Ben Tate says he would have been a safety

Getty Images

For those of you who watch PFT Live and Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, you’re familiar by now with the notion that the devaluing of the tailback position eventually will trickle down to lower levels of the sport, prompting truly great players to shy away from running back and to move to other positions.

It could be happening sooner rather than later, if current NFL running backs start talking openly about their own regrets from choosing that position.

Browns running back Ben Tate has become the first to say he would have done things differently, if he’d known then what he knows now.

“I would’ve been something else, for sure. I’d have been a safety,” Tate told Robert Klemko of “I had the opportunity to play it in college, but I wanted to be the guy to get the ball. I had no idea the position would be devalued, but hopefully I can break that trend.”

He can’t.  It’s a basic matter of supply and demand. There are too many guys who can move the chains if given proper blocking. And as those guys move the chains and score the touchdowns and take the poundings, they become less desirable in comparison to younger guys with full tread on the tires and lower financial expectations.

The trend toward having multiple running backs has helped teams avoid creating The Star Tailback that they must keep — and in turn overpay — for fear of alienating the fans. That’s the one lingering piece of leverage for tailbacks in the modern age; job security comes from winning the crowd and becoming the face of the franchise.

It doesn’t happen often (see Adrian Peterson), and it’ll happen even less frequently with two and three tailbacks sharing the touches.

Which means that, over time, those young players who stand out so clearly that it’s obvious they’ll play in college and possibly beyond will make different choices when the time comes to play in college and possibly beyond, if not earlier.

For the rare Sammy Baugh-style athlete who can do it all, it will pay even better — and for a lot longer — to be a kicker than to be a running back.

39 responses to “Ben Tate says he would have been a safety

  1. Ben’s younger brother, Dick, was actually a better athlete when growing up. However, a major knee injory runied any hope of a pro career. He is now a stenographer.

  2. Well, he made it to the NFL, so he’s not doing too bad for himself. Who knows what would have happened if he would have been a safety. He might never have had a chance.

  3. Even it todays NFL, I think it would be a good thing to pay an elite runner. AP, Shady, Beastmode, and Jamal Charles deserve their checks. There are still guys that you cannot replace and having a guy like those guys make a huge difference.. without them those teams would not be near as good.. i know the vikings suck but imagine if they didnt have AP

  4. It’s certainly not just a supply/demand issue. It’s also a result of running backs and the run game in general being devalued by the NFL. The NFL knows that head issues could sink them, so they’re turning the game into a passing league. WRs and QBs are more important than ever, and therefore, so are guys who can prevent the passing game (Defensive Ends and Secondary)….

  5. Let’s think this through. If fewer choose to be running backs, then the supply will eventually go down, which will make their price go up.

    Advice to any capable football player going into their freshman year in high school – be a running back.

  6. Idk man, as a giants fan is still pay for a tiki barber (post 03, maybe even 00) or Barry sanders or Adrian Peterson anyday… They keep defenses honesty, and perform magic whenever they touch the ball

  7. The position has a different value depending on how you use it and rely on it. And if people are getting confused due to some players being overvalued in the past, well that’s a slightly different dynamic of not understanding how to compensate players appropriately, and we have seen rampant overspending in all positions for many years now, and it seems to me like all positions are in a sense being devalued as more teams are shying away from mega-contracts in general for average players.

    There’s no specific objective value of the RB position, it’s up to a team to demonstrate that value and while many have not, it is a big deal and a great value for those that can. Having great RBs is a fantastic way to get an edge, and every position counts, you need to get the most out of all of them and find the best way to spread your money around. It shouldn’t be held against the position’s theoretical value just because there might have been slightly more overpayments to those players.

    To me I see it more like the GMs of this league are slowly becoming less stupid. Eventually one day we might have a whole league full of responsible and competitive GMs. It’s just been a massive circus and fiasco for the last decade and that’s an abnormal environment to analyze and make sense of. Throw out the wacky stuff and the RB position has it’s appropriate value with nobody overpaying for it. The GMs that negotiate the prices are the ones who are fumbling the perception of things, but the reality of how these positions interrelate to each other from a value standpoint has hardly changed if at all.

  8. I think jackbassett deserves a signed copy of QB of the Future for that one. I’m still laughing over here at that comment.

  9. If you can block, run, catch out of the backfield,etc you’ll always be in demand. Gone are the days of the one dimensional running back.

    Guys like Forte will be the new norm for higher paid running backs and young hungry rookies that run like it’s their last carry will be the backups making the minimum.

  10. A Sammy Baugh reference. You are showing both your age and your football knowledge, Florio. Slingin’ Sammy Baugh was likly the greatest all-around player in NFL history and has reconds that will never be broken. In ’43 he threw 23 TDs and CAUGHT 11 interceptions! Can you see an NFL team letting Romo play safety? Or Eli? Or Big Ben? Never.

    Anyway, Ben Tate will have his chance at RB, and maybe he can try being a DB once his yards per carry dips into the 3.9 and below.

  11. Maybe the backs on the market this year…..just aren’t that good? Shocking, I know.

    Something tells me if it were McCoy, Charles, & Lynch on the market rather than Tate, CJ1K & a busted MJD, the money would be there.

  12. The NFL under Goodell’s lawyers have also devalued the defense. What a catch-22 for young athletes of a certain body type with NFL aspirations. Offense or defense? Devalued or fined for breathing on offense players?

  13. I would quickly point out that the team that just won the Super Bowl had a QB who passed the least of any starter last year – and their offense relied on a power running game. That was one of the big factors that allowed their excellent Defense to dictate the flow/ momentum of many of their games.

  14. The landscape of the N.F.L will change when Manning, Brady, and Brees retire. Running backs and Defense will reemerge. Like the economy – it is all cyclical.

  15. I urge kids not to “overthink” the scenario. Play what position gives you the most excitement. High school and college offenses still lean heavily on the running back, with the lead guy sometimes getting 40-50 carries a game. Whose to say how positions are going to be valued 10-15 years from now in pro football? In the last 10 years, we’ve seen the wildcat and read option come and go so fast that there’s sure to be 2-3 new fads that strike NFL offenses in the years to come. Besides, having 300 rushing yards and 4 TDs in a high school game will make you the star around campus which has its own benefits outside of sports. If a college or pro coach wants to convert you to a position other than RB because you’re an excellent athlete, you are still going to get sought after and paid like an excellent athlete.

  16. The REAL problem–like Jim Brown said–is that there aren’t many elite, workhorse RB’s anymore. I can name five–AP, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn, McCoy, & Gore.

    It’s funny to listen to Ben Tate complaining when Arian Foster who wasn’t even drafted did pretty well for himself financially.

  17. For a player that has been a backup and hasn’t done a whole lot in the NFL, Ben Tate sure talks a lot.

    Ben, you are an average running back and you play for the Browns…please shut up.

  18. “…I had no idea the position would be devalued, but hopefully I can break that trend.”

    Sorry Ben BUT it’s not the position that’s being devalued. If you were a workhorse back that could run the ball like Eddie Lacy you would have been in line for a BIG pay day.

    Meanwhile every team that has ever won a SB has shown the ability to run the football in the playoffs. When teams can win SB’s w/o running the ball then I’ll agree that RB’s aren’t as important.

  19. I still can’t believe that teams and even the so called ‘experts” still think that the NFL doesn’t “value” RB’s…yes, its a passing league. But, name me one team that has a great passing attack and has no running game? Play action only works when a team is a serious threat to run the ball.It’s a trend. trust me. Within the next 3 years or so..Some team will go retro and think and remember A good solid defense and a good solid run game will win them a championship. What’s funny is you ask any defensive coach what his game plan is…It usually starts with “stopping the run”…As an avid eagles fan..most think that Chip Kelly’s offence is all about throwing down field…BUT..The Eagles lead the league in RUSHING last year..Chip has alwaysrun the ball more then throwing it…

  20. I disagree that the de-emphasis on running backs is a permanent, never-to-return proposition. About 25 years ago, the run-and-shoot was all the rage and several teams carried zero tight ends on their rosters. Imagine getting into Bill & Ted’s phone booth, going back to 1990, and telling Jack Pardee that the best non-QBs of the first decade of the 21st century would be Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham – all tight ends. I imagine he would accuse you of being on some serious drugs.

    It’s all cyclical. Running backs are not “in style” right now. They will be again one day.

  21. I agree with jgedgar. The league is fairly cyclical. Passing has taken off because teams had become accustomed to the run and suddenly passing became easy points. Not to mention the rule changes that led to the secondary being bound and gagged.

    Someday soon, the elite pass rushers combined with the new breed of running QB will result in a lot of QB injuries. With this, the passing game will lose value and the HB will emerge as the solution, running up the middle past the smaller, faster DEs and getting the ball out of the passers hands quickly.

    Another reason for the devalue of the HB is the playmaking HB. HBs have started leaving behind the up the middle running skills that give them purpose for explosive outside runs and pass catching. It makes the HB into a glorified slot WR. And you can do a lot better at slot WR than most HBs.

    All this said, there are still teams using HBs to their most. Look at Buffalo and Fred Jackson. An up the middle run threat with blocking ability and some pass catching skill. He can rip off 5 yards one play. Block the next. And catch a short pass on the next. A run first guy.

    The HB will be back

  22. After watching what Seattle’s defense did to most teams last year, taking in to consideration the pass happy state of the nfl, and given that the longevity of safeties is generally greater than running backs, it could easily be concluded that safeties are more valuable to their teams than running backs are. These aren’t the days of Jim Brown and Jim Taylor.

  23. no kid with the thought of making it to the Pros is going to not play RB because of the pay. You play the positions you’re best at, and hope that you have what it takes. People aren’t getting more dumb, they are just getting a larger audience that gets to hear all of the stupid crap that stews in their head and comes out of their mouth/fingertips.

  24. This is a fad. The star RB isn’t a thing of the past. A good ball carrier is just way too valuable to become a position that is filled by scrubs who can’t make it at another spot.
    There may be a trend right at the moment of devaluing good backs, but it won’t last. Look at the teams in the Super Bowl last year. The winner had an elite RB who is capable of playing every down. The loser had a mediocre, though versatile, RB in an offense that was all about the pass. Once they were struggling in the passing game, the Broncos were toothless and looked like a minor league team. Seattle, on the other hand, won with “old fashioned” football. Tough D, a strong running game, and a passing game that was good enough to keep Denver’s D honest. Similarly, look at the how much the ravens struggled last year as the woman beater displayed his declining abilities.

  25. They signed a CBA that makes the same length and pay or RB as any other position.. No RB on average last longer than 3 years. you get your money now or don’t get into the gig.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!