Pierre Strong Jr., South Dakota State RB

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Pierre Strong Jr. is officially the fastest running back in the 2022 NFL Draft. Let me rephrase that. The South Dakota State star was the fastest RB in the 2022 NFL Combine. As his pre-draft process sends scouts rushing back to the South Dakota State strip, he has the potential to join former Jackrabbit Dallas Goedert in the NFL. Strong’s scouting report reveals an NFL Draft prospect with an NFL-ready skill set.

Pierre Strong Jr. NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Return
  • The school: state of south dakota
  • Current year: Senior Red Shirt
  • Height: 5’11 3/8″
  • Weight: 207 pounds
  • Wingspan: 75 7/8″
  • Arms: 31 7/8″
  • Hand: 9 1/4″

Pierre Strong Jr. scouting report

Over the past few years, several FCS running backs have not only made their way to the NFL, but have been successful there. Illinois State’s James Robinson made an instant name for himself for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Austin Ekeler has emerged as one of the league’s best running backs for the Los Angeles Chargers despite Western Colorado’s announcement.

However, neither of those two were actually drafted into the NFL. This is where South Dakota State’s RB Strong is different as a prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. the absolute – but he could easily find himself selected much higher than many would have thought possible.

Strong’s scouting report shows why he was a top 150 player on my big personal NFL draft board, even before his excellent pre-draft process. The speed he demonstrated at the NFL Combine is apparent on tape. He’s a speedy running back prospect who has the ability to rip off pieces with impressive consistency.

However, possessing excellent speed alone will not take the job to the next level. Fortunately, Strong possesses additional sporting excellence. The South Dakota State RB is a sneaky mover, with the lateral agility to make cuts without any noticeable dip in speed. He exhibits quick footwork and the ability to make split-second changes of direction.

Speed, explosion, physics

He’s explosive enough to hit the holeshot and let his opponent grab air. This explosion, speed and agility work in unison with Strong’s vision to make the most of every available opportunity. Although he shows good patience behind the line of scrimmage, he is able to establish the right moment to head north, and he does so with devastating consequences.

Although he’s not the biggest fullback in the class, Strong presents physics as a perspective in a number of ways. First, he was used as the primary blocker for South Dakota State on designed quarterback runs. Second, it showed the ability to pick up free blitzers, regardless of size. Additionally, as a runner, he demonstrated a decent stiff arm to help extend runs. He has also shown the ability to grind footage. This will help elevate his stock as someone who has three-low potential.

Part of that three-try assessment is catching passes. When tasked with being a receiving option out of the backfield, Strong showed his ability to snatch the ball in the air with good technique. The attributes that make him such an effective rusher ensure that he adds after catch value as well. This was demonstrated at the East-West Shrine Bowl.

While not strictly part of the running backs rating, Strong has another trick up his sleeve. While at South Dakota State, he was an accomplished passer. NFL creative offensive coordinators should look to incorporate Strong into some gimmicky plays to maximize their offense.

Improvement areas

While his speed, explosion and agility will make Strong an attractive prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft, there are some limitations and areas for improvement that NFL teams might worry about. As a result, an escalation to early conversation is probably unlikely at this point.

Although he exhibited natural technique as a wide receiver, there are question marks here. South Dakota State hasn’t frequently used Strong as a catch-up pass. Therefore, it is a projection rather than a proven commodity in this regard. Indeed, there have been some drops in the matches watched while compiling this scouting report.

At 5’11” and 207 pounds, Strong may be considered undersized by the NFL. Additionally, we have seen in previous years that the NFL has undervalued FCS running back prospects.

With a notoriously short lifespan in the NFL, we’ve also seen teams pay attention to the amount of tread on tires for prospects. Strong has over 600 litters in his college career — on a frame that’s not necessarily designed to withstand a significant amount of contact.

Strong’s Player Profile

After a sensational NFL Combine performance, Strong is beginning to gain momentum as a true NFL talent ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft. Rewind just six years, however, and South Dakota State talent did not garner the same level of attention. Unranked and under-recruited, Strong held only one offer and one interest from his home state, the Arkansas Razorbacks, as a high school freshman from McClellan Magnet.

That’s not to say the Little Rock native lacked talent. While at McClellan, he was three times All-State Honoree. In his final two seasons in high school, he rushed for 4,265 yards. Additionally, he found the end zone 57 times during his junior and senior campaigns.

As a senior, he was named Class 5A Offensive Player of the Year. Additionally, Strong was a finalist for the Landers Award, honoring Arkansas’ top high school player. The future South Dakota State RB was also named to the All-USA Arkansas football team.

Still, the former track and field star remained unranked. As a result, he would take his skills to South Dakota State and become a feared RB at the FCS level and a dangerous NFL Draft prospect at that position.

Strong’s career at the State of South Dakota

Strong’s career at South Dakota State got off to a slow start. He redshirted his freshman season in 2017. Even then, he earned praise within the program, earning Scouting Special Teams Player of the Week recognition ahead of the Jackrabbits’ game against Illinois State.

The South Dakota State RB exploded onto the national scene as a redshirt rookie in 2018. In his first full season of playing time, Strong rushed for 1,116 rushing yards and found the zone of goals 11 times. In the last six games of the season, he had five games for 100+ yards with a touchdown in all six. Subsequently, he set the 10th-highest single-game mark for rushing yards with a 253-yard outing against South Dakota.

Strong received a host of accolades for his performances, including the Missouri Valley Football Conference Freshman of the Year. Proving it wasn’t just beginner’s luck, Strong rushed for 1,000 yards again in 2019, adding another 8 touchdowns to his resume. He again exceeded 200 yards in a single game, with 229 yards against Southern Illinois. Demonstrating their ability against Power Five opposition, the South Dakota State RB recorded 159 all-purpose yards in the matchup with Minnesota.

During the spring 2019 and disrupted 2021 season, Strong earned FCS All-American recognition. Despite sharing time with Isaiah Davis in the South Dakota State backfield, he still had 707 rushing yards in nine games. While he set a record 124 yards against Youngstown State, he showed his versatility with an all-purpose 145 yards that included a touchdown pass in the FCS playoff against Delaware.

Strong’s Rise to the NFL Draft

For all of his early career production at South Dakota State, Strong has become an NFL Draft RB prospect with his performances over the past year. He had a sensational season for South Dakota State, rushing for 1,686 yards and 18 touchdowns. During that time, he completed all 4 pass attempts for 62 yards and 4 scores.

In a remarkable season, he produced NINE plays over 100 yards. Strong rushed for multiple touchdowns in six games. Showing his talent once again against FBS opposition, he had 138 yards and 2 touchdowns against Colorado State. Although he missed a game by over 200 yards, he generated a season-high 185 yards against UC Davis.

The South Dakota State RB has not been overlooked at this transitional point in his career. Strong was invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl, where he scored a 65-yard touchdown in the game. During the week of training he impressed the Pro Football Network team on the pitch, with Tony Pauline commenting: “He runs strong inside, is hard to put down and shows a lot of quick footing and ability to change direction.

That quickness was evident at the 2022 NFL Combine. Strong blew away the competition in Indianapolis, recording a sprint time of 4.37 seconds for 40 yards. He also impressed with a 10’4″ wide jump and a 36″ vertical jump. The latter is a near-perfect metaphor for the leap Strong’s NFL Draft stock has taken over the past year.

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