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Old 10-03-2013, 04:20 AM    (permalink
Cudders
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Again, I think the value of a running back is becoming underrated. Look at a list of the best running backs in the NFL. Most of them were drafted within the first three rounds. A running back before the fourth isnít guaranteed to be poor value. In fact, it can even be a great value.

Right now, the passing game rules the offensive side of the ball. Itís clear. Itís undeniable. But that doesnít make the running game an obsolete, vestigial relic of the past. Teams still need to strive for a degree of balance. Itís critical. People talk about manufacturing a ground game. About spending premier resources to develop a dominant offensive line that a late-round flier or street free agent can churn out big games behind. First, for the most part, it deals in vapid generalities. An all-encompassing offensive blueprint doesnít exist. The NFL is comprised of 32 unique situations. Second, that school of thought ignores several aspects at work.

For starters:

1.) Youíre assuming all of those big-ticket free agents or high picks along the offensive line pan out. Barring peerless evaluation skills or pure dumb luck, that isnít going to happen. Youíre going to encounter failures. Itís that simple.

2.) Letís talk about economic realities. You need to allocate cap space to acquire and retain that dominant offensive line. Offensive linemen donít come cheap. Want even three Pro Bowl-caliber linemen? Youíre going to need to earmark a sizeable portion of the cap to make that happen. A top tackle can command around $10 million. A top guard can command around $7.5 million. A top center can command around $5 million. Between three linemen, thatís around $22.5 million. The cap is $123 million. Youíve spent 18.3% of the total cap on three-fifths of a starting offensive line using those estimates. Most teams allocate around 15% of their total cap to their entire offensive line depth chart. Not just three people. You still need four or five more competent, cheap (below-market) bodies to complete the unit.

You want a ďfranchiseĒ quarterback, too? The top ten quarterbacks make, on average, around $18 million per. So, between the foundation of a dominant offensive line and a top-tier quarterback, about $40 million is spent. One-third of the total cap exhausted on four offensive pieces. And thatís without touching the skill positions. Or the defense and specialists. Or accounting for dead space. You can do some creative structuring and staggering to mitigate the salaries with a smart carpologist, sure, but itís still a larger burden to absorb.

Itís been discussed ad nauseam in this thread. Bad running backs can make an offensive line look worse. But good running backs can make an offensive line look better. Itís a similar relationship to quarterbacks and receivers. For example, the Browns have more invested in their offensive line than the Vikings do. Yet, Peterson just finished flirting with the all-time rushing record and, as has been documented over and over, Richardson struggled to crack 3.5 YPC.

Peterson demands a larger percentage of the cap, of course, but thatís not the particular discussion. (Although re-signing a big-time back is a much more intriguing discussion.) This is about drafting. Youíre acquiring assets for a fraction of their open-market worth when drafting well. Under a rookie contract, a runner like Peterson is a tremendous steal. Youíre investing less in the ground game and getting 30% more return. For four seasons.

3.) Speaking of drafting, people talk of mid- or late-round runners as safe picks. Thatís not true. The percentage of ďhitsĒ in that draft range isnít astronomical. You arenít guaranteed starters. Thereís an inherent risk factor involved in drafting late prospects. That doesnít disappear altogether at running back. If it did, there would be a bunch that spearhead NFL backfields. Your situational scouting methods can unearth some productive niche runners, but the exceptions and gems are few and far between. And thereís 31 other fierce competitors out there.

Using a few picks to piece together a respectable game that functions across all game situations and averages around 4.0 YPC is possible. Using one pick and getting a workhorse that can attain or eclipse 5.0 YPC is a viable alternative. It becomes a matter of assessing the value of having a back that can run at an ďabove replacementĒ level. And thatís what differs from team-to-team.

But dismissing the idea of drafting a running back ďbefore X or YĒ on a categorical basis is short-sighted. It ignores situation. If a Peterson-esque talent falls in the draft due to value absolutes in the top half of the first round, should a fringe postseason team or Super Bowl contender thatís been struggling to gain traction on the ground ignore their special talent just because? No. Thereís even a compelling case to be made for prolific passing games. Thatís an overlooked part of the draft. It isnít just about patching weaknesses. You can improve through making strengths stronger, too. Pairing great runners with some of these aerial attacks can make them even more efficient.

Teams have been hammered for drafting running backs in the top five or ten or first three rounds in this thread, but again, people are talking in generalities. What if the team doesnít have a capable quarterback and one isnít available? If it doesnít have a running game? If its blocking isnít special from a schematic perspective? Then howís the ball going to be moved?

While the NFL is a passing league, there arenít 32 quarterbacks that can shoulder the offensive load for their team. Talking about it doesnít change that fact. So what do teams that donít have that kind of quarterback do? You canít just throw in the towel or tank until one of those quarterbacks fall into the teamís lap. Youíre managing the brand and product of a billion-dollar enterprise. That isnít an option.

Iím not advocating for five running backs to be selected in the first round each draft, but there are certain circumstances that warrant drafting running backs in the earlier rounds and it doesnít make them bad choices. In this particular circumstance, Trent Richardson didnít work out for the Browns. But one result doesnít necessarily invalidate a larger thought process.
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:18 AM    (permalink
bigbluedefense
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Cudders, I don't think any of us are arguing that the run game itself is no longer relevant.

How you allocate resources however has changed. I'm a firm believer that you build the run game through the offensive line. You're limited in resources, and your first 3 rounds need to be used wisely. I rather build my run game by building up the trenches early and then just having a RBC then investing a high pick in a RB. I think by investing through the OL, you have done a better job of allocating resources bc they'll help you both in the run game and the pass game.

They open the holes, and the added bonus of protecting the qb on top of that. So bc our resources are limited, it's wiser to invest in the OL early and in RB later.

Of course this is all hypothetical and the correct answer is you stay true to your draft board regardless of position, but in theory, I'm taking the OLmen before the RB if all things are considered equal.
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:05 AM    (permalink
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if I were a GM all of my RBs would be undrafted free agents. Just find the ones that can pass block and make cuts. Churn through them like pairs of socks.

In fact, I'd draft fast, smaller LBers as UDFAs and tell them "if you want to play in the NFL, you can try playing RB". I'd find the most physical LBers late in the draft and tell them to just play RB and if they can pass block I'll keep them.
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:28 AM    (permalink
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if I were a GM all of my RBs would be undrafted free agents. Just find the ones that can pass block and make cuts. Churn through them like pairs of socks.
Pats tried this with Danny Woodhead and Benjarvus Green-Ellis before changing up to Ridley and Vereen. Needless to say you'd be hard pressed to find a Pats fan who regrets taking those 2 to upgrade from those average UDFA talents.

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In fact, I'd draft fast, smaller LBers as UDFAs and tell them "if you want to play in the NFL, you can try playing RB". I'd find the most physical LBers late in the draft and tell them to just play RB and if they can pass block I'll keep them.
Wow, this is stupid.
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:35 AM    (permalink
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Pats tried this with Danny Woodhead and Benjarvus Green-Ellis before changing up to Ridley and Vereen. Needless to say you'd be hard pressed to find a Pats fan who regrets taking those 2 to upgrade from those average UDFA talents.



Wow, this is stupid.
To be fair to him, these guys would probably be amazing at getting to the second level, because they'd know what the linebackers are thinking.
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:45 AM    (permalink
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If I was a GM I would draft my running backs wherever I deemed them appropriate to draft, based on value and team need. People undervalue the running back position. It isn't first round worthy about 90% of the time, but a game-breaking running back can do exactly that, break the game open.
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:50 AM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by bigbluedefense View Post
Cudders, I don't think any of us are arguing that the run game itself is no longer relevant.

How you allocate resources however has changed. I'm a firm believer that you build the run game through the offensive line. You're limited in resources, and your first 3 rounds need to be used wisely. I rather build my run game by building up the trenches early and then just having a RBC then investing a high pick in a RB. I think by investing through the OL, you have done a better job of allocating resources bc they'll help you both in the run game and the pass game.

They open the holes, and the added bonus of protecting the qb on top of that. So bc our resources are limited, it's wiser to invest in the OL early and in RB later.

Of course this is all hypothetical and the correct answer is you stay true to your draft board regardless of position, but in theory, I'm taking the OLmen before the RB if all things are considered equal.
Always invest in your QB, your OL, your DL, and one CB.
Specific to OL and DL, you need an elite LT and RT (especially in pass pro) and super savvy/intelligent center. On DL you need an elite DE/OLB (depending on scheme) and a giant athletic plug in the middle.

You need a handful of above average players in other positions, but you can scheme accordingly. And then a bunch of average players to fill in the gaps.
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:58 AM    (permalink
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If I was a GM I would draft my running backs wherever I deemed them appropriate to draft, based on value and team need. People undervalue the running back position. It isn't first round worthy about 90% of the time, but a game-breaking running back can do exactly that, break the game open.
I think RB's are good in the late first to late third round because it seems thats where they tend to be drafted and the value makes sense for them. It's not even that they aren't explosive or just as good as other players, just that the league hasn't made RB a premium as of late.
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:59 AM    (permalink
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If you have a bunch of above average players at every position, you'll be a good team since, well, you'll be above average.

You can put together a good team in this league in about 100000000 different ways. You need good players everywhere with a few elite players scattered in there. Where they are doesn't really matter too much, but it would be preferable for them to be at QB or pass rusher. As long as you have good football players and a scheme that uses them to the best of their abilities, you can win a championship. There isn't a secret formula.
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Old 10-03-2013, 11:08 AM    (permalink
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Pats tried this with Danny Woodhead and Benjarvus Green-Ellis before changing up to Ridley and Vereen. Needless to say you'd be hard pressed to find a Pats fan who regrets taking those 2 to upgrade from those average UDFA talents.
2010 Patriots: Scored 518 points (32.4/g), 1st of 32 in the NFL.
- Leading rusher: Benjarvus Green-Ellis, UDFA, 1008 yards, 4.4 ypc

2011 Patriots: Scored 513 points (32.1/g), 3rd of 32 in the NFL.
- Leading rusher: Benjarvus Green-Ellis, UDFA, 667 yards, 3.7 ypc

2012 Patriots: Scored 557 points (34.8/g), 1st of 32 in the NFL.
- Leading rusher: Stevan Ridley, 3rd round pick, 1263 yards, 4.4 ypc

2013 Patriots: Scored 89 points (22.2/g), 20th of 32 in the NFL.
- Leading rusher: Stevan Ridley, 3rd round pick, 174 yards, 3.7 ypc


A.) The Patriots are going to score in the Top 5 no matter who is playing RB as long as Brady is playing well. When he isn't, like this year, even a good back wouldn't change that - despite Ridley being superior, they are 20th in scoring.

B.) Who they have at RB doesn't matter at all, just like it really doesn't matter for 80% of the NFL. If the quality of your RB matters, your offense sucks because you don't have a good passing game.
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Old 10-03-2013, 11:10 AM    (permalink
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Running backs don't matter when you have a top 3 QB of all time. It isn't that easy for most teams. Not every team has Manning/Brady/Rodgers/Brees.
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Old 10-03-2013, 11:18 AM    (permalink
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Running backs don't matter when you have a top 3 QB of all time. It isn't that easy for most teams. Not every team has Manning/Brady/Rodgers/Brees.
Running backs don't matter if you have a top-16 passing game, period.

It's the quality of the OL, the quality of the QB, and lastly the quality of the WRs and TEs that matters in this league when it comes to offense.

Again, if you are building your offense around your RB, you're doing it wrong. If your RB matters (a la Minnesota Vikings), enjoy your mediocre record and lack of playoff success.
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Old 10-03-2013, 11:24 AM    (permalink
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That's not true at all. How good is an Alex Smith or Jay Cutler going to do without a good running back to lean on? Running backs are important to your team. You don't want to be building your team around one, just like you don't want to be building your team around a guard. It isn't the most important position on the field, but to completely disregard a position is just dumb.
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Old 10-03-2013, 12:16 PM    (permalink
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Ahmad Bradshaw may be going to IR with a neck injury so this trade looks a little better for the Colts.
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Old 10-03-2013, 12:31 PM    (permalink
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Sounds good...

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Chuck Pagano, Are you at all concerned about Trent Richardson only averaging about three yards per carry?

ďIím not concerned because itís early still and (heís) getting acclimated to the system, to the calls, to his surroundings, to the people up front, getting used to the blocking, those type of things. Heís a shoelace here and there of breaking some really big runs, which obviously will change those numbers. The big thing for him, and for all of us, is just stay patient. We played a good front seven last week, Jacksonvilleís really good up front. They got good linebackers that can run. He was a hair away on a couple runs in his first ball game at San Fran, and the second one there where he couldíve ripped off a 20 or 30-yard run in a heartbeat, which obviously would change that average. He just needs to stay patient, we need to stay patient and the yards will come.Ē
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Old 10-03-2013, 12:44 PM    (permalink
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Always invest in your QB, your OL, your DL, and one CB.
Specific to OL and DL, you need an elite LT and RT (especially in pass pro) and super savvy/intelligent center. On DL you need an elite DE/OLB (depending on scheme) and a giant athletic plug in the middle.

You need a handful of above average players in other positions, but you can scheme accordingly. And then a bunch of average players to fill in the gaps.
What was the last team to have an elite LT and Rt with a super savvy C and franchise QB?
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Old 10-03-2013, 03:10 PM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by cgf View Post
What was the last team to have an elite LT and Rt with a super savvy C and franchise QB?
You could probably make an argument for the 2009 Titans but it hinges on VY who actually had a pretty good year. Roos and Stewart at the bookends with Mawae in the middle.
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Old 10-03-2013, 03:13 PM    (permalink
Bengals78
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Bengals came close in 2005.
Levi Jones was a top LT
Willie Anderson was a top RT
Rich Braham was a super underrated center.
Carson Palmer pre-injury.
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Old 10-03-2013, 04:14 PM    (permalink
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Ahmad Bradshaw may be going to IR with a neck injury so this trade looks a little better for the Colts.
And thats why you can't rely on Bradshaw. It took him all of a two weeks before he went down again. Great player when healthy, but a fragile RB isn't worth much investment.
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Old 10-03-2013, 04:22 PM    (permalink
RCAChainGang
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And thats why you can't rely on Bradshaw. It took him all of a two weeks before he went down again. Great player when healthy, but a fragile RB isn't worth much investment.
Agreed, I'm just not sure that means you go toss in your first round pick for a RB. I think more than anything I'm not excited about the way Pep Hamilton is steering the offense. We don't go to 3 WR sets as often and that is simply a shame. TY in the slot works really well and DHB is a great blocker so why not run out of a 3 wide? Instead we have 6 lineman a TE and a FB. I wish there was more freedom for Luck to rip off some passes.
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Bill Polian is cancer wrapped in AIDS delivered in an XXL enema so please don't expect me to disagree with you.
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Old 10-03-2013, 04:27 PM    (permalink
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And thats why you can't rely on Bradshaw. It took him all of a two weeks before he went down again. Great player when healthy, but a fragile RB isn't worth much investment.
cough Brodeur cough, see
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Old 10-03-2013, 04:28 PM    (permalink
niel89
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Running backs don't matter if you have a top-16 passing game, period.

It's the quality of the OL, the quality of the QB, and lastly the quality of the WRs and TEs that matters in this league when it comes to offense.

Again, if you are building your offense around your RB, you're doing it wrong. If your RB matters (a la Minnesota Vikings), enjoy your mediocre record and lack of playoff success.
Ravens last year were #15 in passing offense. Our running backs mattered a ton. Unless you have one of the 3/4 elite QBs you need some balance from a good RB and rushing attack. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce made a big difference. I agree that offenses need to be built around your QB, but not all QBs can carry the full load all the time. Good running backs are gamebreakers and can save a struggling offense.


All these hard and fast rules make zero sense for the NFL. Like others have said, if there was one way to do thing it would be easy. NFL tactics for everything are constantly changing and shifting. What was true yesterday and today might not be tomorrow.

How do you know if a RB will be the next AD? Peterson fell in the draft to #7. It wasn't apparently obvious then and it won't be obvious with the next all time great. Its easy for people look back and say he shouldn't have fell but he did. Teams will still take chances on talented Running backs.
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Old 10-03-2013, 04:43 PM    (permalink
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To be fair to him, these guys would probably be amazing at getting to the second level, because they'd know what the linebackers are thinking.
The Chargers thought about converting Manti Te'o to RB but realized that he had no idea how to score.
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Old 10-03-2013, 04:52 PM    (permalink
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The Chargers thought about converting Manti Te'o to RB but realized that he had no idea how to score.
"Manti, did you ever get in the 'end zone' ?"

"Far from it. Faaaaaarr from it."
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Old 10-03-2013, 04:55 PM    (permalink
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You could probably make an argument for the 2009 Titans but it hinges on VY who actually had a pretty good year. Roos and Stewart at the bookends with Mawae in the middle.
Exactly, the best teams don't have massive resources tied into their OL, most just have a bunch of solid guys with a genuine stud or two that their franchise QB can work with, those are the successful teams cause they can invest their prime resources on weapons, pass rushers and DBs. Your OL just can't be as bad as the giants OL has become or the Bears OL has been unless you want to watch your QB running for his life the way rorthlisberger has had to since their OL fell apart.
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