For the last 49 years, there’s been a running back taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Based on buzz over the last month or so, it looks like there’s a fair chance of that streak coming to a halt this year. Eddie Lacy of Alabama and Johnathan Franklin of UCLA are regarded as the top two backs in this year’s class, but neither one has solidified himself as a surefire first-round pick in the eyes of the ever-proliferating group of draft pundits.
Lacy’s heard the criticisms his performance at his pro day, telling 790 the Zone in Atlanta, via SportsRadioInterviews.com, that it’s tough to hear people knocking him when he wasn’t 100 percent because of a hamstring injury. He told Mike Garafolo of USA Today that he believes tape from his on-field work at Alabama tells a truer story of his abilities, a story that he hopes includes a chapter about how he kept the streak of first-round running backs going for at least one more year.
“Knowing I could keep it going would be a load off my shoulders,” Lacy said. “It’s good for me, like, ‘Whew, I survived, I made it. Good luck to those next year.”
The drop in perceived value of running backs in the draft and elsewhere in the NFL isn’t a new story, but Garafolo provides some numbers that make it impossible to ignore. In the 1980’s, 48 running backs went in the first round of drafts for an average of 4.8 per year. Things have steadily declined from there and only seven have been taken in the first round of the last three drafts.
Lacy isn’t responsible for the larger trends at running back, but he may be the guy standing between them and a draft affirming the reorganization of priorities across the football world.