Take Two: Should there be more value placed on the RB position?
Take Two returns with a daily offering tackling a handful of issues in the college football landscape. Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney lays out the situation and then receives takes from Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and a local expert from the Rivals.com network of team sites.
Saquon Barkley will almost positively be the first running back taken in the NFL Draft and could be one of the first few players taken off the board. The Penn State star is that good, that special and could be a once-in-a-generation talent.
After Barkley, though, the running back position is a huge question mark as to where players will get selected and even if any other backs will get drafted in the first round.
It continues to be a heated debate whether the position is undervalued or at the very least underappreciated even if there has been a run on that spot in recent drafts. And by “run,” we’re talking about two players maximum a year in the first round lately.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette were the only two running backs selected in the first round. Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon were second-rounders. Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt - both special in their rookie seasons - went in the third round.
Ezekiel Elliott was the only first-round running back taken in the 2016 draft. Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon were first-rounders in 2015. However, no running backs were taken in the first round of either the 2014 or the 2013 drafts.
Other than tight end with six, running back is the least-drafted position in the first round with 12 selections since 2010.
Are players other than Barkley - LSU’s Derrius Guice and Georgia’s Sony Michel, who are fringe first-rounders - and then second-tier guys like Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson, NC State’s Nyheim Hines and others getting a raw deal and should more value be placed on them in the earlier rounds?
FIRST TAKE: JAKE REUSE, UGASPORTS.COM
“As much as I’m a fan of the running back position, it still appears to be the one area in the draft where the greatest surprises can emerge, especially early on in a career. Will Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt sustain their phenomenal rookie production? It’s tough to say, but in the end, I’m not sure it matters. There are a number of options that are serviceable each year, whether in the draft or on the fringes of NFL rosters and free agency (see: Orleans Darkwa, Fozzy Whittaker, Jamaal Charles), and that’s going to keep GMs working under the mindset that they can plug-and-play at the spot. Would they love to have a Fournette/Elliott/Gurley? Sure, but the reality is a 34-year-old Frank Gore can still rip off 130 yards in a game once in awhile. Why invest heavily if that’s the case?”
SECOND TAKE: MIKE FARRELL, RIVALS.COM
“You’ve had McCaffrey, Fournette, Elliott, Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley, you’ve had the first-rounders over the last few years. If everybody thought Kareem Hunt was going to be so good and Alvin Kamara was going to be so good, they would have drafted them in the first round. There’s just no way to know.
“There could be a guy out there. It could be Sony Michel, it could be Derrius Guice, who slides to the second or third round that turns out to be better than Saquon Barkley. We don’t know. I don’t think it’s an undervalued position. It’s not a great year at running back this year. There are a lot of guys with question marks, whether it’s the mileage on Royce Freeman, or is Nick Chubb the same running back he used to be, or Sony Michel splitting time, Derrius Guice and injuries, there are just a lot of question marks after Barkley at that No. 2 running back position.
“And teams feel they can wait. They can get a good running back in the third or fourth round, so why push and waste a first-rounder when you can get equal value in the second or third round?”