The Decline Of The NFL Running Back

With the NFL draft nearly upon us, we will finally see where all the cards will fall. Months of speculation will come to an end as all 32 NFL teams begin to look to the future.

The one certainty is that Andrew Luck will be playing for the Indianapolis Colts this season. And it still looks highly likely that the Redskins will draft Baylor’s Robert Griffin. Both those players are quarterbacks, and there are about four or five other QBs that look to go in the first two rounds. There are also several wide receivers that will draw a lot of attention, as well as numerous defensive and offensive linemen. This begs the question: where are all the elite rushers? And are NFL teams realising that the importance of having a stud at the running back position is slowly diminishing?

Don’t get me wrong; a team like the Minnesota Vikings are better off with Adrian Peterson on their roster than without him. Houston’s Arian Foster makes a difference to that team, as do several other running backs across the NFL.

But it seems like the days of a running back getting 35 carries a game and smashing their way down the field are slowly becoming a thing of the past.

This is a passing league. Now, more than ever, teams are throwing the ball all over the field and quarterbacks are putting up huge numbers.

Three players passed for over 5000 yards last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same, if not more, this coming season. And it’s big, dominant wide receivers that seem to be getting all the attention, as oppose to fleet-footed running backs.

The game is changing, which is a good thing. Football needs to evolve, and the trends in the NFL are cyclical. I am sure we will see a time when you won’t be able to win championships without an excellent running back. But that is not the case these days.

Alabama’s Trent Richardson looks to be taken in the top 5 of the upcoming draft. He is a big powerful running back who will instantly upgrade any team he becomes a part of. But apart from Richardson, there looks to be no running backs being selected in the first round.

It’s just not a position that teams like to use high draft picks on. It seems that organizations like to take someone much later in the draft, and mould that player into a stand out rusher. Coaches seem to believe that it’s much easier to coach up a young unpolished RB than it is for them to improve a quarterback’s ability.

It is clear that without one of the best quarterbacks in the league, you will struggle to be successful in the NFL. Look at the teams that did well last year. the Giants, Packers, Patriots and the Saints to name a few. They Have one thing in common: a great quarterback.

Yes, there are going to be exceptions to this rule. Some divisions are tougher than others, and lean towards more defensive football games, but when you get down to the big playoff games, you need a good QB.

As we look to the future, I think we will see running backs getting less touches each game. We will see more teams using a tandem two back approach, spreading the work load across two RBs with differing styles. We will continue to witness teams lighting up the scoreboard, with the majority of points coming through the air.

Would I rather have Trent Richardson on my team than playing against it? Yes, but I would much prefer we had a great quarterback and a monster wide receiver to throw to.

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