Good article from NFL Draftcountdown.
The Value of A Runner
Posted By Shane P. Hallam
Mark Ingram has catapulted himself back into college football after a knee injury and looks to be on pace for another amazing season. With the possibility of another Heisman looming, the junior runner is thought of to be one of sure prospects to leave school early and declare for the NFL draft. This has brought up a debate about RB value in the NFL draft and where Ingram should be selected. He has the full package to become a complete workhorse runner, but teams may still have trepidation to take him Top 5 or even Top 10. Why? It seems most teams feel that they don’t NEED a stud RB and instead can find a RB in later rounds of the NFL Draft. There is also a perception of NFL teams now using a committee of backs instead of one primary runner and thus the value of RBs are lessened.
But how true is this?
1. Looking at Week 3 of the current NFL season, 13 of the 32 (41%) teams in the NFL gave more than 75% of their rushes to one runner. 18 of 32 (56%) have given more than 65% of their rushes to one runner. Add in the injuries to some primary running back’s like Steven Jackson, Jahvid Best, Ray Rice, Clinton Portis, etc, and this is an intriguing trend to look at. About half the teams in the NFL do prefer some type of running back by committee, but plenty have still found a reliable back to carry the load.
2. How do first round running back’s compare to those drafted later? Looking at the current rushing leaders: 5 of the top 10 runners were drafted in the first round. 9 of the top 20 were drafted in the first round. You are just as likely to find a productive runner in the later rounds than the first. Looking at a full season of work, in 2009, 7 of the Top 10 RBs were drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. Though it seems later runners can be found, 1st round RBs do have more success than chancing it elsewhere.
To analyze if the running back position has become less of a priority for teams, let’s look at the Top 15 of past drafts and see if Ingram could be a Top 10 pick.
CJ Spiller (#9) – With an unlikely suitor in Buffalo, Spiller was thought of as a Top Ten talent that would drop due to position. Even with gigantic needs at OT and QB, the Bills opted for the talented weapon in the run and return game. Though many criticize the choice, there was a feeling in the organization that the value was too good at #9.
Ryan Mathews (#12) – Being in such a dire running back situation after losing LaDanian Tomlinson, the Chargers traded up to get past Houston and other teams to take a hopeful workhorse back in Ryan Mathews. Though Mathews may not have been valued by many draft experts as a Top 10 option, going soon after at #12 shows the value for a possible complete runner.
Knowshon Moreno (#12) – Moreno was the favorite of many draft experts at running back, even though he may not have had the upside of other first round runners. The Broncos at #12 had multiple needs, but addressed the running back position before anything else, and passed on other runners Donald Brown and Chris Wells.
Darren McFadden (#4) – McFadden, a dynamic threat from Arkansas, showed off world class speed in the Hog Wild system. The Oakland Raiders were a team in love with speed and took a chance on a Top 5 runner, a pick that is starting to pay dividends.
Jonathan Stewart (#13) – Even with former first round pick DeAngelo Williams on the roster, the Panthers created an incredible passing attack by adding another possible primary runner in Jonathan Stewart. With other top rushers in Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Johnson and Ray Rice going later in the draft, 2008 was full of top rushers.
Adrian Peterson (#7) – The major argument for Ingram not going Top 5 is that one of the best RB prospects in history, Adrian Peterson, didn’t go in the Top 5. Most argue he should have went earlier looking at the draft now, but with many teams not needing a RB, Peterson fell to 7 for the Vikings.
Marshawn Lynch (#12) – Lynch was another hard nosed runner who seemed to be pegged for stud, every-down, workhorse status. A future Pro Bowler, the Bills have current problems with the runner but he still has the talent to be that workhorse.
Reggie Bush (#2) – The debate about Reggie Bush raged on when the Texans passed on, but one of the greatest players in college football of the last decade, Bush was a true Top 5 pick. The hope was to find an electrifying threat that could change the NFL, Bush has become a niche player with an excellent NFL role.
Ronnie Brown (#2) – The Dolphins selected the workhorse Ronnie Brown who had the speed, vision, and tough running style to be an NFL success. If it hadn’t been for injuries, Brown could be thought of as one of the top backs in the NFL.
Cedric Benson (#4) – Not known for speed, Benson was taken Top 5 to be the big time replacement to Thomas Jones. Just like Mark Ingram, Benson was the hope of the Bears to become a 25-30 carry a game player. Though it didn’t work out for them, Benson has found success in Cincinnati doing just that.
Cadillac Williams (#5) – Another runner who has been derailed by injuries, Cadillac was an all-around type of player, catching passes, running up the gut, etc. He has had up and down success with the Bucs, and usually has split carries.
Looking at the past Top 5 picks, the last 2 (McFadden and Bush) were hoped to change the game of football with their speed and abilities. The 3 selected Top 5 in 2005 were all possible primary runners and workhorse backs, like Mark Ingram. CJ Spiller and Adrian Peterson have gone Top 10, both as very different runners but with a strong purpose in mind. Finally, numerous runners that fit the Ingram mold of a complete RB have gone close to Top 10 in Mathews, Moreno, Stewart and Lynch.
So what will happen in 2011? Will Mark Ingram be a Top 5 pick? Top 10? Is he worth the value there? Situation will be a huge deciding factor. Right now, the teams slated for top picks (Bills, Browns, Lions, Panthers, 49ers) probably aren’t going to rush for a running back. The Patriots seem to be most associated with Ingram as they have Oakland’s first round pick and could pick Top 5 or 10. The data says that taking a runner to be a workhorse early in the first CAN give you a successful running game and teams may want to begin looking in that direction sooner rather than later. Ingram won’t fall very far out of the Top 10 at least if his production continues. Last year should be a lesson with the Bills as well, a team that doesn’t “need” a RB could opt to take Ingram and hope to have a stud at the position for the next 7-9 years. If history is an indication, the team that takes him likely won’t be disappointed, no matter where he is selected
Sometimes running the Mularkey offense makes me feel like I'm in a prison.