Commentary

Backed out of the market?

Why the RB crop is so weak, who the best ones are, and who needs them

Updated: December 3, 2010, 4:14 PM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Jamaal Charles and Arian FosterGetty Images, US PresswireJamaal Charles and Arian Foster prove that spending a high draft pick on an RB is unnecessary.

A quick look at the top rushers in the NFL won't help the people who claim that taking running backs high in the NFL draft is still good business.

Arian Foster leads the league in rushing after going undrafted, and Jamaal Charles, the NFL's second-leading rusher, fell to the third round in the 2008 draft with plenty of questions about his size. Look further and you get another indication of why GMs might be hesitant to use an early pick on a running back. Foster got his chance because of a series of injuries and the inability of other Houston backs to gain the trust of coaches due to fumbling issues. Charles is second in rushing yards, but he's still part of a tandem -- his 161 carries aren't just a light total, they're a full 15 fewer than teammate Thomas Jones, who has a not-so-shabby 712 yards himself.

And while most evaluators agree that no position in the NFL is more likely to produce immediate dividends -- you're just as likely to get good results from a rookie RB as a fifth-year pro -- the early picks in 2010 haven't done much. C.J. Spiller to Buffalo at No. 9, and Ryan Mathews to San Diego at No. 12 (after a trade up) are both picks where the jury will be out well into next year.

But has the market truly shifted? Are running backs truly valued at a lower rate than they used to be? And is the fact that I have just one RB on the current Big Board a reflection of that?


To read more about the top running backs in this year's draft class and which teams may draft them, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst