Rookie Profile – Kenneth Gainwell

Kenneth Gainwell - RB- Memphis

Welcome into the rookie profile for Kenneth Gainwell. With players like Darrell Henderson, Tony Pollard, Antonio Gibson, and now Gainwell making it to the NFL, Memphis is becoming a pipeline for running back talent. There was a big debate last offseason on how effective Gibson would be because he was limited to only 33 rushes in 2019. Well, Gainwell was the main reason for that, taking the lionshare of the rushing attempts. Gainwell wasn’t able to expand on his 2019 season as he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID.

Draft Results

Round: 5
Pick: 6
Team: Philadelphia Eagles

Measurables

Age: 22

Height: 5′ 11″

Weight: 195 lbs

40-yard dash: 4.42

3-cone drill: 7.26

20-yard shuttle: 4.46

Vertical Jump: 35″

Broad Jump: 121″

Bench Press: 21

College Stats

Rushing Receiving
Year
Team
Class
GP
Att
Yds
YPA
TD
Rec
Yds
YPC
TD
2018
Memphis
Fr.
4
4
91
22.8
1
6
52
8.7
2019
Memphis
RS Fr.
14
231
1459
6.3
13
51
610
12.0
3
2020
Memphis
RS So.
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
College Career

aKylin Hill was a 4-star recruit, per 247sports, who stayed close to his hometown of Columbus, Mississippi when committing to Mississippi State. As a Freshman, Hill carved out a decent role behind lead back Aeris Willia

Kenneth Gainwell was a 3-star athlete coming out of high school, mostly playing quarterback. He saw limited playing time as a true freshman only accruing 10 touches for about 150 yards and 1 touchdown. With the limited touches, he showed an explosive play style that was versatile in both the rushing and receiving game. With a loaded backfield consisting of Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard, it’s hard to blame him.  He was able to redshirt that year and came back in 2019 to be the lead guy after Pollard and Henderson left for the NFL. 

No one expected Gainwell to explode up NFL draft boards the way he did in 2019. He accumulated over 2000 total yards and 16 touchdowns, recording over 50 receptions in the process. He garnered First-team All-AAC and AAC Rookie of the Year awards. That year he limited another Memphis running back that made it to the NFL in Antonio Gibson to 33 carries and 38 receptions. Gainwell decided to return for the 2020 season, but no one could predict the COVID pandemic and the impact on the college landscape. Gainwell decided to opt out for the season and prepare for the NFL Draft. At his pro day he tested well posting a 4.42 40 yard dash and other workouts that translated to a 50th percentile Speed Score and 57th percentile Burst Score, but only a 18th percentile Agility Score (per playerprofiler).

Scouting Report

Positives

Kenneth Gainwell demonstrates great burst and acceleration on tape that causes defenders to take bad angles. In one on one situations, he consistently makes defenders miss in the open field, showing really nice elusiveness. He has good vision, allowing his line to set up blocks in front of him and then showing off his burst again to shoot through the gaps created. Once he is in space he is electric on the field. 

For a player of Gainwell’s size, he shows solid contact balance shedding lower body tackles and staying upright for additional yards. He often fights for additional yards after initial contact. His best attribute is the versatility that he provides as he is also a great pass catcher. Not only does he catch passes out of the backfield, but he also showed the ability to line up in the slot and be extremely effective. He can win one on one coverage with defensive backs with really crisp routes and a good catch radius for a running back.

Negatives

Gainwell is projected by many to be an immediate third down back, but if he is to do that he will need to improve in pass protection. He showed great pass catching ability, but was inconsistent in pass blocking as well as blocking for his teammates which will greatly hinder his ability to get on the field on third downs. For a smaller running back he is lacking the straight line speed on tape that comparable running backs of his size possess. Additionally, there were times that Gainwell would attempt to make something out of nothing more than he should. That would work more often in college whereas in the NFL those kinds of plays will result in negative yards more often than positive yards.

Post Draft Analysis

Draft Capital:

Philadelphia Eagles: Round 5, Pick 6

Landing Spot:

The Philadelphia Eagles selected Kenneth Gainwell with the sixth pick in the fifth round. The Eagles are working to remake their offense with new starting quarterback Jalen Hurts. The youth movement is in full swing with the additions of Dallas Goedert, Jalen Reagor, DeVonta Smith, Miles Sanders and now Kenneth Gainwell. On top of the additions, the Eagles have also moved on from veterans such as Alshon Jeffery, Desean Jackson, and it appears Zach Ertz is also on his way out.

Right now Miles Sanders appears to be locked in to the lead back role. Gainwell will be competing with Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, and Kerryon Johnson for the main backup to Sanders. Gainwell provides a bit more versatility than his competition for the second back in this offense. But even though there could be a clear cut running back one and two, based on the Eagles offseason moves it appears they want to have a stable of running backs in a committee backfield.

Fantasy Impact

Kenneth Gainwell appears to be a luxury pick in the fifth round, but also looks to have plenty of opportunity to get on the field. The Eagles’ organization is making it look like they want a committee backfield to spell Miles Sanders as the lead back. Gainwell is in a good situation to secure that second running back role and be the clear cut handcuff to Sanders if he were to ever go down. In redraft leagues he could be a decent late round flyer as a handcuff while providing a potentially useful floor without an injury in front of him. In dynasty, Gainwell is going in the middle to late second round of super flex rounds. Sanders is around until at least the end of the 2022 season, so for the foreseeable future Gainwell will have Sanders squarely in front of him on the depth chart. He can provide a great handcuff to Sanders as well as provide a potentially useful floor if he can carve out a decent portion of the Eagles’ backfield, so spending a late second round pick on Gainwell could pay off.

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Image Credit: Scott Sewell – USA TODAY Sports