Has any position fallen more in perceived high pick value recently than that of Running Back? Draftniks now speak of running backs almost like they’re talking about interior offensive lineman: “You can develop a good one”, “No need to spend a high pick on one”, “The value is low because every team now no longer has a feature back,” “How did Christina Hendricks get voted best looking woman in America with DW and Candy K. still on the board?”
Between 2002-2004, no running back was drafted higher than Boston College bust William Green. And though recently some backs have been picked up in the Top 10, only the Vikes Adrian Peterson really came with that “feature back” buzz around him. The likes of Ronnie Brown, Reggie Bush and Darren McFadden were looked upon more like Hybrid guys – runners slash receivers slash returners slash Kim Kardashian booty calls.
Between 1990-99, 11 running backs were selected in the Top 10 and included names like Tommy Vardell (9th to Cleveland ’92), Lawrence Phillips (6th to the Rams in ’96), Tim Biakabatuka (8th to Carolina in ’96) and the Penn State three – Blair Thomas (2nd by the Jets in ’90 and 15 picks ahead of Emmitt Smith), Ki-Jana Carter (1st by the Bengals in ’95) and Curtis Ennis (5th by the Bears in ’98). It’s not that all the RB picks drafted that high were busts during this time – SDSU’s gentlemanly Marshall Faulk was nabbed by the Colts 2nd overall in ’94. But it’s striking how many other better running backs were selected later. GM’s understandably had to begin to think that predicting the success of a running back was as big a crapshoot as predicting the success of a quarterback – except with a RB there was really a lot less to gain so therefore why waste such a high pick.
In 1987, I loved the running backs on the board. Alonzo Highsmith was the do-it-all back from the U; Brent Fullwood was a runner’s runner from Auburn, D.J. Dozier was a power back with hop from can’t miss Penn State, Rod Bernstein was going to create a whole new Running Back/Tight End position from Texas A&M, while Clemson’s Terrance Flagler was too fast to fail. Each and everyone would bust. But my favorite back that year was Temple’s little firecracker Paul Palmer.
When you think of colleges churning out great college football players, you probably don’t think of Philadelphia’s Temple University. Between 1991-99, the Temple Owls football team won 15 times while losing 84 times. I haven’t seen a percentage that poor since BK’s attempt to get a woman to dance with him back in ’96 on a visit to the Rum Jungle at Mandalay Bay.
Yet despite the Owls ineptitude on the field, Paul Palmer was piling up yardage. In fact when Paul Palmer left Temple, he had racked up the 6th most yards in college football history with close to 4,900. Although smaller than ideal, Paul could do it all – run, pass, with sneaky bits of speed bursts that exploded like Pop Rocks in your mouth.
But Palmer was a bomb in the pros. The Chiefs, who just two (2) years early had drafted a bust running back in Ethan Horton, busted again with Palmer and he too was out of Kansas City after 2 just seasons despite showing some signs of life as a kick returner and 3rd down back. He spent one forgettable year in Detroit before being out of the league. An aborted comeback attempt saw an already past his prime Palmer not even reach the heights of mediocrity for 2 years with Barcelona in the now defunct WLAF and that was that.
Yet amazingly, things weren’t that bad for the Chiefs. In the 2nd round they drafted Christian Okoye who would turn out to be one of the better backs in the league for a couple of years and rushed for over 4500 more yards in his career than the erstwhile Palmer. And thus planted yet another seed that is still being sown today regarding the gradual downgrading of the running back position in the NFL draft.
So whether it was the infamous Penn State 3 (and it really should be 4 if you count Dozier), the overdrafting of Paul Palmer or the casting of O.J. Simpson as a former running back turned executive turned murderer T.D. Parker on the HBO series’ “First and Ten”, this once sexy position is as moribund as O.J.’s search for the real killers.
That show never was the same after they replaced Burke with Tweed.
This year, there’s only 1 running back guaranteed to go in the 1st round and he also falls into the more versatile all-around category as opposed to every down back. Still, C.J. Spiller is flat out one of the five (5) best players in this year’s draft. A combination of Darren Sproles meeting DeAngelo Williams meeting Jamie Oliver after he’s helped teach a school full of inner city kids the importance of good nutrition, Spiller can eat catch the ball out of the back field and slice through defenders all why making fresh pasta and sprinkling it with spinich he learned to grow in the Botany class he audited his freshman year at Clemson.
Spiller should have been invited to the Heisman ceremony as he had a better year than that douche Tim Tebow and his blistering 40 time at the combines…well that just merits another look.
However, I must admit I don’t think Spiller is necessarily worth a Top 10 pick – although it’s fine if someone selects him there. I say that because I see C.J. as more Sproles than DeAngelo – a terrific kick returner and specialty backer but not someone who’s going to get anymore carries than a Reggie Bush. He needs to be in the right situation, but he’s still by far the #1 back in the draft.
Only two (2) other backs, Fresno State’s Ryan Mathews and Cal’s Jahvid Best also have any chance of making a first round appearance. I don’t see it with Mathews, who rushed for 1,808 yards in the wide-open WAC last year but doesn’t strike me as having anything unique enough to be more than a back-up and specials guy. Best, on the other hand, I thought might catapult into the first round despite an injury-plagued college career with a strong combine that actually saw him record a faster 40 time than Spiller (4.35 vs. 4.37) not to mention shuttle and cone drill results that made me get off my couch, pull up my pants and take notice. But concern’s about his durability and even his size seem to lower his ranking.
Size, along with where he fits and some of his physicals, also will hold Ole Miss RB Dexter McCluster to Round 2 or 3 as well while USC’s Joe McKnight will try to rebound from a somewhat disappointing college career. Someone will take a gamble on McKnight and while there’s a part of me that thinks maybe just maybe he was underutilized at SC and he’ll find a home and superior career in the NFL, there’s another part of me that thinks McKnight just wasn’t that good. Then again there’s a third part of me that thinks women should never wear the color blue and a fourth part of me that insists that the next Governor of the great state of California should actually be the three-headed monster of Wahoo Fish Taco founders Eduardo Lee, Mingo Lee and Wing Lam.
How much you wanna bet Wing fucked Ashley right after that? I’ll bet you two fish tacos (mild) and an order of baja rolls – and I’d win.
A look at this year’s Running Backs wouldn’t be complete witout a gander at Toby Gerhart of Stanford who had a breakthrough senior season to finish 2nd in the Heisman voting and, to the shock of some, actually did okay at the NFL Combines. However, his “good enough” performance (as fast as Mathews in the 40 and in the Top 5 among all RB’s in the bench and in his vert) has GM’s who thought Gerhart might be “worth the risk” in Rounds 4-6 now faced with “having” to take him in 2 or 3 when maybe they’d just prefer wait for strong man Ben Tate or Oregon wild child LeGarrette Blount later in the draft. My guess is that’s exactly what happens. Teams weigh their options come the end of the 2nd/early 3rd and decide that even though this isn’t a particularly deep running back class, taking a higher ranked player at another position and taking a chance on who’s around a few rounds later at RB will look appealing if Gerhart’s the best that’s left. That’s why my guess is Mr. Toby ends up hanging around until Day 3.
Because of the likes of Terrell Davis (the LATE 6th round grab by the Denver Broncos) and Curtis Martin (all-time value as a 3rd round pick of the Pats), the 1995 draft for Running Backs is able to overcome the fact that out of the five (5) backs taken in the first round – including Carter and Heisman trophy winner (and probably overly dissed as a bust) Rashaan Salaam – the draft was a hodgepodge of up-and-down careers. For the Giants that year, the debate came down to Salaam and Michigan’s Tyrone Wheatley, who BK saw as “the next Rodney Hampton” but with more speed and (quoting BK verbatim here) “zippity doo dah.” However, Giants coach Dan Reeves had his southern heart set on Salaam but eventually lost out to upper management who selected him despite his protestations. Of course just because the Giants selected Wheatley didn’t mean Reeves had to play him and that’s just what he didn’t do. He never let him be the feature back. In Wheatley’s first four (4) years with the Giants he ran the ball exactly as many times as Curtis Martin ran the ball with the Patriots in his rookie season – 368. This infuriated BK, who already had an issue with Southern Baptist’s following an incident involving legendary toll booth Tosser Tommy K. and a bad run-in with a Stuckey’s PB&J at an exit just outside of Charleston back in ’84. “What the fuck,” spewed BK, “I mean really, what…the…fuck,” when new coach Jim Fassell ran Wheatley just 14 times in 1998. “How can you hand the ball off to Gary Brown and that Dave Meggett fucking wanna and never gonna be Tiki Barber when you’ve got 235 pounds of Pro Bowl potential just sitting on the bench!” When the Giants traded Wheatley, he vowed that the G-Men would rue the day and for much of the 2000 season they did as Wheatley rushed for over 1,000 years for the Raiders. But as time went on, Wheatley’s weight played havoc with his ability to stay on the field and BK eventually named his dog after Tiki Barber, although he kept his name for his penis the same – The Big Wheat.
TOP 10 RUNNING BACKS
C.J. Spiller, Clemson
Exactly what he becomes is still unclear, but he will be an impact player at the next level.
Jahvid Best, California
Basically a poor man’s Spiller, he probably makes it as some kind of hybrid guy too and he’ll be more impactful than ex-Cal Bear Marshawn Lynch.
Ben Tate, Auburn
I see Marion Barber like potential here and as long as he’s not drafted by the Cowboys or Eagles, he can’t possibly turn into as big a prick. BK-o-Meter really likes his physicals.
Montario Hardesty, Tennessee
You need to be careful not to overestimate physicals no matter what the BK-o-Meter reads but if he stays healthy then all his combine results, his character and his play when he was on to the field point to him possibly being the 2nd best back in this draft.
Dexter McCluster, Mississippi
Let’s hear if for the little guys. I’m going to wear a shift on draft day that simply says “Why not McCluster?” Actually, my shirt’s going to say “Clipper Nation” because when I was a season ticket holder a few years back to the L.A. Clippers and they made the playoffs they handed those shirts off before every home game – so I’ve got like 12 of them.
Ryan Mathews, Fresno State
I don’t think Mathews makes a big impact at the next level, but at this point you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better. Sort of like making The Hurt Locker best picture…oh wait, UP was better.
Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State
A slow 40 time at the combine doesn’t scare me because if you can play you can play. And not much scares me – not the KFC Double Down, not another movie directed by Greg Araki, not even another sold-out comedy show by Dane Cook. Because if Dane Cook can get 20,000 people to laugh at a non-joke simply by saying the word “Sangwich” than Anthony Dixon has a place in the National Football League.
Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
I kinda like Dwyer with his strong DDI and surprising BK-o-Meter read. This could be the year Georgia Tech rises from being whatever it was before this year.
Joe McKnight, USC
I’ve got to start grading these USC guys down and McKnight is a good place to start.
Toby Gerhart, Stanford
I don’t really think he’ll make it in the league, but then again who else can I put in the Top 10. Like a former CEO once said to me when describing the new head of marketing, “Well, you know, she’s as good as we could get,” of which I responded, “That’s what they said about you.” She was fired a year later.
BK LUCKY NUMBER 13
Lonyae Miller, Fresno State
“Better than Mathews,” BK belted after exiting the bathroom with a copy of Football America in his left hand. Most of his combine numbers were slightly above that of teammate Ryan Mathews, but it was his first name of Lonyae that really captured BK’s attention. “I once masturbated to Loni Anderson while watching an episode of WKRP,” reminisced BK. “It was a moment of pure bliss and joy – just me, my dick in my right hand and a turkey rolley sammy in my left.” When I informed BK I preferred to pleasure myself to Bailey, he curtly responded “Who the fuck is Bailey? Now shut-up and get me a sandwich.”