Isiah Pacheco draft: How Chiefs’ seventh-round RB became one of 2022 NFL Draft’s biggest steals

As Super Bowl 58 between the Chiefs and 49ers approaches, you’ve heard plenty about Brock Purdy being “Mr. Irrelevant” in the 2022 NFL Draft.

What hasn’t gotten as much coverage is that Kansas City’s breakout running back Isiah Pacheco was taken 251st in that very same draft — only 11 picks away from going undrafted completely.

This year’s Chiefs team has operated differently than the Patrick Mahomes-led championship squads we’ve seen in the past. They still rely on Mahomes’ magic arm, but Kansas City has beaten teams with its stout defense while also puncturing opponents with an emerging run game.

Mahomes has still been surgical, but Pacheco’s development from seventh-round sleeper to one of the toughest runners in the NFL has taken a weight off of his star QB’s shoulders. His rugged running style has caught the eye of football fans everywhere.

Finishing with 935 rushing yards, the second-year RB came up just shy of a 1,000-yard rushing season in just 14 games. He punched in seven rushing touchdowns and finished with over 1,000 all-purpose yards when you factor in his 244 receiving yards.

Pacheco has scored in each of the Chiefs’ three playoff games thus far, averaging 84.7 rushing yards per game and 4.0 yards per carry.

How did he fall all the way to Kansas City in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft? The Sporting News takes a closer look below.

MORE: Sporting News experts make picks for 49ers vs. Chiefs in Super Bowl 58

Isiah Pacheco college stats

Pacheco played all four of his college seasons at Rutgers. He received consistent playing time during his tenure with the Scarlet Knights, splitting carries as a freshman before earning the starting job as a sophomore.

Pacheco was solid and consistent, but he was never dominant. He never had a 1,000 yards rushing or double-digit TDs in a single season, and he was rarely a factor in the passing game. He was never All-Big Ten or an All-American, but he also never had a season with less than 500 rushing yards.

He finished his college career with a respectable 2,442 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns before taking his talents to the NFL.

Year Games Rush Att. Rush Yds. Rush TDs Rec. Rec. Yds Rec. TDs
2018 11 111 551 3 2 11 0
2019 11 169 729 7 13 83 0
2020 9 116 515 3 19 130 1
2021 12 167 647 5 13 25 0
Career 43 563 2,442 18 47 249 1

Isiah Pacheco NFL Draft scouting report

Pacheco was listed at 5-10, 216 pounds, and he ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

The NFL’s “Next Gen Stats” grades each combine prospect with a production score and athleticism score, and Pacheco ranked 36th and fifth, respectively, among his draft classmates at RB. Overall, those scores measured him as the 27th-best running back in the class, which explains why he was the 21st RB taken in the draft.

Pacheco’s prospect grade projected him to be an “average backup or special teamer.”

NFL DRAFT 2024: Big board of top 100 players overall, rankings by position

Here were some of his perceived strengths and weaknesses, according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein.

Strengths

  • Enduring and dependable for all four years
  • Adequate build for contact his running style invites
  • Urgency in his operating mode
  • Rapid-fire feet never stop chopping and working
  • Drops pad level with aggressive charge through the mess
  • Makes cuts with good suddenness and energy
  • Possesses burst necessary for successful outside runs
  • Size and strength to square up linebacker in protection

Weaknesses

  • Running style lacks rhythm and cohesion
  • Hurried nature creates impatience in allowing for block development
  • Struggles to hit points of entry with proper timing
  • Too quick to bounce a run wide in early stages
  • Hasty pace diminishes ability to force missed tackles
  • Below-average hand-eye coordination catching down the field
  • Creativity after the catch is lacking
  • Pass protection looks busy but lacks involvement

Running backs taken in 2022 NFL Draft

The 2022 NFL Draft had more than a handful of productive running backs who are already making an impact for their respective teams.

I’m sure the Jets aren’t regretting selecting Breece Hall, nor the Seahawks with Kenneth Walker III, the Bills with James Cook, or the Buccaneers with Rachaad White. Even the Rams nailed their fifth-round pick with Kyren Williams, who was undeniably one of the best RBs in the NFL this season.

There are several other teams who, if they could have a do-over, would gladly take Pacheco over the RB they ended up with.

Below, you can find all 20 RBs selected ahead of Pacheco in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Round Pick Player Team School
2 36 Breece Hall Jets Iowa St.
2 41 Kenneth Walker III Seahawks Michigan St.
2 63 James Cook Bills Georgia
3 91 Rachaad White Buccaneers Arizona St.
3 93 Tyrion Davis-Price 49ers LSU
4 107 Dameon Pierce Texans Florida
4 122 Zamir White Raiders Georgia
4 123 Isaiah Spiller Chargers Texas A&M
4 127 Pierre Strong Patriots South Dakota St.
4 131 Hassan Haskins Titans Michigan
5 151 Tyler Allgeier Falcons BYU
5 154 Snoop Conner Jaguars Mississippi
5 156 Jerome Ford Browns Cincinnati
5 164 Kyren Williams Rams Notre Dame
5 169 Ty Chandler Vikings North Carolina
6 183 Kevin Harris Patriots South Carolina
6 196 Tyler Badie Ravens Missouri
6 201 Keaontay Ingram Cardinals USC
6 203 Trestan Ebner Bears Baylor
7 250 Brittain Brown Raiders UCLA
7 251 Isiah Pacheco Chiefs Rutgers
7 260 Zander Horvath Chargers Purdue

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