Associated Press

PRO 2021 Rookie Spotlight: Kenny Gainwell, RB Memphis

Rookie Spotlight: Kenny Gainwell, Memphis
Height: 5’ 8 3/8”
Weight: 201
Hands: 9 7/8”
Arm: 30 5/8”
40 yard dash: 4.49
NFL Comparison: Nyheim Hines, Duke Johnson

– good contact balance
– big, soft hands
– extremely agile
– experience as workhorse
– former QB, reads defenses well
– fluid footwork
– changes direction without losing speed

– only one year of solid production
– average explosiveness
– not “built” for 3-down role
– might be scheme specific

Scouting Notes: A former QB, and Mississippi’s Class 3A Mr. Football his senior year, Gainwell brought his ability to read defenses and think quickly on his feet to his game as a RB for Memphis, where he thrived. His first season there, he played behind future pros Tony Pollard, Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor, so he redshirted after just 4 games. In 2019 though, Gainwell was let off his leash as the workhorse for the Tigers and he went absolutely haywire, rushing for 1,459 yards and 13 TDs on 231 carries with an average of 6.3 yards. He also notched 51 receptions for 610 yards and 3 TDs as a receiver – He picked up AAC rookie of the year for his efforts. Undersized for a starting back by most standards, Gainwell has a low center of gravity that keeps him upright through first contact. He also possesses elite lateral agility that allows him to sidestep would-be tacklers with relative ease. And, he doesn’t slow down when he makes those evasive movements, which is a plus because he doesn’t possess premium burst out of the backfield. As a receiver, Gainwell is aided by his huge 9 ⅞” mitts, which also helps explain why he was a talented QB in high school. His hands are soft and he gets upfield quickly after the catch, though he’s kind of a one-speed runner at the second level. Pass protection isn’t one of Gainwell’s strong suits, but that’s a skill he can improve with adequate coaching. Overall, Gainwell is a versatile player who can become an every week PPR asset in the right system.

Fantasy Outlook: Gainwell lost 3 family members to Covid-19, and his brother suffered a stroke preparing to walk on at Southern Mississippi, so it wasn’t a surprise that he sat out the 2020 season to prepare for the NFL draft. His one full season as a starter, is enough to bolster significant attention in the draft, as he was a Heisman hopeful going into that forgone season. Gainwell doesn’t project to be a 3-down back by most standards, but that isn’t the problem in today’s NFL that it has been in the past. Even as a 3rd-down or situational back, Gainwell has the potential to aptly live up to his name. A more adventurous offensive mind may actually take a chance on him as their main back, in which case, he’s shown that he can produce in that role. Whether he can hold up against a full NFL season is the big question. He’s worth the gamble in dynasty as your first back off the board if you miss out on the Harris’, Williams’ and Etienne’s of the world.

One Comments

  1. In a dynasty league what is Harris worth? I know this is a little hard to answer before the draft. But I am trying to trade for the 1.1 to get him and just wanting an idea of what to give up. I have the 1.10 this year and 2 first rounders in 22 and 23. My current rbs are dobbins and Taylor but nothing after that.

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