2021 NFL Draft Summer Scouting: Kenneth Gainwell is a three down star

Kenny Gainwell, 2021 NFL Draft prospect (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Kenny Gainwell, 2021 NFL Draft prospect (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Memphis Tigers RB Kenneth Gainwell is one of the most exciting prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft.

As we continue to delve deeper into summer scouting for the 2021 NFL Draft, there will always be players who are just plain fun to watch. Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell is one of those players.

Gainwell has been in a crowded room of skill players at Memphis, featuring 2020 draft pick Antonio Gibson and 2019 draft pick Darrell Henderson, but came into his own in 2019. He rushed for 1,459 yards on 231 carries and ran for 13 touchdowns. Gainwell also caught 51 passes for 610 yards and three scores.

Evidenced by the stats above, Gainwell has true three-down ability that translates very well to the next level. Let’s dive into his summer scouting report.


As we just mentioned, Gainwell is effective on all three downs, and he might have the (early) claim as best receiving back in the 2021 NFL Draft. Gainwell has such natural hands, so much so he could be confused with playing receiver. Memphis lined Gainwell up a bunch in the slot in 2019, and that will likely continue as the page turns to 2020. He’s also effective working the middle of the field on angle routes and has great ability to make defenders miss after the catch.

In terms of vision, Gainwell does a solid job as a processor and reacts quickly accordingly. He’s good at finding cutback lanes and often makes good calls to bail early and reverse field.

Gainwell’s contact balance is also very good. Don’t bother trying to tackle him high, because he will keep the legs churning and shrug that off. He shows great balance to recover when players go low and consistently finds ways to pick up extra yardage after contact.

Gainwell shows good lateral agility and the ability to explode off of his plant foot. His burst is sufficient and can get up to speed quickly from a dead stop on screens.

Once he’s in space, Gainwell is super dangerous. We’ve mentioned the lateral agility and that ability to make defenders miss, along with his ability to work well through contact. What’s even more fun to watch is how he sets up defenders and makes them look very silly.


The biggest concern with Gainwell’s game has to be his long speed. He really doesn’t look like a true breakaway runner, and it shows with the lack of long runs. The good news is that’s not how he wins, and his other traits translate very well.

Gainwell could work a bit more on pass protection, as he needs to work on true recognition because Memphis often assigns him a gap, and it’s quite obvious when they do so. He does stay competitive in pass protection, but often lets defenders get too deep.


At this point in the summer process, this writer puts Kenneth Gainwell at the top of the running back rankings. His ability in space, talent as a receiver, and his processing skills make him very well-rounded.

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Yes, there’s no real long speed, but everything else is there. It may not be popular to have Gainwell at RB1 just yet, but if he gets to play another season, he will once again show how talented he really is.