2011 NFL Draft: Is Any Running Back A First-Rounder?

For the St. Louis Rams, the story of the 2011 NFL Draft—at least its first round—comes down to finding some way to make Sam Bradford's job less boring. Julio Jones remains the top choice for most Mock Drafters, but another oft-suggested option is to grab Heisman-winner Mark Ingram to give Steven Jackson, who at times in 2010 looked worn down, a breather. Paranoid as I am about running backs who nearly lead the league in rushing attempts, I've supported this option on more than one occasion.

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That said, I loved this piece by 3k on Turf Show Times, which takes as its premise that a running back should be valued more like a tight end than a quarterback. It seems plausible to me; the run-first NFL exists, at this point, only in the fever-dreams of aging broadcasters and people who dress up in Halloween masks at football games. It's dead and our own Greatest Show on Turf, with its 80-reception Hall of Fame running back, helped kill it. 

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Rushing attempts have stayed steady for years—in 1990 teams averaged 440 carries a year, in 2000 441, in 2010 435. But passing has gotten more common and more efficient; teams averaged 3545 passing yards in 2010, compared to 3116 in 1990, and at the same time the individual starter's share of those rushing yards has declined. Running the football is less valuable than it was in 1990, and so is an individual running back. It makes it harder than ever to justify a draft strategy built around them, except in fantasy football. 

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