Every mock draft that I have looked at the past few weeks has one thing in common, only one running back will be drafted in the first round. That lucky person is Trent Richardson. In fact when you look at the draft, there haven’t been a lot of backs drafted in the first round since the 2008 NFL draft that included Darren McFadden at #4, Jonathan Stewart at #13, Felix Jones at #22, Rashard Mendenhall at #23, and Chris Johnson at #24.
Although these guys have made an impact and are rated amongst the leagues best, you could argue that even in that class, there is quality that was reached at the bottom end of the draft.
The reality is that there is no real way of evaluating a can’t miss back. Running backs are considered a dime a dozen. Every style is different and most teams get comfortable with the one they have so they don’t invest in a high round pick to try and replace them. However if someone they like falls through the cracks and are available in later rounds, expect that player to be pulled in immediately.
The science of drafting runners is so inexact that lots of times talent gets over looked. Fortunately for these guys they earn their stripes quicker because of shorter contracts and they inherit a huge fortune in year three instead of playing out the vaunted rookie contract that usually lasts five to six years.
Guys like Arian Foster who went undrafted out of Tennessee and as it turns out is now considered one of the best backs in the league reaped the benefits of this draft situation. In 2009 three running backs were selected in the first round and none have accomplished what Foster is doing in Houston. That year Knowshon Marino was selected #12 by the Broncos, Donald Brown was selected #27 by the Colts, and Chris Beanie Wells was selected #31 by the Cardinals. Brown has been less than stellar and Marino and Wells have been injury prone but productive when they are healthy.
So how did a position that used to be so coveted fall so far from grace? The answer is easy. The idea that you have to run the ball and play good defense is no longer valid. Teams now live by spreading people out and using four and sometimes five wide receivers to gain yardage. In fact some teams will now dress as many as seven wide receivers on game day. There was once a time when a team didn’t have but five wide receivers on a roster.
The value of positions has changed but when you look at the Super Bowl winners, even the teams who sling it all over the place have turned to the running game to win in the playoffs. Interestingly enough, if you look at the finalist in last years run to the Super Bowl all but New England were run first teams. San Francisco, New York, and Baltimore were all run first teams. Ironically that seems to be the case for winners.
You can argue that runners aren’t necessary since New Orleans and Indianapolis both won slinging the rock. Contrary to popular belief, they ran the ball more in those wins. Look at the numbers of Pierre Thomas and Dominic Rhodes in those games. They were the difference makers and helped their teams hoist the trophy.
I understand that the league moves in cycles and eventually one mans trash becomes another man’s treasure. It’s just interesting how fads emerge in a copy cat league. I guess copying is the greatest form of flattery.
Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out!