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NFL Trade Deadline overstocked with running backs—for a reason

There's a reason the NFL Trade Deadline is filled to the brim with running backs: They just aren't as valuable as they used to be.

Scott Heavey

The 2012 NFL Trade Deadline, for St. Louis Rams fans, is centered around whether the team will trade Steven Jackson. Unfortunately, the one thing the stereotypically stultified trade market has this year is veteran running backs—supply will probably outstrip demand. In addition to Jackson, the Carolina Panthers are shopping DeAngelo Williams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready to rid themselves of LeGarrette Blount, if you believe the straw-grasping rumor mill.

Why all the running backs on the block? It's not an accident—it's just that running backs are less valuable than ever. Fantasy football can only perpetuate the fiction that they're an offensive backbone for so long as teams pass more and find ever-increasing complementary roles for backups like Rams seventh-rounder Daryl Richardson. Squeezed from both sides, and brutalized by an aging curve that means rookies are often near their peak the minute they hit their first preseason, veteran running backs like Jackson are looking overpaid and unworthy of extended commitments.

Nothing's certain in sports trends like this, and it could be that as running backs are used less frequently the best ones become more effective—a guy like Jamaal Charles, whose career yards-per-carry is 5.9, is better able to compete with the quarterback than yesterday's 400-carry workhorse. But for now, NFL offenses are in flux, and there are suddenly more veteran running backs than there are veteran running back jobs.