2012 NFL Draft: Beware the Running Back

Former USC Running back Reggie Bush, now the starting running back for the Miami Dolphins, is one of ten running backs to be picked in the top 10 of a draft since 2000.

Should NFL teams select a running back early in the 2012 NFL draft? Are star running backs still necessary in today's NFL? Should Trent Richardson be selected by the Cleveland Browns with the fourth overall pick?

Since 2000, there have been ten running backs selected in the first ten picks of the draft. They are:

Year Pick Player Team
2000 5 Jamal Lewis Baltimore Ravens
2000 7 Thomas Jones Arizona Cardinals
2001 5 LaDainian Tomlinson San Diego Chargers
2005 2 Ronnie Brown Miami Dolphins
2005 4 Cedric Benson Chicago Bears
2005 5 Cadillac Williams Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2006 2 Reggie Bush New Orleans Saints
2007 7 Adrian Peterson Minnesota Vikings
2008 4 Darren McFadden Oakland Raiders
2010 9 C.J. Spiller Buffalo Bills

Why is it such a risk to take a running back that early in the draft? SB Nation takes a look at that exact question:

With that in mind, here are the combine career stats of those ten running backs:

Games Games Started Att Yds TDs Y/A Y/G Y/Season Rec Yds TDs Pro Bowls All Pro
953 759 15028 63069 467 4.19 66.1 900.6 2244 17267 54 11 7

Combined, those ten running backs have played 70 seasons in the NFL. LaDainian Tomlinson account for five of the Pro Bowls, with Adrian Peterson claiming four of them. Together, they have averaged 4.9 years with their original teams, with Tomlinson again claiming the high point, nine years with San Diego, while Spiller has the low point, having only be drafted two years ago. Two running backs, Jones and Benson, only spent three years with the team that drafted them before heading somewhere else.

Then, there's the injury issue. Over 70 NFL seasons, 1120 possible games would have been played by these players. However, they only started 953 of those games, meaning they have missed 15% of the possible games, or an average of 2.4 games per season. And, they have only started 67.7% of the games over that period. For a top ten pick, at a position that is seen as one of the easiest to transition from college to the pros, that is not a very high percentage.

While this year, the Miami Dolphins are not looking for a running back early, it is interesting to see what an early pick for a running back could mean. Especially when you consider the Dolphins drafted one of those ten running backs in Ronnie Brown back in 2005 and are using another in Reggie Bush (2006) as the feature back right now.

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