Buyer Beware When it Comes to Running Backs

Ed Kracz

Having a Christian McCaffrey, an Ezekiel Elliott or a Saquon Barkley is nice, and Derrick Henry sure was a treat to watch in this year’s playoffs, but when it comes to making it to a Super Bowl, running backs drafted in the top 10 aren’t required.

Look at this year’s Super Bowl and you will see that four of the six running backs were undrafted free agents.

The Kansas City Chiefs will trot out undrafted free agents Williams and Williams, as in Damien and Darrel. 

LeSean McCoy was a second round pick of the Eagles, but he was inactive in the AFC title game against the Tennessee Titans and played only one snap in the Divisional Round against the Houston Texans, so how much, if at all, he plays in Super Bowl LIV is unclear.

The San Francisco 49ers will lean on undrafted free agents Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida. Tevin Coleman will likely see time if healthy after suffering a shoulder injury in the NFC championship win over the Green Bay Packers, and Coleman was a third-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons.

None of those six finished among the league’s top 25 rushers this season.

Mostert, who had 220 yards and four touchdowns against the Packers, was 26th in the NFL with 772 yards during the regular season.

Backfield mates Breida was 31st with 623 and Coleman 35th with 544.

Damien Williams was 39th with 498 and McCoy was 42nd with 465. Darrel Williams mustered just 141 yards.

Henry, who was a second-round draft pick, was the leading rusher with 1,540 yards. He put the Titans on his back in the postseason and was a workhorse, but, in the end, he could not finish the climb to the top of the Super Bowl mountain.

The last time a player who led the league in rushing and won a Super Bowl was Terrell Davis when he ran for 2,008 yards in 1998 and won the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos. Davis, by the way, was a sixth-round draft pick in 1995.

Just four of the league’s top 10 rushers made the postseason this year.

In addition to Henry, the others to do it were Seattle’s Chris Carson (seventh round pick), Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, who is a quarterback, and Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook (second round pick).

Even last year, when the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots met in the Super Bowl, the Rams had undrafted free agent runners C.J. Anderson and Malcolm Brown. Granted, they also had Todd Gurley, a former 10 overall pick, but Gurley was hurt and not a real factor.

The Patriots were sparked by first-round pick Sony Michel, but they also had fourth round pick James White and sixth-rounder Rex Burkhead.

Bottom line: spending first-round draft capital on a running back doesn’t always correlate into super success.

It is more a case of buyer beware if you’re thinking of taking a running back in the top 10, or even the first round all together.

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

It is always so hard to see if they will transition well to the pros. Look at Reggie Bush one of the greatest college running backs of all time but did not have much of an NFL career. I think that is why it is important to look more at a guys work ethic and determination when picking a RB in the draft.