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NFL Combine: RB prospects mimic Gurley, Barkley, Bell

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Former Florida running back Dameon Pierce talks to reporters at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday at the Indianapolis Convention Center. Photo by Alex Butler/UPI
Former Florida running back Dameon Pierce talks to reporters at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday at the Indianapolis Convention Center. Photo by Alex Butler/UPI

INDIANAPOLIS, March 4 (UPI) -- Top running back prospects Breece Hall, Kenneth Walker III, Isaiah Spiller and Dameon Pierce say they try to mimic NFL greats with their respective games, displaying traits like eruptive speed, patience and even anger.

The four former college stars and other running back prospects met with reporters for 2022 NFL Scouting Combine media sessions Thursday at the Indianapolis Convention Center.

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Each player touted his versatility, something all know teams crave, but their respective highlight reels offer a more apt depiction of their strengths.

"I believe I'm an all-around back," said Walker, who starred at Michigan State. "If I need to run a [pass catching] route out of the backfield, I can do that or if I need to get a yard on third down, I can do that, as well."

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Walker: Barkley, Tomlinson, Peterson

Walker ranked second in the nation with 1,636 rushing yards in 13 games last season for the Spartans. Despite his success as a runner, he totaled just 13 receptions.

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On Thursday, he listed Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, Pro Football Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson and veteran Adrian Peterson as the running backs he tries to emulate in his game.

Barkley and Tomlinson each produced at a high level as pass catchers throughout their careers. Peterson's career success is mostly due to his dominance as a runner.

Walker measured in at 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds at Michigan State, shorter and much lighter than Barkley and Peterson, but nearly the same size as Tomlinson.

"I just love how tough Peterson runs and how he runs with passion," Walker said. "I just want to make the best of my opportunity. Whoever drafts me is making a great choice."

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Walker is known for his ability to make decisive cuts and explode upfield. Like Peterson, he also showed an ability to get low and run over defenders. He also was great at ball protection while at Michigan State.

Spiller: Mixon, Bell

Spiller totaled 1,200 yards from scrimmage and seven scores in 12 games last season at Texas A&M.

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The 6-foot-1, 215-pound running back is known for his ability to read running lanes, keep his balance and ability to bounce runs outside.

Spiller also said he enjoyed watching Adrian Peterson when he was younger, but now models his game after Le'Veon Bell and Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Mixon is listed at the same height and nearly the same weight as Spiller. Mixon also was compared to Bell throughout his pre-draft process.

Spiller mentioned the Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks when asked about which NFL teams contacted him so far this off-season.

Hall: Bell, Kamara

Iowa State's Breece Hall might be the most well-rounded of the top running back prospects. He has drawn pre-draft comparisons to former Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, who also was known for his ability as a pass catcher.

Hall said he also enjoys watching Bell and New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, another dynamic playmaker at the position.

Hall, listed at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, is among the bigger backs in the class. He is three inches taller and about the same weight as Kamara and nearly the exact same size Forte was during his playing days.

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Hall said the Dolphins, Falcons and Buccaneers were among the 16 to 18 teams to whom he has spoken this off-season.

"I feel like I'm the best running back in this draft," Hall said. "Over the last two years, no running back has been able to what I've been able to do.

"I really respect the other guys' games. Kenneth and Isaiah are great, but I feel like I'm the best running back in this draft."

Hall ranked eighth in the nation with 1,464 rushing yards in just 12 games last season. He totaled 20 rushing touchdowns. He also ranked fourth in the country with 1,766 all-purpose yards, including his 302 receiving yards.

He said people "questioned" his speed early on in his collegiate career, but his vision and patience improved each year at Iowa State.

"What makes me different is that I'm really patient with the way I run and control the game," Hall said.

"I'm slow to and fast through."

Pierce: Gurley

Hall might be "fast through," but Pierce said he is "strong through" running lanes and sometimes opposing players.

Pierce, listed at 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, wasn't overly productive at Florida, but made an impact with his bruising runs into the end zone. His low usage rate and willingness as a blocker will likely attack NFL teams.

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His physicality as a runner is impossible to miss in his game tape.

"I don't run with good intentions," Pierce said. "I take a lot of things from a lot of backs and I'm always adding to my game. My favorite running back from recent years was Todd Gurley."

Gurley was a bit taller than Pierce, but was around the same weight. He used his menacing runs to become a two-time All-Pro early in his NFL tenure.

Running back needy teams

Not many, if any, teams are expected to select a running back in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28 in Las Vegas. The top prospects at the position could start coming off draft boards in the later rounds April 29 and 30.

Alabama's Brian Robinson Jr., Notre Dame's Kyren Williams, Georgia's Zamir White and James Cook and Missouri's Tyler Badie are among the other running backs who could be selected in the early to mid rounds.

Many NFL teams now favor using multiple running backs instead of a primary rusher, but several teams appear in desperate need of talent at the position.

The Houston Texans ranked last in the league with 1,422 rushing yards in 2021. The Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are among other teams that could use a talented ball career from the 2022 NFL Draft.

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