In a campus to canton (C2C) league, the incoming freshmen are the “rookie class” since almost all college players headed to the NFL are rostered. This year, Nicholas Singelton is the consensus favorite, commanding first-round startup draft capital in some places. However, college football is a vast landscape, and 3-star backs can immediately disrupt the depth chart, both on the field and in our fantasy lineups. The 2022 NFL draft featured two backs taken on Day 2 that were rated 3-stars or less. Mining these lower-ranked prospects for guys that can have an NFL future is an overlooked area in C2C leagues.

The following players are my favorite three-star running backs (per 247sports.com composite rankings) in the 2022 class. Players with the “EE” designation will enroll early in the spring.

Tier 1 – Should be a 4-star

Name Signed Ht Wt   Other major offers
Andrew Paul Georgia 5’11” 220   Clem, Mich, Ore, ND

Like Devin Neal last year, this 3-star back was treated like a blue-chipper by the time freshman draft season rolled around. Not to toot our own horn (or, actually to do just that) the Campus2Canton staff has receipts dating back as far as the end of 2021 that Andrew Paul was vastly underrated. There aren’t many 220 lb. backs that can break 21 mph on the field. Combine that with good vision, adequate wiggle, and some receiving ability and you have a potential workhorse. While his teammate Branson Robinson has some more flash to his profile, Paul may actually be the more well-rounded RB. 

Notable departures: Zamir White, James Cook Incumbents: Kendall Milton (So), Kenny McIntosh (rJr)

Name Signed Ht Wt   Other major offers
Damien Martinez (EE) Oregon St. 5’11” 220   GT, Kansas

It’s easy to see Martinez as a discount Paul, and that’s a reasonable comparison. However, the most appealing thing about Martinez is that the Oregon St. freshman showed up on campus and was almost immediately placed atop the depth chart. Coming out of Spring practice, multiple sites have him listed as the starter. Like Paul, he has that elite combination of size and speed, hitting 21 MPH at 220 lbs. However, on tape, he looks a little less springy and shows less evidence of passing game prowess. But there is no substitute for playing time, and Martinez should get that out of the gate. He continues to be a steal in freshman drafts. 

Notable departures: BJ Baylor  Incumbents: Deshaun Fenwick

Tier 2 – Early Production Likely

Name Signed Ht Wt   Other major offers
Quinshon Judkins (EE) Ole Miss 5’11” 220   Tenn, ND, UF, Penn St

Judkins will enter his freshman season as the heaviest back on the Ole Miss roster. His immediate value is limited after the Rebels brought in high-end prospect Zach Evans and a change of pace back Ulysses Bentley IV. However, with his size and documented 21 MPH top speed, Judkins is poised to have a role immediately. 

Notable departure: Jerrion Ealy, Henry Parrish, Snoop Conner Incumbents: None

Name Signed Ht Wt   Major schools
Bryson Donnell (EE) Texas Tech 5’11” 205   Ark, Purdue

More of a “sum is greater than the parts” type, Donnell does possess a blend of useful skills. He graded out for me average in virtually every category, which isn’t as disappointing as it sounds. When mining the low 3-stars, if a player looks good across the board, that’s worth taking note of. With Texas Tech’s revamped offense, there should be plenty of scoring opportunities over the next few years. 

Notable departure: None Incumbent: SaRodorick Thompson (Sr), Tahj Brooks (Jr)  

Name Signed Ht Wt   Other major offers
Kaleb Johnson Iowa 6’1″ 210   Minn, Cal

Another large RB with good long speed, Johnson has been clocked over 21 MPH. He offers less shiftiness and appears to be very limited in the passing game. However, for what Iowa wants to do, he really fits in well. The lead role out of the backfield should be an open competition, and Johnson has the tools to make an impact right away. 

Notable departure: Tyler Goodson Incumbent: Gavin Williams (rSo) 

Tier 3 – Probably College Only 

Name Signed Ht Wt   Other major offers
Zach Evans Minnesota 5’9″ 200   Iowa, Texas

I wanted to like Zach Evans 2.0 more than where he wound up in my rankings. His tape shows a lot of tools, like Bryson Donnell, but with a max speed of 18.7 MPH, I can’t see a very strong projection. He does a lot of things well though. Evans shows good vision, quickness, and tackle-breaking ability. He can catch a few passes out of the backfield as well. I can see him eventually as a workhorse for run-heavy Minnesota given his all-around skill set, but more than that takes a leap of faith.

Notable departure: Ky Thomas, Mar’Keise Irving Incumbent: Mohamed Ibrahim (rSr), Treyson Potts (rJr)

Name Signed Ht Wt   Other major offers
Ajay Allen Nebraska 5’11” 185   TCU

Allen could be bumped up a tier if it wasn’t for his slight build. A dynamic playmaker, the Louisiana product can be used in a variety of ways on the field. He earned an elite change-of-direction grade from me, one of only two players with that distinction in this class, and C2C staffer David Knippel (@solvingfootball) has him at over 22 MPH, which is as fast as you’ll find. I would have liked to see more formation versatility with Allen lining up out wide and taking on DBs head to head. He will need to thrive in space and as a receiver to get on the NFL’s radar. The crowded RB room returns most of its 2021 personnel, but Allen brings something to the table no one else has. One of the prospects I am most excited to see develop in college. 

Notable departure: None  Incumbent: Gabe Ervin, Anthony Grant, Jaquez Yant, Markese Stepp

Name Signed Ht Wt   Other major offers
Ashton Jeanty Boise St 5’8″ 200   Kansas, Cal

A similar profile to Allen, Jeanty is thicker but not quite as dynamic horizontally. However, he is a tremendous receiver and should provide a spark to the Broncos’ thin RB room in short order. Jeanty is a very good runner with excellent balance and has the tools to be a three-down back. The only question is size, although he’s currently listed at 200 lbs. on the Boise St site. Coming in at 200 won’t be an issue at Boise, but he’ll need to gain another 5-10 lbs. and maintain all his skills to have NFL potential. 

Notable departure: Andrew Van Buren Incumbents: George Holani (rSr) 

Name Signed Ht Wt   Other major offers
Demond Claiborne Wake Forest 5’9″ 187   WVU, Mich, VT

Blistering speed is why Claiborne shows up on this list. He has been clocked at 10.6 in the 100-meter dash, which is approaching elite-level long speed. That quickness and acceleration show up on tape, and Claiborne is simply one of the fastest all-around players in this class. There has already been some buzz out of Winston-Salem that he will get looks early.

Notable departures: Christian Beal Incumbent: Justice Ellison (rSo), Christian Turner (rSr) 

Name Signed Ht Wt   Other major schools
Sutton Smith Memphis 5’10” 180   Hou, Louisville, Pitt, Maryland

Another player I wish was ten pounds heavier is Sutton Smith. Alas, the shifty do-it-all back will look to make a splash at Memphis. I don’t think it will happen right away, but Smith is a name to file in the Rolodex. He got an elite receiving grade and is one of the most dynamic weapons in this class. The innovative Memphis offense is an excellent place for him to thrive, and given his G5 competition, I can see Smith being a college-side asset in a year or two.

Notable departures: None   Incumbent: Brandon Thomas (rSo), Asa Martin (rSr), Rodrigues Clark (Sr) Transfer In: Jevyon Ducker (rSo)

Name Signed Ht Wt   Other major offers
Cartevious Norton (EE) Iowa St 5’11” 210   USF, FIU

I’m going to say this is a phone-a-friend submission here as David Knippel (@solvingfootball) initially brought Norton to my attention. This name is popping up more and more in the college fantasy community after his buzzworthy spring camp. Norton has good size as a freshman and displays a lot of skills we want to see, notably receiving ability. While he lacks impressive long speed, he has the build and all-around tools to become a David Montgomery-esque player for the Cyclones.

Notable departures: Breece Hall Incumbent: Jirehl Brock (rJr)

Name Signed Ht Wt   Other major offers
Dylan Sampson Tennessee 5’9″ 180   Mich St, South Car

The theme for the second half of this list is betting on speed. With a 10.4 100-meter time, Sampson is likely one of the fastest players in the class. You don’t need me to tell you that, given his size, he projects as a change-of-pace, satellite back. His home run ability is a unique attribute in the Volunteer backfield, so a redshirt may not be in his future. 

Notable departures: Tiyon Evans Incumbent: Jaylen Wright (So), Jabari Small (Jr)

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