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?
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.
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.
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.
With the free agency departure of
reigning rushing king DeMarco Murray, the 'Boys suddenly have a major need at the position.
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
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.