Arguably no whole position has seen its early-round draft stock plummet in recent years quite like poor running back. A combination of moving towards more of a passing league, more of a running back-by-committee league, the increasingly punishing nature of modern defensive players and the number of late-draft steals like Arian Foster are among factors rapidly diminish the halfback’s value.
Yet nearly every team can benefit massively from a game-changing toter of the rock. Heck, Adrian Peterson went retro on the league and carried the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs last year (who’da thunk, a running back!) but on the flip side he’s the last top-10 runner to actually deliver on value, and he was drafted back in 2006.
If his past 20 games are any indicator, however, C.J. Spiller could do just that, not to mention the promise 2012 rookie Trent Richardson has shown.
In an attempt to evaluate how much value has been returned on first-rounders at this position in recent years, I’ve compiled each first-round selection from 2006-2010 (leaving out any player with less than three seasons of experience) and added a value rating relative to draft spot. Each pick is evaluated from -3 to +3 depending on value expected by draft slot versus value delivered and promise shown, and the bolded names went top 10.
Picks in the top 10 of the NFL draft are graded harsher than picks 11-32 due to the heightened value expected from the top. At the bottom of the spreadsheet I’ve included the composite “Safe Rating” value, evaluating the position’s overall return on pick position in recent years. This attempts to compare the risk involved in drafting each position at the top of the draft, not weighting how valuable one position is over another.