Updated: Feb 13, 2022
Iowa State's Breece Hall stats out as one of the top runners in the 2022 draft class. This former First Team All-American and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year is 6th in rushing yards and 1st in rushing touchdowns in 2021 per Sports Reference. Additionally, Hall ranks inside the top-15 in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving scores. However, from an efficiency standpoint, he is 17th in yards per carry (min. 150 attempts), but that's bound to happen when a player eclipses 250 carries in a season. Efficiency metrics are often deceiving, but this is why RBV can help us dig a little deeper.
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The first thing that sticks out is the fact that Hall has more diversity in his run scheme exposure than most of the rest of the 2022 class. With only 64.1% of his carries coming in Zone schemes, this is an indicator of his versatility. Similar to the way a wide receivers alignment diversity can be a positive indicator of NFL-level success, this is a check in the box, especially if his landing spot features more Power and Gap concepts.
Focusing on where he spent most of his time, Outside Zone did not appear to be the best use of his skillset. Coming in below average (15th of 24; min 20 OZ attempts) among backs in this class with at least 20 carries in the scheme, we may have to look closely at the tape to see what is happening. It is not atypical for performance quality to decrease with more carries, but this still needs to be considered in your assessments.
Hall's higher ASR in Inside Zone (75.4%) is slightly above average (8th of 23, min scheme carries: 20). This could indicate a few things: more decisiveness in this scheme, better offensive line play, or the scheme is simply a better fit for his capabilities. While the sample size is smaller for Power runs, it is not insignificant. Power is less foundational and more of a wrinkle these days in most NFL run scheme distribution so it is valuable to examine his performance in this scheme as well.
Vision and Burst
The most predominant feature of Breece Hall's game is his patience. You will see, especially on Inside Zone runs, that he paces well allowing plays to develop. He combines this with good burst which is facilitated by good mental processing speed of what is in front of him. His pacing also allows him to consistently press the line of scrimmage, forcing linebackers to commit to gaps. This type of patience and aggressiveness in attacking the line of scrimmage would never work without the complimentary lateral explosiveness and agility. His lateral explosiveness demonstrates his hip flexibility quite well. He demonstrates control when jump-cutting to open gaps, allowing him to get to the right place.
All of the skills mentioned above serve him specifically well for the Inside Zone scheme. The scheme encourages runners to press the line of scrimmage and force others to make decisions first. Those same skills appear to serve his success in Power runs as well, specifically when the puller ends up in space. Offensive linemen often have an agility disadvantage compared to linebackers and defensive backs. This lineman/defensive back dynamic makes it tough for runners to predict or quickly read the resulting leverage. Hall's pacing and patience allow him to set up the puller for success or simply predict the leverage. Unfortunately, this skill is not consistently resulting in success in the Power run scheme.
Hall features good elusiveness and agility at the second level, but most noteworthy is very good contact balance demonstrated in space. He is unlikely to go down to shoulder or one-armed tackle attempts versus most defenders due to said balance and good play strength. His home run speed is very good requiring better angles from pursuing defenders to prevent touchdowns.
As stated earlier, his receiving numbers were all top-15 in college football for 2021. This comes despite only being lined up split out on 2% of his snaps. The mere fact that he was out there means that the coaching staff felt he at least posed a threat despite only garnering one target out of that alignment.
The bulk of Hall's receiving work came out of the backfield in the flat or on Arrow and Angle routes. In these routes, he featured strong hands, a solid catch radius in front of him and above his head on the run or stationary. He demonstrates some of the same explosiveness in his burst when penetrating upfield after the catch. We see a bit of that elusiveness as well when making the first defender miss.
Like many runners in the sport, Hall's vision focus favors what he sees, versus what he can infer. He has good anticipation of blocking developments, but as far as inferring the state of the field that he cannot see, he is far from that ability. This is not so much a knock on his game, but rather an observation that limits his ceiling.
While his vision is good, it would behoove him to improve his ability to maximize space. It seems he is less willing (or lacks the awareness to) hug the edges of gaps created by blocking. This is a contributing factor to his reduced effectiveness in Outside Zone compared to Inside Zone. His patience is a bit of a double-edged sword as well. It serves him excellently for Inside Zone, but Wide Zone runs do not permit runners as much opportunity to deceive linebackers because of the required track.
In the receiving game, there is a small bone to pick with Hall. When he catches the ball facing the line of scrimmage, he seems a little slower in the mental processing of the field when he turns around. When he overcomes the delayed reaction, he explodes and penetrates, but in the NFL those decision-making windows shrink. This could cap his upside in the receiving game.
Hall's lack of blocking reps in obvious passing situations (3rd or 4th down with 7+ yards to go) is something we should look for at the next level. With virtually no sample to examine, it begs the question, "Did the coaching staff have doubt about his capabilities as a blocker?" It is also reasonable that he was more valuable as a pass-catcher in obvious passing situations.
Breece Hall has the build and ability an NFL team can win with. His best fit is going to be a team that features Inside Zone with Power as a wrinkle. A team with good guard and center play will maximize his explosive ability on inside runs, especially if they are good pullers. As a good inside runner, his competitive toughness will become evident quickly. He will be a reliable passing outlet to any quarterback on obvious passing downs, but his blocking capability is unknown and likely a liability. The upside comes from his competitive toughness can be leveraged to mitigate or eliminate this issue in blocking, if it is even an issue.