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Why You Shouldn't Take a RB in Round 1


Rings
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This is a hotly debated topic, but I wanted to give my reasoning behind why I would never take a running back in the first round of the draft.  Sorry for it being a long post, but I wanted to give you logic vs just it being a hot take.

1)  It is one of the most replaceable / least valuable positions in football. 

Analytics tell us this by measuring WAR (wins above replacement), that RB is the most replaceable.  The NFL tells us this by the contracts they are willing to pay them that it is the least valuable. 

Let's say this year in free agency we wanted to sign a player top 10 at their position.  This is what the #10 salary is for each position this year. 

QB     $27,000,000 
EDGE     $16,500,000 
WR     $15,100,000 
OT     $13,000,000 
CB     $12,500,000 
IDL     $12,333,333 
LB     $10,500,000 
OG     $10,000,000 
C     $9,400,000 
S     $9,000,000 
TE     $7,450,001 
RB     $5,203,333 

The league itself is telling us the RB is the least valuable position.

2)  Because of this, you get the least return on your investment when drafting a RB in the first round.

Because of the rookie wage scale we will pay our 16th overall pick roughly 13.6mil over four years, averaging 3.4mil per year.  With our cap issues, we need to get the biggest return on our investment possible.  In other words, we need to shop smart/cheap in free agency and get the most out of this draft that we can.  Go back to the signing a Top 10 Player at their position example.  If we draft a player at that position and they end up being a stud, below is the savings we would get vs paying for a Top 10 Player in Free Agency at the same position.

QB    $23,600,000
EDGE    $13,100,000
WR    $11,700,000
OT    $9,600,000
CB    $9,100,000
IDL    $8,933,333
LB    $7,100,000
OG    $6,600,000
C    $6,000,000
S    $5,600,000
TE    $4,050,001
RB    $1,803,333

Obviously we aren't going to sign a QB to get that savings, but drafting a RB would be the worst use of that pick possible from a cap stand point, where if we landed a pass rusher or CB we would save a ton of money to be invested elsewhere. 

Example One:  Sign a stud pass rusher for 16.5mil in free agency and draft a RB @ 16.  We spend roughly 20mil.

Example Two: Draft edge @ 16 and sign a top 10 back in free agency.  We spend roughly 8.6mil.     We could sign a top 10 CB with that remaining money and still be spending less than example one. 

Obviously, this is all "in theory", but you get the point...we need to be smart of what position we draft based off of value, not need.

3)  The highest paid running backs do not equate to wins. 

Of the top five highest paid players at their positions, here are how many of them are in the playoffs this year.

QB    3
S    3
TE    3
IDL    2
WR    2
C    2
OT    1
EDGE    1
CB    1
OG    1
LB    1
RB    0

4)  Running backs taken top 25 overall in the draft do not equate to wins.

Great backs come from all throughout the draft, some really great ones have come early in the draft as well, there is no denying that.  The problem is that even in their best performances this year, their team's still lost.  Below are all the running backs taken in the top 25 picks for the last 10 years & their team’s 2019 record.

2019 - Josh Jacobs: 24th pick,  7-9
2018 - Saquon Barkley: 2nd pick,  4-12
2017 - Leonard Fournette: 4th pick,  6-10
2017 - Christian McCaffrey: 8th pick,  5-11
2016 - Ezekiel Elliot: 4th pick,  8-8
2015 - Todd Gurley: 10th pick,  9-7
2015 - Melvin Gordon: 15th pick,  5-11
2014 - None Taken
2013 - None Taken

2012 - Trent Richardson: 3rd pick, Retired
2011 - None Taken
2010 - C.J. Spiller:  9th,  Retired
2010 - Ryan Mathews:  12th,  Retired

Combined record of 44-68 (.390), one winning record, zero teams made the playoffs, and 2-3 coaches fired.  This is the only position this holds true in...and it isn't close.

If we traded back towards pick 30 or so and we took a back, I could live with it...but ideally not until we get to New England's pick we have at the end of the 2nd.

5)  The running back position has the shortest lifespan of any other position.

Go back to the top 25 picks, 30% of those players already retired.  Below is the number of players over 30 years old in the league this year by position.

OT    48
QB    32
EDGE    28
IDL    28
CB    23
OG    22
WR    21
S    21
TE    20
LB    17
C    12
RB    11

When you invest a first round pick, your goal isn't to have a player be on your team for 4-5 years, it's to be on your team for the next 10-15.  We have seen time and time again RBs not live up to their second contract...the position takes a beating and bodies just don't hold up long enough.  If a team spends a first round pick on a RB, they are going to justify that by over working that back and run them into the ground more often than not only making their lifespan shorter.  For the most part, none of those guys are RBBC, because teams want to get the most out of their investment.

We can all poke holes in the data, give excuses as to why it isn't relevant or why there are reasons for any of it...fact of the matter is this debate has been going on for a long time, NFL teams are going more and more that way, fans seem to be the more reluctant ones in this debate (maybe it's skewed by Fantasy Football?).  

tl;dr - Running back is the least valuable, most replaceable position in football, it's a bad use of your draft capital in round one and doesn't best utilize cap space because of the rookie wage scale, they do not equate to wins and they have the shortest life span of any position...which is why I would never draft a RB in the first round.

 

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4 minutes ago, kiwifalcon said:

What say he’s the best talent in the draft does this put the BPA argument to bed?

A lot of people think BPA = Best Talent, and that's not the case.  

Talent + College Production + Senior Bowl Performance (if applicable) + Combine Performance + Pro Day Performance + Interviews + Injury History + Off the Field Issues + Positional Value = BPA

Even if you draft for need all of those things go into it as well, except you replace positional value with need.

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Just now, ATL_666 said:

Is this really a hotly debated topic?  I've never heard anyone say that drafting a RB in first round is a smart move.

Go look at almost any topic in the draft section of these boards...you will find it.

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Just now, Rings said:

A lot of people think BPA = Best Talent, and that's not the case.  

Talent + College Production + Combine Performance + Interviews + Injury History + Off the Field Issues + Positional Value = BPA

Even if you draft for need all of those things go into it as well, except you replace positional value with need.

Adrian Peterson type talent if he was there at 16 passes all of what you mention do you take him?

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8 minutes ago, kiwifalcon said:

Adrian Peterson type talent if he was there at 16 passes all of what you mention do you take him?

Honestly, no.  There is no denying he is a stupid talent and one of the best to ever play from a rushing stand point, but even saying that he made it to the playoffs 5 times and they were 1-4 in those games.  He is also the anomaly from the ACL bounce back to the longevity.  The chances on hitting on him again are slim to none.  You could argue Saquon is a better all around back so far because he is a better receiver out of the back field, and in two years they haven't seen enough of a lift no matter how spectacular he is.  Josh Jacobs had a great year, McCaffrey, Chubb...all watching the games from home like you and I this Sunday.

I also don't think lining up Barkley and Peterson in our backfield would matter because of Dirk and his inability to run.  Why invest in the 16th overall pick just to have one of the lowest rushing rates in the league?

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Just now, Francis York Morgan said:

I agree overall, but I do think RB is valuable, especially a good one on a rookie contract. That's where practically all RBs will be at their best and it's for sure where they'll be cheapest.

I agree, I'm not saying don't draft a RB at all, just do it late in round 2 - round 4.

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18 minutes ago, Rings said:

Honestly, no.  There is no denying he is a stupid talent and one of the best to ever play from a rushing stand point, but even saying that he made it to the playoffs 5 times and they were 1-4 in those games.  He is also the anomaly from the ACL bounce back to the longevity.  The chances on hitting on him again are slim to none.  You could argue Saquon is a better all around back so far because he is a better receiver out of the back field, and in two years they haven't seen enough of a lift no matter how spectacular he is.  Josh Jacobs had a great year, McCaffrey, Chubb...all watching the games from home like you and I this Sunday.

I also don't think lining up Barkley and Peterson in our backfield would matter because of Dirk and his inability to run.  Why invest in the 16th overall pick just to have one of the lowest rushing rates in the league?

Funny you should mention DK if he had say a Julio Jones type of talent at RB that would force his hand he’d have to use him that’s if he wanted to keep his job.

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1 minute ago, kiwifalcon said:

Funny you should mention DK if he had say a Julio Jones type of talent that would force his hand he’d have to use him that’s if he wanted to keep his job.

Even if his attempts went up, I have no faith his efficiency / success rate would.  I honestly don't know if Dirk knows how to run the ball in today's NFL.  I honestly think if his rushing attempts went up the offense would sadly get worse, because it would just be a waste of a down.

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Just now, Rings said:

Even if his attempts went up, I have no faith his efficiency / success rate would.  I honestly don't know if Dirk knows how to run the ball in today's NFL.

He had Jones-Drew in Jax and Doug Martin run the ball in Tampa so I guess that feels like an eternity ago and proved successful.Don’t know why he can’t adapt his attack to suit the talent he has.

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I posted this in another thread but,

 

One thing I'd like to point out.

 

Points ALLOWED by the defenses backing Koetter's offenses throughout his career

 

2007 - 10th

2008 - 21st

2009 - 24th

2010 - 27th

2011 - 11th

2012 - 5th

2013 - 27th

2014 - 27th

2015 - 26th

2016 - 15th

2017 - 22nd

2018 - 31st

2019 - 23rd

 

So on average Koetter has been backed by the 21st ranked defense. Between that and playing with some terrible and broken down backs he hasn't exactly had the deck stacked in his favor to have a strong running game.

 

 

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3 minutes ago, kiwifalcon said:

He had Jones-Drew in Jax and Doug Martin run the ball in Tampa so I guess that feels like an eternity ago and proved successful.Don’t know why he can’t adapt his attack to suit the talent he has.

It just feels like he is still running that same offense and from a decade ago, hasn’t adapted well with the times imo.

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1 minute ago, FalconFanSince1969 said:

I posted this in another thread but,

 

One thing I'd like to point out.

 

Points ALLOWED by the defenses backing Koetter's offenses throughout his career

 

2007 - 10th

2008 - 21st

2009 - 24th

2010 - 27th

2011 - 11th

2012 - 5th

2013 - 27th

2014 - 27th

2015 - 26th

2016 - 15th

2017 - 22nd

2018 - 31st

2019 - 23rd

 

So on average Koetter has been backed by the 21st ranked defense. Between that and playing with some terrible and broken down backs he hasn't exactly had the deck stacked in his favor to have a strong running game.

 

 

Valid point.  Early in the season he tried to run more early in games and it failed miserably and we punted a bunch and fell behind which forced his hand some.  I don’t think he adapts his scheme and play calling to adapt to his team.  Freeman does not fit his scheme at all, didn’t as a rookie, didn’t this year.  Back half of the season our defense went from 31st to 6th and his balance was 5th worse still over that time.

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