In the wake of the New York Jets drafting running back Breece Hall with the 36th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, both head coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas referenced Hall's ability to "take it 80" as a key reason for why they loved him.
That home-run potential is evident. On top of Hall's massive production, he led the FBS in carries of 30-plus yards with 12 last year, actually averaging nearly half of a football field on those runs (48.75 yards) thanks to cruises of 53, 70, 75 and 80 yards. His 5.82-yard rushing average put him in the 77th percentile among qualifying collegiates, but that actually pales in comparison to the 99th percentile he registered in tackles avoided with 88 over 253 carries, a 34.8% tackle avoidance rate.
Add on Hall's receiving chops -- an 87.8% catch rate and 8.4 yards per catch over 41 targets (3.4 per game) -- and you're looking at a do-it-all talent.
In a perfect world, the story would end here. Hall would be the unquestioned workhorse in the Jets offense and Fantasy managers would be fighting each other over how early they would take him.
But Hall could be kept from hitting his upside in his rookie season because of his coaches and his quarterback.
Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur believe in the philosophy of adding and using multiple running backs every year. It's ingrained from their time in San Francisco with Kyle Shanahan. Saleh even confirmed as much the same day the Jets took Hall.
"Absolutely," Saleh emphatically said when asked about the philosophy before mentioning the first four names on his running back depth chart, calling them collectively "explosive."
We saw this multi-back approach play out last year: New York had a running back notch 15-plus carries four times and get 15-plus touches just six times over 17 games. It was a little different in 2020 when these coaches, then with the 49ers, witnessed at least one running back get 15-plus touches in 13 of 16 games. The caveat is that no single Niners back individually hit the mark more than five times. Injuries played a role in both seasons.
There's no doubt that the Jets will have Carter and maybe even another back help carry some of the rushing workload, but Hall should still lead the way. Hall has the same injury concerns as any running back, but at least he went three years in college and four in high school without a single reported injury. And the Jets can say whatever they want but they dropped a tell-tale sign that they loved Hall by trading up for him in Round 2. By comparison, Shanahan's 49ers have never taken a running back that high -- or even within the first 80 picks in a draft!
So there's some optimism in that the Jets targeted Hall. The hope is that quarterback Zach Wilson does the same.
As a rookie, Wilson threw 19.1% of his attempts to his running backs, which was right about league average. Unfortunately, Wilson didn't throw as often as his peers (383 attempts), so that rate actually showed up as 5.4 targets per game. That ranked 24th among passers in 2021 and nearly a full target per game below average. This isn't new for Wilson -- at BYU he averaged 4.3 targets per game to running backs in 2020 and 3.4 targets per game in 2019.
This is a tendency thing. We know this because backup Jets quarterback Mike White averaged a preposterous 12.5 targets per game to running backs, and that includes a game he played 14 snaps in! Nearly half -- 46% -- of the 130 targets to running backs in New York last year came from passers other than Wilson.
We could hope that Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur will design specific passing plays for Hall and run them weekly. Short of that, Hall is unlikely to find 50 receptions as a rookie, which doesn't put the bust label on him but does limit his Fantasy upside.
Drafting Hall means expecting a No. 2 running back on the basis of him finding (hopefully) 15 or so touches per week with some goal-line carries and breakaway runs mixed in. That's very nice but not quite on the level of other first-picked rookie running backs, we've enjoyed over the past few years. It's why you won't see him get first-round consideration in seasonal drafts, nor should you see him get picked in the second round unless someone gets a little too excited for him. Be ready to take him in Round 3 if you're interested.