Kenneth Gainwell Scouting Report

Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell was one of the more exciting players to watch in college football during the 2019 season. After opting out this year, Gainwell unfortunately wasn’t able to add on to his impressive tape. Despite this lack of film, he has shown plenty of upside and potential during his shortened college career. His playmaking made Memphis one of the most fun teams to watch in 2019. He became almost impossible to tackle when he hit his rhythm and in the open field he was unstoppable. He can navigate running lanes and burst through holes very quickly which let him gain huge chunks of yardage in the blink of an eye. Gainwell still has multiple areas of possible improvement, his pass-catching ability and football intelligence behind the line of scrimmage are notable flaws, but overall he possesses remarkable talent that (if developed) could make him an elite running back.

Kenneth Gainwell Stats And Measurables:

College: Memphis

Class: Redshirt Sophomore

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 194 lbs

Position: Running Back

Number: #19

2018 Stats: Rushing: 4 Games/4 ATT/91 YDS/1 TD Receiving: 6 REC/52 YDS

2019 Stats: Rushing: 14 Games/231 ATT/1,459 YDS/13 TD Receiving: 51 REC/610 YDS/3 TD


1. Gainwell’s vision is elite. He can find open running lanes in an instant, and using his incredible burst he flies through them like a missile. Identifying holes was a major factor in Gainwell’s ability to reach the open field, where he was dangerous. His quick feet let him change directions quickly, and his agility allows him to avoid contact when trying to get through gaps. He can get to full speed in an instant, usually before the defense has time to react. He plays very physically, and when he is met in the hole he handles the contact very well and can usually adjust and make the tackler miss without giving up too much time. 

2. He is also extremely hard to tackle. Many elite defenses extensively struggled to bring Gainwell down, and when he hit his stride he was almost impossible to stop. He possesses a lethal spin move that froze countless defenders in college. Gainwell doesn’t make many pointless movements that would waste time. His cuts are sharp and his acceleration lets him reach top speed almost instantly. He was very elusive, and it made him insanely hard to tackle. Using this elusiveness he kept defenders guessing and was rarely brought down in a one-on-one situation with a defender. Gainwell shows prowess utilizing space, showing that he can make a move while still keeping his momentum. He has an arsenal of moves that make defenders look silly, and he was one of the hardest players to bring down in college football because of it.

3. As stated previously, Gainwell plays very physically. He doesn’t shy away from contact often, and when met in the hole he is usually able to outmuscle the would-be tackler to get through. This lets him break through gaps without hesitation and reach full speed quickly which gave him giant chunks of yardage. His playmaking ability can be partially credited to his physicality as he deals with contact well, which in turn lets him get to the open field where he thrives. 

(Via Matthew A. Smith)


1. Even though Gainwell hits holes very well and plays very physically, when he is met with contact in the backfield he occasionally struggles. His acceleration lets him reach full speed quickly, where he is at his best, but when he is hit before he can reach this fourth gear he struggles. He continues to churn his legs which still makes him difficult to tackle but he usually had trouble escaping the backfield when he was met quickly. This does not at all mean that Gainwell has trouble avoiding tacklers, but rather that when he cannot reach his full speed he struggles.

2. Gainwell also has a lot of room for improvement as a receiving back. Although he showed that he could be a possible dual-threat player at the next level, he accumulated lots of dropped passes at Memphis and usually focuses on running before he has completely secured the ball. This is mainly a mental mistake that should not be too hard to fix, but it is not the only trouble for Gainwell when catching passes outside of the backfield. He fails to sell routes very well and most good coverage linebackers were able to completely lock him up past the line of scrimmage in the passing game. If he can work more on making better breaks during his routes his receiving ability should improve greatly, but as of now, he needs improvement in that category.

Closing Ideas:

Overall Kenneth Gainwell has one of the best skillsets of any running back in this class. He is not big by any means but plays with a physicality that coaches and fans alike love to see. He is nearly unstoppable when he reaches top gear which gives him some of the best playmaking ability of any back in this draft. He hits holes well, has good vision, and just shows great upside in general. He still has plenty of room to grow in multiple areas, his skills as a receiving back and ability to get out of the backfield when faced with contact early on are clear questions, however, Gainwell has the chance to improve on these areas of concern and develop into a truly special player at the running back position. 

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