With the initial craze of free agency now behind us, it is time to look forward to the 2022 NFL Draft. The Baltimore Ravens currently have 10 picks, including the No. 14 overall pick — their highest since drafting All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley with the No. 6 overall pick in 2016.
In addition to pressing needs at cornerback and offensive tackle, among others, another position where the Ravens could add a prospect is at running back.
With J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards coming off torn ACLs and Justice Hill returning from a torn Achilles injury, as well heading into the last year of his rookie deal, drafting another young piece to the backfield may be in the cards.
This year’s incoming class is loaded with prospects at the position that can fit specific roles or possess diverse skillsets. One such prospect that is the total package and could prove to be a steal in the middle rounds is Pierre Strong Jr. from South Dakota State University.
He dominated at the FCS level as the featured back for the Jackrabbits, eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing in three of his four seasons and scoring 49 total touchdowns in his career. Strong Jr. did it all for South Dakota State. In addition to being their leading ball carrier, he was a capable receiver out the backfield and even threw six touchdowns in the last three years, including four in his outstanding senior season.
Pierre Strong Jr. is one of my favorite prospects in this class. He's going to be a steal, if he goes in the 4th round.— Jakob Ashlin (@JakobAshlin) April 13, 2022
-1,673 rushing yds, 7.0 yards per carry, 22 total TD in 2021
-4.37-second 40-yard dash pic.twitter.com/JO9JYlqJPk
He is an instinctive runner that possesses excellent vision, burst through the line of scrimmage, and arguably has the best body control of any prospect at the position this year. Strong’s spatial awareness and agility allow him to make swift cuts to find rushing lanes and leave defenders grasping for air where he was — or where they thought he would be.
Strong’s leg drive allows him to brush off uncommitted arm tacklers and his breakaway speed makes him a threat to rip off a big play from anywhere on the field. Even though he is a bit on the lighter side at 207 lbs, that’s only five pounds lighter than what Dobbins is currently listed at on the Ravens roster. Strong Jr. can be coached up to run heavier through contact at the next level.
Long speed was never the question for #SouthDakotaSt RB Pierre Strong Jr. but I’m impressed with his vision, ability to set up blockers and his cuts, along with his elusiveness in the open field. A creative run we who fits best as in an OZ scheme, his cutbacks can be deadly. pic.twitter.com/czAtjGvKPb— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) April 8, 2022
Strong played in the East-West Shrine game and even though he only touched the ball twice, he displayed his ability to not only be a contributor in the passing game but a dangerous weapon out of the backfield by recording the longest play from scrimmage of the all-star contest.
South Dakota State RB Pierre Strong Jr gets the screen pass & takes it 65 yards to the house! This man is going to be a steal in the draft.— Brendan Moore (@bmoorecfb) February 4, 2022
Some pundits and analysts believe that he best fits in an outside zone rushing attack and have already linked him to zone-heavy offenses like the Miami Dolphins. However, his skills and intangibles will allow him to thrive in any scheme, and he has the potential to step up and produce in a featured role if called upon.
If drafted by the Ravens, Strong Jr. could see the field often early in a heavy rotation with Dobbins and Edwards as the team brings them along cautiously to start the season. The Ravens brought him in for an official pre-draft visit last week, so he is evidently already on their radar.
General Manager Eric DeCosta is armed with five picks in the fourth round, where Strong Jr. is projected to come off the board, so the likelihood of him landing in Baltimore if they are seriously interested is high.