It would seem that if you aren’t a first-round pick in the NFL draft, then the spotlight tends to stray. But not this time.
Recently, Pro Football Focus graded each teams’ highest- and lowest- graded rookies for the 2021 NFL preseason, and they selected Kenneth Gainwell for the top spot. Ranking a 78.7, the rookie running back for the Philadelphia Eagles has caught the attention of some pretty important critics.
EAGLES HAVE A LOT TO GAIN[WELL] GOING INTO THE 2021 SEASON
After playing at the quarterback position in high school, Kenneth Gainwell moved to running back after committing to Memphis. He played in four games as a true freshman, finishing with four carries for 91 yards and one touchdown. He decided to redshirt the remainder of the season and, as a redshirt freshman, was named Memphis’ starting running back.
Gainwell finished with 231 carries for 1,459 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also caught 51 passes for 610 yards and three touchdowns and was named AAC Freshman of the Year and first-team All-AAC. He opted out of his final season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Gainwell. Though training camp started a bit slow for the rookie, he began looking more comfortable in the backfield. In the Eagles’ final preseason game against the New York Jets, Gainwell rushed five times for 32 yards and one touchdown, catching all four of his intended targets for 27 yards.
During that game, NFL’s Ross Tucker went as far as stating that Gainwell gave him “serious Brian Westbrook vibes.” Gainwell’s most common comparison, however, has been to Indianapolis running back Nyheim Hines, who has also trained under Nick Sirianni.
No matter who the likeness is, Gainwell is excited to get his hands on the ball this season. He stated, “I love this offense. The opportunity I can get being split out, being a pass catcher as a running back. A guy that can just go out and run routes out of the backfield.”
Fellow rookie Zech McPhearson stated, “He’s [Gainwell] really shifty. He’s definitely good with the ball in his hands. You can’t just go up to him and be lackadaisical to tackle him. You’ve really got to put your eyes on him and close that space. If you give him too much space, he’s going to use it to his advantage.”