In Bill Polian’s years as an NFL general manager, he spent first-round draft picks on running backs five times: Edgerrin James, Joseph Addai and Donald Brown with the Colts, Tim Biakabutuka with the Panthers and Ronnie Harmon with the Bills. Some of those picks were hits and some were misses, but Polian says he has no doubt that running back is a position that should be addressed in the first round of the draft.
Polian said today on Mike and Mike in the Morning that, contrary to the opinion of those who believe running backs have been devalued and aren’t worth a first-round pick, it’s actually just the opposite. Polian believes that as teams are increasingly finding that they need to replace their running backs often, that means the time to get a good one is when he’s young.
“I think that’s an urban lengend and I don’t know where it got started,” Polian said. “Here’s the real scoop: Running backs have short careers. They burn out very quickly because of the pounding they take, and in today’s game you really need two of them. So where do you get the best value on a running back? When he’s coming out of college. You don’t get value for him as a free agent, or very few, because the bottom line is he doesn’t have much tread left on his tires, especially if he’s played a lot. The best time to get a running back is in the draft.”
Last year only one running back, Mark Ingram, was selected in the first round, and this year some draft projections show only one running back, Trent Richardson, going in the first round. Polian liked the Ingram pick for New Orleans and will like whatever team gets Richardson.
“The Mark Ingram pick last year and the trade for that was a great pick for the Saints,” Polian said. “Trent Richardson by all accounts, including whatever mine is worth, is the best back in this draft, and he has some really great qualities, not the least of which is his incredible toughness. So he’s a great pick. I would be looking to take him.”
Running back may have been devalued, but that doesn’t mean there’s no value at running back. Especially when it’s a running back like Richardson, who’s only 20 years old and just entering his prime.