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NFL Draft History: Running Backs
By on February 22, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Time to continue our series on the history of the NFL Draft. Last week, we gave you the history of the 15th overall pick, which is currently held by the Dolphins. Today, we’ll assess the drafting of running backs.

With countless mock drafts suggesting that the Fins will select Alabama RB Mark Ingram in the first round, I thought it would be interesting to test Troy Stradford’s theory that running backs are a “dime a dozen.”

In 2010, the NFL’s leading rusher was Arian Foster of the Houston Texans, who ran for over 1,600 yards. Foster also lead the league with 16 rushing touchdowns. Where was he drafted? He wasn’t. Foster was an undrafted free agent in 2009 who spent the first half of the season on the Texans’ practice squad.

The other top rushers in the NFL this year were third round choice Jamaal Charles (1,467 yards); fifth rounder Michael Turner (1,371); Chris Johnson of the Titans, who was selected 24th overall in 2008 (1,364); and second rounder Maurice Jones-Drew (1,324).

Meanwhile,the five running backs who ran for the most touchdowns this year were Foster; BenJarvus Green-Ellis of the Patriots, who was an undrafted free agent; first rounders Reshard Mendenhall and Adrian Peterson; and Turner.

So while there are definitely impact guys that were drafted early on, there seem to be at least as many impact guys, if not more, that were drafted in the middle to late rounds, or even guys who weren’t drafted at all.

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As for the Dolphins’ history of drafting running backs, the team has taken a RB seven times in the first round, most recently when they selected Ronnie Brown #2 overall in 2005. Prior to that, their first round choices were: John Avery (#29 in 1998), Sammie Smith (#9 in 1989), Lorenzo Hampton (#27 in 1985), David Overstreet (#13 in 1981, though he signed with the CFL and didn’t play for Miami until 1983), Larry Csonka (#8 in 1968), and Jim Grabowski, who was the Fins’ first ever draft selection and the first overall pick in the 1966 draft, though he signed with the Packers of the NFL.

As for some of the other notable backs drafted by the Fins: Jim Kiick was a 5th round selection in ’68, Mercury Morris was a 3rd round choice in 1969, and Lamar Smith and Karim Abdul-Jabbar were both 3rd rounders, in 1994 and 1996, respectively.

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Alright, so there are studs to be had in the first round. Larry Csonka, Chris Johnson, and Reshard Mendenhall are all examples of first round choices who have been very productive. That said, I think that  right now the value of the running back is perhaps as low as it has ever been. Teams are throwing more than ever and examples of guys like Foster and Charles seem to be popping up every year. Heck, the starting RB’s for the last four Super Bowl champions were drafted in the 4th round or later.

When computing all of this information, I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that good backs are a “dime a dozen,” but I do think that taking one in the first round is a dicey prospect. That’s just my opinion, though…what do you think?

Do YOU think the Fins should draft a running back in the first round?

  • No (71%)
  • Yes (29%)
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The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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