Tuesday, 6 January 2009

No love for 2009 running backs?

One position that doesn't get mentioned too often when talking about the 2009 NFL draft is at running back. In the last four years, six running backs have been taken in the top 10. This year however, very little is talked about the class of backs especially when it comes to the top picks.

Shonn Greene and Donald Brown, the nations top two runners, have both said they will declare for this April's draft. The two highest rated backs Knowshon Moreno and Chris 'Beanie' Wells, have also hinted at joining the professional ranks. LeSean McCoy and Javon Ringer are also potentially first day picks.

So why is the class of running backs not getting much attention? Is it because of different needs? Is it the way later round picks have performed in recent seasons? Or perhaps even the expense of a position that takes a relative pounding for at least 16 weeks a year?
Could it just be concerns of the talent involved? Many have questioned Wells' toughness. He was off the field at a key stage in yesterday's Fiesta Bowl. Others have questioned whether Moreno is an 'every down back'.

There are arguments to suggest some of these prospects are under rated. Matt McGuire at Walterfootball.com says "it's a joke" that Georgia's Moreno is graded as a mid first round product and that he has "elite talent". Draft Tek have Moreno at number eight on their big board, with Chris Wells only five places lower. These mock drafts (here, here and here) all have running backs going in the top five.

Last year, Oakland took Darren McFadden with the fourth overall pick - the same place Seattle select from in 2009. Previous RB's to go in the top 10 are Adrian Peterson (2007), Reggie Bush (2006), Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson and Carnell Williams (2005). Prior to that no runners were taken in the top 10 between 2002-04, with LaDainian Tomlinson the only running back to go high in 2001.

Do you think a running back can break into the top 10 and if so, who? Click the comments link below to have your say. To help influence your decision, here's a clip we posted a while back of Todd McShay and Mel Kiper discussing who is the top talent at three key offensive positions, including running back.


Anonymous said...

Rob, I agree that QB and OT questions about who to add through FA and the draft will be based on the projected health of Hass and Mr. Jones, but what about RB and K?

It seems to me we are top heavy in these positions and although I dont expect there will be any trimmng down until after training camp, what do you think may happen?

I expect we will keep Weaver and I like how Morris has improved, but why keep TJ and JJ? They are good and can play but it seems redundant. And two kickers?

Thanks for you time and answers!

Rob Staton said...

The kicker position in particular will be difficult to judge. Olindo Mare did a great job in 2008 and in any other circumstance, would be a shoe in for 2009. However, the Seahawks clearly like Brandon Coutu. The fact they kept him on the roster all through 2008, and actually chose to cut active players during the injury crisis suggests he has a future with the team. Unless they want to keep two kickers again, they have to make a desicion. It could be another camp battle, and if Coutu shows he's ready he could get the gig.

With running back, I firmly believe TJ Duckett is safe and feel he did his job well in 2008. Short yardage wasn't a problem for the 'Hawks like it was in 2007, and Duckett was prolific in punching in TD's in the red zone. Julius Jones is contracted so unless he is cut, he stays on the roster. Morris is a free agent so Seattle will have to pursue him to keep him.

If they want to change things again a year after a big make over, they would likely have to cut Jones and not re-sign Morris. It's unclear which direction Seattle will go with the running game at this stage. A Jones/Duckett combo is uninspiring but that might have been the plan for 2009 when they were signed last off season. There are free agents available who might be of interest and the draft does have some talent at the position, even if, as the article above suggests, they won't go in the top 10.

Michael Steffes said...


Maybe you have this planned, but two positions I would LOVE to see broken down are Safety and Center. They seem to be the two deepest positions in this draft from top to bottom. Just a thought, you seem to have it covered.

Rob Staton said...

It's something I'll look into Mike. I have a piece made up to look at defensive linemen that willappear soon. I want to try and get more expert opinions on certain positions that require more detail, and I shall certainly make enquiries about both the centre and safety positions.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion Moreno is the only RB worthy of a top 10 pick. Personally, I think drafting a RB in rounds 1-3 is a great strategy. You get them young and can wear them down before their rookie contract runs out. I realize this sounds like your buying a car but with the lifespan of a NFL RB, it really doesn't make a lot of sense to overspend in free agency for a RB with lots of tread missing from his tires. I think Shonn Greene would be a nice 2nd or possibly 3rd round selection for Seattle because #4 is too early to select a RB and I think trading back will be very difficult this year.

Misfit said...

I feel the same way as last year about drafting a RB. Do it. If not Moreno at #4, which I seriously doubt we would do, then Greene or even an explosive guy like Spiller in the 2nd-4th would be great. We need some fresh blood and depth at RB once MoMo is gone.

I think that if Wells runs a 4.4 40-time he will become worthy of first round grade. That would give him the same deadly NFL combo of size (230lbs) and speed that teams covet - much like Jonathan Stewart of last season.

There will surely be some diamonds in the rough, and after what Forte, Choice, and Slaton (among others) did after being drafted in later rounds, I think in most cases teams know they can wait and still get talented players at the RB position without having to invest a first round pick.

Kurt said...

You can throw me into the group that believes in taking RBs in later rounds, not early ones. Almost every team is running a 2-back system now and to splurge on a guy in the early rounds isn't really worth it to me unless that guy brings some kind of game-changing dynamic to the game like Adrian Peterson. I don't know if Moreno or Wells have those same qualities so I would be reluctant to take them in round 1 or 2. I think an OT would be a much better improvement to the Hawks' running game, and would pay off big years from now whereas a RB could easily walk in his third or fourth year for a big FA contract.

I don't think this is a particularly strong year for RBs but I think a suitable replacement for Mo could be found in the later rounds (4th or 5th, maybe).

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