DFF Draft Coverage: Kenny Gainwell to the Eagles

Kenneth Gainwell | Memphis                5’8½” 201 lbs.                 3/14/1999 (Age 22)

Kenneth Gainwell was drafted 150th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles, becoming the 9th running back drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft.

College Production

Year Games Played    Attempts    Yards    Receptions    Total TDs   
2018 (FR) 4 4 91 6 1
2019 (SO)    14 231 1459 51 16

Kenneth Gainwell was a wildcat quarterback in high school and rushed for 4,730 yards on 501 attempts. He was recruited by Arkansas State, Idaho, Ole Miss, and Tulane. Ultimately, Gainwell decided to play for the Memphis Tigers. He started his career at Memphis with just a few touches but was eventually red-shirted as a freshman.

When Gainwell took hold of the starting job, he showed why Memphis believed in him. He had 231 carries for 1,459 yards and 51 receptions for 610 yards. He scored 16 total touchdowns. His performance against Tulane was the first time since 1997 that a running back had 100 yards rushing and 200 yards receiving. Gainwell has outstanding vision and is good in transition, as he makes moves and cuts effortlessly. His change-of-direction abilities might be the best at the position in this year’s draft. While there are concerns about his size and his ability to run between the tackles at the next level, there is no denying his production. 

The Memphis Tigers have produced some very dynamic RBs over the last three years. Darrell Henderson, Tony Pollard, and Antonio Gibson are in the NFL. All of these players are adept receivers out of the backfield. Gainwell is the best receiver of the bunch and is willing and able to provide protection for his QB.

Athletic Testing

Kenny Gainwell ran a 4.42 40-yard dash and jumped 35.5″ inches in the vertical. He surprised scouts when he recorded 21 bench press reps. He measured in at 5’8½ ” and 201 lbs. with a BMI of 30.22. While many were disappointed with Gainwell’s weight and lack of elite testing measurables, when considering his height, his numbers are solid. 

Draft Analysis

Rapid Reaction to Draft Capital: Poor
Rapid Reaction to Landing Spot: Below-Average

Gainwell was selected with the 150th pick by the Philadelphia Eagles. This pick raises questions, as Gainwell has a very similar skillset as incumbent starter Miles Sanders. Could the new regime in Philly be looking to move on from Sanders? Or are they simply pleased with this style of RB–an outside slasher with outstanding receiving acumen? It remains to be seen. One thing is certain, though, with Jalen Hurts at QB there will most likely be fewer opportunities for check-downs on developed passing plays. Hurts can take the ball and create positive yardage with his legs any time he pleases.

The Eagles RB room is now crowded, as they most likely need to keep Boston Scott and Jordan Howard to serve as effective interior runners. Gainwell does not look to contribute much for fantasy owners in 2021 without an injury to Miles Sanders.

Fantasy Insights

Kenny Gainwell earned a redshirt freshman season breakout age at 20-years old. He went on to account for 51% of Memphis’s total rushing production and 28% of their overall offensive production. He played alongside NFL star running back Antonio Gibson, making these production outputs incredibly impressive. Gainwell is a prototypical slasher, and is decisive with his cuts, and gets vertical as early as possible. While he should immediately slot in as a team’s third-down receiving back, he has the potential to take over a lead role in the future with development. 

In fantasy rookie drafts, Gainwell should have been the fourth or fifth back off the board. His draft capital and landing spot both certainly drop him now. He could be a fantasy producer in the future, as he should rack up targets and receptions. However, he does not project to ever have RB1 upside unless he continues to develop as an interior runner and continues to bulk up. Expect to see him come off the draft board in the mid-to-late third round of fantasy rookie drafts.

Thank you for checking out DFF’s 2021 NFL Draft Coverage! Stay tuned as we break down every fantasy-relevant pick during the draft. Please consider our yearly DFF subscription, so we can continue to deliver top-notch analysis and fantasy breakdowns. 

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Founder of Fantasy Football Fright Night | #FFFN | @FFFrightNight| PhD | Staff Writer; Copy Editor @DFF_Dynasty| #IDP | #Devy | #DynastyFootball | #DFFArmy

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