Monday, March 23, 2015

The Deflated Running Back Era

By Jordan Tozzi Owner of - Follow us: @LegionReport - @LegionReportMLB - @LegionReportNBA


End of an Era

Consider the fact that at the NFL Draft’s inception in 1936, the storied Running Back position has carried an impressive streak. A Running Back has been drafted in 77 consecutive drafts until halted in 2013 and 2014.
Selected in the 1st Round of the 2012 NFL Draft – Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and David Wilson were highly touted in all aspects. According to an ESPN Report from 2012, Trent Richardson swept the Cleveland Browns off their feet at an Alabama Pro Day. Chris Low from ESPN writes, “You see, Richardson doesn’t know for sure how high he could go on some of the weight-room lifts at Alabama … the Alabama strength staff stopped him at 465 Lbs on the Bench Press. Richardson explains, ‘They didn’t want me straining anything, but I wonder what I could do for real.’ The same goes for Squats and the Power Clean. Richardson said he wasn’t allowed to go higher than 600 Lbs on Squats and ‘did that easy.’ He’s gone all the way up to 365 Lbs on the Power Clean, but added, ‘I was doing right around that in high school.’ He said his Vertical Jump is 36 Inches and he possesses just 6% Body Fat.”
We know the rest of the story regarding Richardson, however the question remains … Did the 2012 NFL Draft bust the idea of selecting a Running Back in Round 1?  Simply put, when Richardson, Martin and Wilson busted, the position’s value took a hit. That being said, dating back to 2008 the trend was beginning as “Round 1 Running Back Selections” didn’t yield the value they carried at the selected price.

Price and Value

Warren Buffett once wrote, “Long ago, Ben Graham taught me that ‘Price is what you pay and value is what you get.’ Whether we’re talking about socks or stocks, I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down.”
The “Oracle from Omaha” depicts an idea and strategy that translates accordingly. With the trend beginning in 2008, the NFL saw a run of Running Backs that were volatile, fragile and didn’t come with the value that the price tag showed. Between the years “2002­-2011″ 26 Running Backs were taken in the First Round, averaging out to nearly 3 every year. Names of these backs include Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, but for every success there were the guys like Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, Donald Brown, Jahvid Best, Chris “Beanie” Wells, amongst many others who never reached their immense potential.
Injuries have always been an aspect of the NFL. The League has guarded against it, however in the early days the game was highlighted for its violence, yet through injury or mileage … history tells us that Running Backs simply break down. According to Austin Lee of, “There’s a pretty clear downward trend as players march towards 3,000 career touches. Only 12 post-merger players have reached that milestone. Nine of them are in the Hall of Fame and two of them will eventually be enshrined in Canton (Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson). Relying on a player approaching the 3,000-touch mark is a risky proposition unless you think he is a future Hall of Famer.”

Recent Examples

In 2005, Shaun Alexander (Age 27) set the record for the most TDs in a single-season. At 31, Alexander was cut mid-season by the Washington Redskins after netting 11 Carries and 24 Yards on the season. LaDainian Tomlinson punched the +1,000 Yard Ticket for 8 consecutive seasons and broke Alexander’s TD Record in 2006. After the 2009 season, Tomlinson failed to reach the 1,000 Yard Mark for the first time in his career. San Diego quickly washed their hands of Tomlinson and the future Hall of Fame Running Back trekked toward New York, never producing the same. Tomlinson strongly eclipsed +300 Touches in 7 straight seasons with San Diego and ended his career with 3,176 Attempts. Alexander totaled only 2,187 Attempts in his career, yet the wheels fell off right at 30 Years Old. The same holds true for Tomlinson as he was between ages 30 and 31. Ultimately, two of the greatest running backs of the decade barely made it to age 30 in the league. 
Understanding the contrast, why would the Philadelphia Eagles sign an often injured Running Back – DeMarco Murray to a 5-Year Deal when he currently sits at Age 27? Why would the Indianapolis Colts sign veteran Running Back – Frank Gore to a 3-Year when he turns 31 Years Old in May? Gore has already amassed 2,444 Rushing Attempts. Is Indianapolis siding with the 3,000 Touch Theory over Age? It’s a question that we will know the answer to within the next 2-3 Years for both candidates.
RankName Career Attempts
1.Steven Jackson2,743
2.Frank Gore2,442
3.Adrian Peterson2,054
4.Marshawn Lynch2,033
5.Chris Johnson1,897
6.Maurice Jones Drew1,847
7.Matt Forte1,817
8.LeSean McCoy1,461

We are under the mindset that the NFL Draft is used for long term growth. If you hit on a Running Back, the exposure is a 6-8 Year span. We don’t feel that the NFL has translated to an over-arching theme, rather the history has been recognized and the future will dwell on opportunity and team needs. If a phenomenal talent at Running Back is available, it won’t be ignored. The NFL has turned up the volume and changed the game in the process to more of an aerial attack than that of a ground-pound strategy. It’s a different NFL and one that is here to stay!


26th Pick – Baltimore Ravens – Georgia RB – Todd Gurley
27th Pick – Dallas Cowboys ­- Wisconsin RB – Melvin Gordon
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