FanPost

RBs: Worthy of a High Draft Pick?

With the draft less than a month away (yessssss!) and with the Broncos needing to upgrade their running back corps, it's quite common to read someone say, "You don't draft a running back in the first round, the positional value blah blah blah..."

To hear these commenters spout from their pulpits you'd think this idea was less a suspicion and more a governing law of the universe. They throw out names like Priest Holmes and Arian Foster. And of course, here in Denver we've been spoiled by the likes of Terrell Davis and even Mike Anderson and Olandis Gary.

But their evidence isn't really evidence; it's anecdotal (which I guess is evidence, albeit with a cherry-picked sample size).

So being that I'm disagreeable and have an agenda, I decided to try to find out the answer.

Enter one of my interns, Meg (that's not her real name). Like all my interns, Meg's really hot (I swear she could be a hair model). She just joined my team, so I'm not completely familiar with her "skill set", but I will say she's made "Wet-T-Shirt Wednesday" even more interesting.

Anyway, I asked her to see if she could find any correlation between running back draft position and success. I didn't give her any more direction, but here's what she did: She looked at any running back drafted between 1998-2011 and tied those players back to individual rushing totals from 2004-2011. She included any undrafted Free Agents who appeared in the rushing statistics during those years too. But she excluded anyone who appeared in the rushing statistics in that period who was drafted prior to 1998 (for example, Emmett Smith. He was drafted in the first round prior to 1998, but rushed for 937 yards between 2004-11).

Anyway, here's what she learned:

Round ATT YARDS TD #
1 34820 147406 1102 38
2 14421 60418 360 27
3 10419 45262 242 29
4 7957 33147 263 25
5 4062 17733 140 17
6 1297 5147 35 19
7 4853 20820 128 28
8 12086 50916 354 98
Corr. Coef. -0.66261 -0.66369 -0.62631

Notice the strong, negative correlations between round drafted and the production? In other words, the higher a running back is drafted, the more you'll get out of him. I'll include the entire dataset at the end of the post, if you want to mess around with it (Round 8 means they were undrafted).

Meg delivered this to me yesterday. And at the same time, Tony Vilotti over at Draftmetrics posted something he calls the "Urgency Index." His work corroborates Meg's. Here's an excerpt:

Given all the talk about the running back position losing value, it is interesting to note that running backs have the highest Urgency Index in Value Group 1.

In conclusion, the research done by Meg and Tony suggest the notion that teams are stupid for spending high draft picks on running backs is false. I can't comment on the limitations of Tony's research; but I'd say one limitation of Meg's is the ambiguity of how they define a "running back." For example, was Troy Hambrick a running back or a fullback? Since fullbacks are often drafted later and their production is lower, this may have skewed the results. It might be worthwhile to vet the dataset for fullbacks.

Additionally, the force of "sunk costs" might also be influencing the results. However, I can't think of anyway to strip out this bias. I'd ask Meg, but she's baking some peanut butter brownies.

Anyway, here's the dataset:

Player Pos Att Yds TD FUM Round
Eric McCoo RB 9 54 0 0 8
Quentin Griffin RB 85 311 2 2 4
Onterrio Smith RB 124 544 2 2 4
Walter Williams RB 6 42 0 0 8
Troy Hambrick RB 63 283 1 0 8
Leonard Henry RB 46 141 0 1 7
Joey Harris RB 15 53 0 0 8
Larry Croom RB 29 76 0 0 8
Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala RB 20 69 1 0 6
Mike Cloud RB 21 90 3 0 2
Brock Forsey RB 19 53 0 1 7
J.R. Redmond RB 21 119 0 2 3
Josh Scobey RB 27 89 0 0 6
Ian Smart RB 2 26 0 0 8
George Layne RB 1 12 0 0 4
Joe Burns RB 20 73 0 0 8
Vick King RB 4 9 0 0 8
Troy Fleming RB 7 40 0 0 6
Brandon Bennett RB 6 17 1 0 8
Rabih Abdullah RB 13 13 1 0 8
B.J. Sams RB 4 19 1 0 8
Kerry Carter RB 4 15 0 0 8
Domanick Williams RB 532 2164 15 3 4
Bruce Perry RB 16 74 0 0 7
Jonathan Wells RB 172 624 7 1 4
Shawn Bryson RB 114 570 1 0 3
Shaud Williams RB 87 328 2 0 8
William Green RB 183 663 2 3 1
Jarrett Payton RB 33 105 2 0 8
Jamal Robertson RB 14 41 1 1 8
Amos Zereoue RB 119 439 3 1 3
Jamel White RB 20 79 0 0 8
Ran Carthon RB 13 18 1 0 8
Damien Anderson RB 2 7 0 0 8
James Jackson RB 4 11 0 0 3
James Mungro RB 12 34 0 0 8
Nehemiah Broughton RB 1 3 0 0 7
Terry Jackson RB 28 112 0 2 5
Rod Smart RB 6 10 0 0 8
Justin Green RB 5 4 0 0 5
Cedric Houston RB 194 676 7 0 6
Wali Lundy RB 124 476 4 1 6
Kevan Barlow RB 551 1773 16 4 3
Jamaal Branch RB 10 29 0 0 8
Damien Nash RB 24 98 0 0 5
Ciatrick Fason RB 50 161 5 0 4
Arlen Harris RB 82 242 2 0 8
Verron Haynes RB 144 624 3 3 6
Derrick Blaylock RB 160 636 8 0 5
Noah Herron RB 82 271 3 0 7
Keylon Kincade RB 4 9 0 0 8
Patrick Pass RB 99 407 3 3 7
Alvin Pearman RB 58 238 2 0 4
Lee Suggs RB 213 785 2 6 4
Cedric Cobbs RB 25 59 0 1 4
ReShard Lee RB 59 216 3 2 8
Ronnie Cruz RB 5 19 0 0 8
Obafemi Ayanbadejo RB 61 205 3 0 8
Eric Shelton RB 8 23 0 0 2
Lamar Gordon RB 90 248 1 3 3
Marlion Jackson RB 1 2 0 0 8
Dee Brown RB 17 45 0 1 6
Reno Mahe RB 47 196 0 0 8
Chad Morton RB 1 22 0 0 6
Kay-Jay Harris RB 3 9 0 0 8
Derrick Ross RB 3 8 0 0 8
Tony Fisher RB 131 406 1 0 8
Marquis Weeks RB 3 8 0 0 8
Quincy Wilson RB 2 2 0 0 7
Darius Walker RB 58 264 1 0 8
Ron Dayne RB 450 1834 13 2 1
Travis Henry RB 619 2563 11 8 2
Priest Holmes RB 361 1480 20 5 8
Kenton Keith RB 121 533 3 1 8
Reuben Droughns RB 889 3505 18 17 3
Musa Smith RB 123 465 2 2 3
LaBrandon Toefield RB 110 360 5 0 5
Adimchinobe Echemandu RB 28 110 0 2 7
Cory Ross RB 12 72 1 0 8
Anthony Thomas RB 272 883 4 2 2
Brian Calhoun RB 14 54 0 1 3
Vernand Morency RB 166 713 4 2 3
Mike Anderson RB 293 1259 13 2 6
Maurice Hicks RB 205 869 6 4 8
Tyson Thompson RB 73 266 1 0 8
Artose Pinner RB 211 759 8 1 4
Dwayne Wright RB 29 94 0 0 4
Clifton Dawson RB 30 64 1 0 8
Marcel Shipp RB 189 533 5 4 8
Michael Pittman RB 483 2213 13 6 3
Selvin Young RB 201 1032 2 2 8
Tatum Bell RB 569 2773 16 7 2
Deuce McAllister RB 737 2976 27 8 1
P.J. Pope RB 17 130 0 0 8
Antonio Pittman RB 117 435 0 0 4
Chris Perry RB 175 605 2 5 1
Andre Hall RB 79 360 2 3 8
J.J. Arrington RB 183 654 3 1 2
Rudi Johnson RB 1285 4955 40 15 4
DeShaun Foster RB 814 3141 11 11 2
Chris Taylor RB 42 160 1 1 8
T.J. Duckett RB 390 1528 29 6 1
Kevin Jones RB 795 3176 24 10 1
James Johnson RB 9 29 0 0 8
Gary Russell RB 35 98 3 0 8
Shaun Alexander RB 1193 5212 54 17 1
Kenny Watson RB 242 1117 8 4 8
Chris Henry RB 32 122 2 0 2
Jesse Chatman RB 198 915 4 1 8
Xavier Omon RB 6 5 0 0 6
Travis Minor RB 163 576 3 0 3
DeDe Dorsey RB 26 191 0 0 8
Tony Hunt RB 14 25 2 0 3
Chauncey Washington RB 4 9 0 0 7
Aveion Cason RB 49 204 1 0 8
Nick Goings RB 274 1016 6 1 8
Jamal Lewis RB 1538 5850 32 16 1
Justin Fargas RB 787 3166 10 8 3
Ryan Moats RB 204 831 8 5 3
Willie Parker RB 1253 5378 24 16 8
Chris Jennings RB 63 220 1 0 8
Ahman Green RB 787 3191 18 9 3
Chris Brown RB 666 2803 19 12 3
Edgerrin James RB 1534 6074 38 17 1
LenDale White RB 628 2349 24 6 2
Glen Coffee RB 83 226 1 0 3
Lynell Hamilton RB 35 125 2 0 8
Marcus Mason RB 32 127 0 0 8
LaMont Jordan RB 728 2936 20 3 2
Dantrell Savage RB 25 98 0 0 8
Kolby Smith RB 162 540 3 0 5
Tim Castille RB 14 55 0 1 8
Chad Simpson RB 30 147 3 1 8
Patrick Cobbs RB 33 171 2 0 8
Louis Rankin RB 8 36 0 1 8
DeShawn Wynn RB 64 332 5 0 7
Carey Davis RB 31 118 0 0 8
Kory Sheets RB 1 5 0 0 8
Jalen Parmele RB 7 44 0 0 6
Samkon Gado RB 248 933 10 4 8
Aaron Stecker RB 285 1124 7 3 8
Javarris Williams RB 6 6 0 0 7
Clifton Smith RB 12 47 0 3 8
Dominic Rhodes RB 544 2025 17 6 8
Clinton Portis RB 1667 6824 46 18 2
Brandon Jackson RB 347 1329 7 3 2
Rashad Jennings RB 123 661 5 0 7
Mike Goodson RB 125 501 3 5 4
Mike Hart RB 71 264 2 0 7
Brian Westbrook RB 1222 5529 34 2 3
Fred Taylor RB 1157 5339 20 8 1
Julius Jones RB 1268 5038 22 13 2
Ladell Betts RB 679 2764 12 9 2
Laurence Maroney RB 618 2504 21 5 1
James Davis RB 24 66 0 0 7
Javarris James RB 46 112 6 0 8
Correll Buckhalter RB 400 1816 11 5 4
Aaron Brown RB 44 189 0 0 6
Albert Young RB 25 82 0 0 8
Dimitri Nance RB 36 95 0 0 8
Tyrell Sutton RB 25 139 0 0 8
Kenneth Darby RB 95 408 2 1 7
Mike Bell RB 379 1447 14 5 8
Eldra Buckley RB 36 111 1 0 8
Gartrell Johnson RB 23 79 0 0 5
Kareem Huggins RB 4 11 0 0 8
Keith Toston RB 19 54 0 0 8
Quinton Ganther RB 80 280 3 0 7
Jason Wright RB 168 633 2 2 8
Michael Bennett RB 298 1214 5 6 1
Larry Johnson RB 1274 5759 54 13 1
Garrett Wolfe RB 72 282 1 0 3
Maurice Jones-Drew RB 1484 6854 62 13 2
Ray Rice RB 959 4377 24 5 2
Michael Turner RB 1417 6538 56 13 5
LeSean McCoy RB 635 3026 28 4 2
Arian Foster RB 659 3097 29 7 8
Frank Gore RB 1653 7625 43 24 3
Marshawn Lynch RB 1100 4378 35 10 1
Willis McGahee RB 1790 7366 59 20 1
Steven Jackson RB 2138 9093 52 18 1
Ryan Mathews RB 380 1769 13 9 1
Reggie Bush RB 740 3176 23 17 1
Cedric Benson RB 1529 5769 31 19 1
Shonn Greene RB 546 2360 10 6 3
Chris Johnson RB 1187 5645 38 9 1
Beanie Wells RB 537 2237 19 9 1
Matt Forte RB 1014 4233 21 7 2
Michael Bush RB 632 2642 21 3 4
Adrian Peterson RB 1676 7864 71 23 1
Ben Tate RB 175 942 4 4 2
Fred Jackson RB 817 3794 16 9 8
Rashard Mendenhall RB 813 3367 29 6 1
DeMarco Murray RB 164 897 2 1 3
DeAngelo Williams RB 996 5047 38 5 1
LeGarrette Blount RB 385 1788 11 6 8
Jonathan Stewart RB 725 3500 26 10 1
BenJarvus Green-Ellis RB 510 2064 29 0 8
Ahmad Bradshaw RB 700 3217 26 12 7
Donald Brown RB 341 1423 10 1 1
Roy Helu RB 151 640 2 1 4
Darren McFadden RB 553 2627 16 11 1
Darren Sproles RB 336 1757 8 1 5
Jackie Battle RB 190 715 4 0 8
Peyton Hillis RB 512 2161 20 9 7
Daniel Thomas RB 165 581 0 2 2
James Starks RB 162 679 1 2 7
Felix Jones RB 458 2326 8 6 1
Brandon Jacobs RB 1078 4849 56 17 4
Pierre Thomas RB 521 2501 23 3 8
C.J. Spiller RB 181 844 4 4 1
Ryan Grant RB 924 4016 25 5 8
Toby Gerhart RB 190 853 2 2 2
Isaac Redman RB 162 726 3 3 8
Thomas Jones RB 2179 8700 56 14 1
Mark Ingram RB 122 474 5 1 1
Kendall Hunter RB 112 473 2 0 4
Ricky Williams RB 842 3655 25 16 1
Stevan Ridley RB 87 441 1 1 3
Joseph Addai RB 1095 4453 39 7 1
Marion Barber RB 1156 4780 53 9 4
Lance Ball RB 150 643 1 3 8
Jahvid Best RB 255 945 6 1 1
Bernard Scott RB 247 1000 4 1 7
Delone Carter RB 101 377 2 3 4
Chris Ivory RB 216 1090 6 4 8
Cadillac Williams RB 1055 4038 21 9 1
Kevin Smith RB 561 2212 16 5 2
Danny Woodhead RB 189 962 6 1 8
Kahlil Bell RB 119 557 0 2 8
Chris Ogbonnaya RB 84 384 1 2 7
Evan Royster RB 56 328 0 0 6
Tim Hightower RB 523 2054 24 10 5
Maurice Morris RB 797 3256 13 6 2
LaDainian Tomlinson RB 2150 9120 108 12 1
Montario Hardesty RB 88 266 0 1 2
Leon Washington RB 450 2130 15 4 4
Earnest Graham RB 477 2047 15 5 8
Jacquizz Rodgers RB 57 205 1 1 5
Ryan Torain RB 238 1011 6 3 5
Keiland Williams RB 123 456 5 2 8
Javon Ringer RB 118 472 3 0 6
Knowshon Moreno RB 466 1905 12 6 1
LaRod Stephens-Howling RB 72 295 1 0 7
D.J. Ware RB 81 324 1 1 8
Mewelde Moore RB 494 2247 6 3 4
Derrick Ward RB 551 2628 12 4 7
Jason Snelling RB 301 1193 7 2 7
Justin Forsett RB 278 1287 7 2 7
Ronnie Brown RB 1170 4951 37 13 1
Joe McKnight RB 82 323 0 0 4
Deji Karim RB 98 290 0 1 6
Jonathan Dwyer RB 25 151 0 0 6
Kregg Lumpkin RB 32 124 0 0 8
Dion Lewis RB 23 102 1 0 5
Alfonso Smith RB 30 102 1 0 8
Curtis Brinkley RB 32 112 1 0 8
Sammy Morris RB 602 2565 20 6 5
Anthony Dixon RB 99 324 4 0 6
Brian Leonard RB 141 540 0 0 2
Jamaal Charles RB 499 3027 12 6 3
Jeremiah Johnson RB 14 77 0 0 8
Chester Taylor RB 1064 4342 24 13 7
Phillip Tanner RB 22 76 1 0 8
Taiwan Jones RB 16 73 0 0 4
Tashard Choice RB 245 1134 9 1 4
Brandon Saine RB 18 69 0 0 8
Steve Slaton RB 435 1876 13 7 3
Jerious Norwood RB 399 2056 7 1 3
Kevin Faulk RB 362 1732 8 1 2
Shane Vereen RB 15 57 1 0 2
Mossis Madu RB 15 55 0 0 8
Lorenzo Booker RB 61 230 0 2 3
Armando Allen RB 15 48 0 0 8
Rock Cartwright RB 114 523 2 2 7
Jamie Harper RB 17 44 1 1 5
DuJuan Harris RB 9 42 0 0 8
John Clay RB 10 41 1 0 8
Jerome Harrison RB 325 1590 7 4 5
Montell Owens RB 12 82 2 0 8
Johnny White RB 12 38 0 0 5
Josh Vaughan RB 10 31 1 0 8
Bilal Powell RB 13 21 0 1 4
Da'Rel Scott RB 5 16 0 1 7
Cedric Peerman RB 3 15 0 0 6
Thomas Clayton RB 14 29 0 0 6
Alex Green RB 3 11 0 0 3
Anthony Allen RB 3 8 0 0 7

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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