Dolphins Running Back Draft History: The Hits, Misses and Trends

The Miami Dolphins have selected 81 running backs in their history, including seven in the first round
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As we head into the homestretch to the 2021 NFL Draft, it's a good time to revisit the Miami Dolphins draft history at every position.

In this draft series, we'll break down each position with number of picks since the start of the "common draft" in 1967, first-round selections, hits and misses, and any trends that might apply.

We continue with the running back position:


Number of picks: 81

Number of first-round picks: 6 (Larry Csonka, 1968; David Overstreet, 1981; Lorenzo Hampton, 1985; Sammie Smith, 1989; John Avery, 1998; Ronnie Brown, 2005)

Hits: Csonka, Jim Kiick (Round 5, 1968), Mercury Morris (Round 3, 1969), Tony Nathan (Round 3, 1979), Troy Stradford (Round 4, 1987), Lamar Miller (Round 4, 2012), Jay Ajayi (Round 5, 2016), Myles Gaskin (Round 7, 2019)

Misses: Steve Winfrey (Round 2, 1975), Sammie Smith, Avery, J.J. Johnson (Round 2, 1999), Daniel Thomas (Round 2, 2011)

Trends: There has been a lot of talk about how NFL teams have come to devalue the running back position, and that certainly looks like what's happened with the Dolphins. This is a team that has not taken a running back in the first round since 2005 or even before the third round when Miami drafted Daniel Thomas in Round 2. The Dolphins have been drafted running backs on a steady basis overall though, taking eight during the 2010s.


Reflecting the overall success of the franchise, the Dolphins set the bar for finding running backs in the draft in their early days by nabbing Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris in consecutive drafts in the late 1960s.

But after those three combined for 10 Pro Bowl invitations, the Dolphins have gotten only three Pro Bowl seasons from a running back they drafted: one each for Andra Franklin, Ronnie Brown and Jay Ajayi.

The Dolphins also have gotten minimal impact from their first-round picks at the position, with a few of them being out and out busts. Brown did have a solid career for the Dolphins, but he also was the second overall pick and therefore fairly could have been expected to produce even more — and the fact the Dolphins picked him when they could have had Aaron Rodgers doesn't help, either.

The Dolphins also haven't hit nearly as much on second-round running backs as they did in the third round or later.