In recent NFL draft history, we have seen the decline in drafting running backs in the first round. The last time a running back was drafted in the first round was 2012 when Trent Richardson was drafted 3rd overall and Doug Martin was drafted 31st overall. Richardson looks like a bust and the jury may still be out on Martin. The reason for the demise of drafting a running back in the first round is due to the shelf life of that position and the difficulty predicting how the players game will crossover into the NFL.
In this year’s draft, we may see two running backs selected in the first round and one of those players is even coming off of a serious knee injury. Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley are no doubt the top two running backs in this year’s draft, but should teams break the trend and draft either of these guys in the first round? Gurley is an interesting case. He’s coming off a serious knee injury and if it wasn’t for that, there would be no question he would be a first round pick. Whatever team drafts him will be taking a risk, but he has shown the capability of being a dominate back when he is healthy.
Melvin Gordon is the more interesting of the two backs. He had one of the most successful college careers as a running back and is no doubt an extremely talented player. But there are a few questions that surround him. How much of his success is due to his offensive line at Wisconsin? How much wear and tear does he have?
I’m going on record stating I don’t think a running back should be drafted in the first round. The way the league is these days, you can find a serviceable starter in the second and third rounds and sometimes even later. Once in a while, you will find a running back who was drafted in the first round that was worthy of that pick, but it’s a gamble. For this year’s draft, the running back talent pool is up there. That’s why I believe teams should wait until the second round or later to draft their running backs and concentrate on finding a guy who can help your team for the long haul with your first pick.
But if a team is interested in a player like Melvin Gordon, should they spend a first round pick on him to insure that they will get him? Here are a few teams that have been mentioned as possible suitors for Gordon and whether they should draft him in the first round or not. Based on who is rumored to be interested, only one team would make some sense in drafting him in the first round.
San Diego Chargers - The San Diego Chargers are a team that’s being discussed a lot about drafting a running back in the first round. They lost Ryan Matthews this offseason to the Eagles and currently employ Donald Brown, Branden Oliver, and Danny Woodhead. They no doubt want to upgrade that position and find their future number one ball carrier. But should they spend their first round pick on one? No, they shouldn’t. The Chargers were 31st in the league last year rushing for only 1,367 yards. Pro Football Focus rated them as the 23rd best rushing offensive line. Even though those are dreadful numbers, the Chargers need help in other areas. They need to improve their offensive line so that whenever they do bring in their running back, he will have a chance to succeed. San Diego should start on improving their line and work from there. They also could look to upgrading their pass rush, because when you play in a division against Peyton Manning, you need to go after him. Pass on a running back in the first round, San Diego.
Arizona Cardinals - The Arizona Cardinals seem like a tea