Updated: Apr 28, 2021
By Adam Aniba
Draft Prospect Spotlight; Kenneth Gainwell
Washington waited until Round 3 of the 2020 draft to address the need at running back by selecting Antonio Gibson, who was predominately used in the receiving game while at Memphis. Used as a two-headed attack, along with J.D. McKissic, the duo had marginal success in 2020 (1,996 total yards with 14 td's combined). Both Gibson and McKissic are sure to have their roles as receiving backs increased going forward. Although Gibson showed the upside as a dominant runner in 2020, more help is needed. With the recent signing of injury prone journeyman Lamar Miller, the need at running back is still evident. McKissic and Miller are likely short term solutions for Washington. If HC Ron Rivera's past in Carolina was any indication, he isn't done adding to the running back room yet.
With more pressing needs at other positions, it's unlikely Washington will select a running back during rounds 1-2 of the draft, leaving the window open for a late Day 2-3 possible addition. In this installment of Draft Prospect Spotlight, Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell was evaluated and is projected as an ideal, round 3 running back for OC Scott Turner's system.
3rd Round Grade | RB | Univ of Memphis
Height: 5 feet, 10 3/4 inches
Weight: 201 lbs
Wingspan: 75 inches
Arm length: 30 inches
Hand size: 9 inches
Career Stats (18 games) 235 att 1,1550 yards 14 td's 6.6 ypc with 57 rec 662 yards 3 td's 12.0 YPR
2019 Stats (14 games) 231 att 1,459 yards 13 td's 6.3 ypc with 51 rec 610 yards 3 td's
11.6 ypr (Opted out of the 2020 season COVID)
Kenneth Gainwell was a standout, dual threat, quarterback prospect coming out of Yazoo County HS in MIssissippi, padding the stat sheets with 3,682 yards passing for 32 passing touchdowns, 4,730 rushing yards and 75 rushing touchdowns with one kickoff returned for a touchdown. Yes, you read that right. Gainwell registered over 100 combined touchdowns during his HS career and would also spend time at cornerback and KR/PR, earning him a scholarship to Memphis.
Gainwell received an invite to the Mississippi/Alabama HS Classic All-Star game where he scored 3 td's earning Co-Offensive MVP honors in the game. Despite his impressive HS career, he garnered minimal attention during the D1 recruiting process and ultimately accepted an offer from Memphis to play RB/WR.
Gainwell redshirted in 2018 and ended his season after only 4 games (91 rushing yards with 1 td and 52 yards receiving) with future NFL RB Tony Pollard (2019 drafted #128 overall to Dallas) being the featured back. Gainwell returned the following season playing in 14 games for the Tigers, recording over 2,000 all purpose yards and 16 td's. Washington fans are familiar with his teammate that season, Antonio Gibson, who was used as a change-up back in in HC Brian Silverfield's offense, but primarily as a receiver.
After a breakout year, Gainwell opted out of the 2020 season. After losing multiple family members to COVID related deaths, he spent 2020 training for the 2021 NFL Draft. During his time off the field, Gainwell spent time refining his craft for a full time transition to running back on the next level. The Tigers' running back is well on his way with his transformation. He has gained 10 lbs and displayed his strength at the Memphis pro day with 21 reps on the bench press. Some evaluators believe Gainwell's frame isn't built to add more mass, but looked fleet footed running a 4.42 sec forty at his pro day.
Tale of the Tape
Displays a second gear in the open field and rarely caught from behind
Excellent receiver with soft hands
Not viewed as a traditional back, but can get low in tight spaces
Doesn't go down after initial contact, leading to YAC
Advanced field vision
Extremely elusive, effectively utilizes cut back lanes and exploits angles
Versatile prospect who can wear a variety of hats
Shined in the screen game
Matchup nightmare as a receiving option
Fit in Washington
Washington could go with a traditional power back in the draft, similar to Burgundy and Gold Report Spotlight Rhamondre Stevenson who could compliment Antonio Gibson's and J.D. McKissic's skill set as pass catching backs. It's hard to deny the chemistry Gainwell and Gibson had together during the 2019 season at Memphis, where they combined for over 3,100 yards total yards with 28 td's. SImilar to Gibson, Gainwell also had limited game snaps coming into the NFL.
Head Coach Ron Rivera and OC Scott Turner have shown an affinity for versatile offensive prospects, particularly at running back. Washington could have the most innovative offense in the NFC next season with with Gibson, McKissic and new addition Curtis Samuel will all see plenty of snaps in the backfield, but will create mismatches in the passing game. Reuniting the productive 2019 Memphis Tiger backfilled would be a must see. Washington currently holds two picks in round 3 (#74 and #82) with Kenneth Gainwell representing great value if available.
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*Draft grades cross referenced with The Draft Network*