St. Louis Rams fans are mired in the hoopla regarding what should be done with the first or second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. One of the many possible options is trade down to pick Alabama running back Trent Richardson. In my honest opinion this would be a mistake because running backs are not as valuable as they once were and picking one in the first round isn't smart.
In my opinion, running backs don't affect the game as much as they used to in the past, and they truly are a dime a dozen. I also believe many teams overdraft them, using higher draft picks than they should. Don't believe me - look at some of the best running backs in the league. Adrian Petterson, the best running back in the NFL, and Rb for the Vikings is a prime example. The Vikings are a basic lock at the number three 2012 Draft spot. During Adrian's time in Minnesota, the team has only been to the playoffs twice. One of those times, he carried a piss poor quarterback in Tavaris Jackson. Adrian has been a top running back in the league in the NFL since his rookie year and the only time he's gone deep in the playoffs is when he had a pretty good quarterback in Brett Favre, where they came within one mistake away from making the Super Bowl. Another top running back, the Tennessee Titan's Chris Johnson, has yet to see the Playoffs while being, statistically, the best running back in the NFL. My point is that they don't make the impact they did in the past.
Now for drafting running backs in the NFL: They are not worth a top 15 pick in the NFL anymore. A team can find an effective running back later in the draft:
2009 1st Round:
2010 1st Round:
2011 1st Round:
There wasn't one running back drafted in the top 25, and the only running back selected in the first round was Mark Ingram.
Looking back at the 2009 draft, I'd rather have LeSean McCoy over any of those taken in the first round. Dexter McCluster isn't that far off, if not better than all of the 2010 draft running back class. Add to that the fact that none of the 2010 draft picks in the first round have shown anything that would suggest they could be anything but good in a two back system. Mark Ingram on the other hand has landed in the perfect situation. After looking at all of that, is running back really worth drafting in the higher part of the first round?
Let's look at the running backs in the last couple of Super Bowls:
Ryan Grant was an undrafted free agent.
James Starks was a 6th round draft pick
Pierre Thomas went undrafted in 2007
Reggie Bush, a first round pick which never amounted to much, and is no longer on the team.
Although it may seem like I'm bashing running backs, I'm not. There are some running backs that do defy my commonly held beliefs and do carry their teams - i.e. Ray Rice. This guy has honestly carried this Ravens offense this season and I would even say he's the biggest piece in their offense. But something that I would like to point out is that he was drafted in the second round, yet another above average running back that wasn't picked in the 1st round. I'm not knocking that draft per se; in the first two rounds it has cranked out the likes of Darren McFadden, Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Johnson, and Felix Jones, but I would only take Chris Johnson over Rice in that group.
The only team that had a first round running back is the Saints and Reggie Bush was far from the focal point of their offense. What's my point? You don't need a top running back to be successful in the NFL anymore. Hell, if you need an example, look no further than Steven Jackson. He's produced since he's been in St. Louis and in my opinion has been a Top 5 NFL running back for some time; yet where's his Super Bowl? He's never even breathed the playoff air, except from his couch. In order to succeed in the NFL, need a passing game that can take attention away from the running back. If you don't - you're screwed.