Published: April 3, 2015 at 11:26 a.m.
Updated: April 3, 2015 at 01:29 p.m.

2015 NFL Draft: Team most likely to take a running back in the first round?

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We have not seen a running back go in the first round since the 2012 NFL Draft, when Trent Richardson (third), Doug Martin (31st) and David Wilson (32nd) all came off the board on Thursday night. One of the biggest reasons why the position has been devalued in recent years is the available value picks beyond Round 1. Consider: Of the top 10 rushers in the NFL last season, only one (Marshawn Lynch) possessed a first-round pedigree. But as we hurtle toward 2015 draft, a pair of running backs are receiving steady first-round buzz: Georgia's Todd Gurley and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon.

Perusing the Round 1 draft order, which team is most likely to select a running back on opening night?

It'd made sense for many teams, but it'd make THE MOST sense for San Diego and Dallas
Checking out the first-round lineup, six teams make sense at first blush: the Jets at No. 6, Chargers at 17, Cardinals at 24, Panthers at 25, Ravens at 26 and Cowboys at 27.

Upon deeper thought, though, I have some reservations. With Gang Green, well, I don't see any team spending a No. 6 pick on a running back in today's NFL. Even No. 17, where San Diego sits, might be too high. I anticipate Arizona looking to the other side of the ball with its first-rounder. If Todd Gurley is there for Carolina at No. 25, would the Panthers pass? Actually, they might have to -- this team must protect Cam Newton by snagging some O-line help. Baltimore? Well, that's a bit of a longshot. Even though Justin Forsett is turning 30 in October, Ozzie Newsome and Co. have to replenish the front seven on defense and get some guys to run routes on offense. That brings us to Dallas. And I would assume the Cowboys would be delighted if Gurley fell down to them.

So, with all that said, I think the two teams most likely to draft a running back in Round 1 are San Diego and Dallas. The main question is whether a GM like Tom Telesco values the position enough to spend a mid-first-round pick on it. And remember, the Cowboys had an opportunity to get Steven Jackson at No. 22 overall back in 2004, but instead traded down and landed Julius Jones in the second round. That, uh, didn't really work out. The same management group is making the calls in 2015. We'll see.
Dolphins could jump into the RB pool at No. 14
Anyone who wants Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon will have to take the plunge in the first round, and I think the first team to step up could be Miami at No. 14. The Dolphins made their big splash on defense by signing Ndamukong Suh. Now they'll look to do whatever they can to help their offense, and bringing on one of these talented youngsters would go a long way. It makes even more sense when you consider that Miami only really has one back in Lamar Miller, who is entering a contract year. A few other candidates on my list: Arizona, Dallas and San Diego.

The teams that land Gordon (who can turn into a Jamaal Charles type) and Gurley (who has unlimited potential) will be very satisfied. Knowing Gurley, I believe he's going to do whatever he can to prepare and recover from the ACL tear he suffered in November; he's working out like crazy right now to make sure that knee is right. Gurley has a magnetic personality, will pass protect and can catch or run with the football. Gordon can do all of those things, as well.
Chargers should scoop up Todd Gurley with the 17th pick
I think San Diego (picking 17th), Arizona (24th), Baltimore (26th) and Dallas (27th) all should be in the market for a running back, and because the Chargers pick earlier than the other three, I'll go with them.

San Diego needs to give Philip Rivers a back he can count on, and either Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon could be that guy. The fact that Gurley still is recovering from ACL surgery might give some folks pause, as they wonder how healthy he will be in 2015. Still, long-term, he is more of a sure thing than Gordon, and the Bolts should nab him with their first-round pick.
If the Cowboys want to keep pounding the football, they must replace DeMarco Murray
I believe Dallas is the team to watch here. The Cowboys' resurgent season in 2014 was built around the NFL's No. 2 rushing attack. I believe they now have a mindset to be physical and ride the ground game. Routinely pounding the football not only helps Tony Romo, who just enjoyed his finest statistical season, but it protects a defense that has some holes.

With the free agency departure of reigning rushing king DeMarco Murray, the 'Boys suddenly have a major need at the position.
Bolts definitely have a need at the position, though Gurley might already be gone
This is a tough question because opinions regarding Georgia's Todd Gurley -- and specifically, his recovery from an ACL tear -- will be all over the map. Keep that in mind when it comes to teams opting for the best player available, as Gurley remains highly enticing to many GMs. He could land with a team picking in the top 15, even if that team doesn't have a dire need to draft a running back. To some, his talent is that alluring.

One franchise that could definitely grab an RB in Round 1, given its needs, is San Diego. The Chargers are picking at No. 17 overall. Gurley might be gone by then, but that'd be right in the range where they wouldn't necessarily be reaching for someone like Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon. The team absolutely needs a primary running back -- either of those two top prospects would pair very nicely with Branden Oliver.
San Diego must improve its atrocious ground game
The San Diego Chargers picking Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon, assuming one or both is available with the No. 17 pick, is the safest bet of the first round for the running back position. The Chargers had the 30th-ranked rushing attack in the league, with a dismal per-carry average of 3.4 yards. The club hasn't added a rusher in free agency, and actually lost one ( Ryan Mathews, who signed with Philadelphia).

The Dallas Cowboys also need to draft a running back early, but if Gurley and Gordon are gone by No. 27, the Blue Stars might as well wait until Round 2.
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