities that he brings to the table that should make him hot property if he declares at the end of his junior season?
Firstly, Ingram has NFL size. At 6’0 and around 225 pounds, he would have been one of the most physical specimens at the 2020 NFL Combine. It’s a testament to the strength and conditioning at Texas led by head strength coach Yancy McKnight. Ingram entered the program at 190 pounds and has successfully added weight without any loss of speed or agility.
Based on tape alone, you could expect to see Ingram run the 40-yard dash in the low 4.4’s. He has showcased his agility in many forms, including a hurdle in the game against Utah, and a killer spin move against Oklahoma State. In the video below, you’ll see Ingram display his agility along with some of the other attributes which make him an NFL caliber talent.
You think Keaontay Ingram wants to prove he can indeed play big-boy football? pic.twitter.com/EJWvAquq4i
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) September 22, 2019
The gain of weight has helped him add power to his game. Ingram is equally adept at bouncing to the edge to make a play or pounding out yardage between the hash marks. He isn’t afraid to initiate contact by lowering the shoulder, can grind out yards with his lower body power, and has stiff-arm ability in his armory.
Pass catching and patience adds to Ingram’s NFL portfolio
Another attribute that sets Ingram apart as an NFL quality running back is his pass-catching. Ingram has the ability to play all three downs as a pass-catching back, hauling in 56 receptions for 412 yards and five touchdowns over his college career. In 2019, he averaged 8.3 yards per reception.
Finally, he has patience behind the line of scrimmage reminiscent of Le’Veon Bell. In the play below against Baylor, Texas is bottled up at the edge of their own endzone. Ingram waits patiently for his offensive line to go to work before finding a crease and bursting for a run that wouldn’t be halted until near the Baylor 30 yard line.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 23, 2019
Ingram clearly has all the traits to succeed in the NFL and should be receiving more attention as a prospect in this 2021 NFL Draft class. I’m not suggesting he emulates great Texas backs such as Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson, who were first-round selections in the 1999 and 2005 NFL Draft. He does, however, deserve to be considered with the likes of Foreman and Charles, who were both third-round selections for the Longhorns in 2017 and 2008, respectively.
An impressive 2020 season could see Ingram receive the national attention he deserves.