Skip to main content

Undervalued RBs Could Fall To Ravens


In the 1990 NFL Draft, six running backs were taken in the first round. The No. 2 overall pick was a running back, and 12 of the first 50 picks were ball carriers.

Last season a running back didn't come off the board until the No. 37 selection. Just six of the top 100 draft picks were running backs.

Times have changed.

The NFL game has evolved considerably over the last two decades, as teams have shifted away from run-first offenses with a workhorse back. Offenses are now pass-heavy and teams often have two or even three players to carry the ball.

The value of running backs has declined, and teams stand to benefit as the top-notch backs are now available in the mid-to-late rounds.

"Whatever they're rated, they always go two rounds later because very few teams need running backs," ESPN's longtime draft expert Mel Kiper said. "You're looking at a second-tier need area. That's why all of these good running backs that should be twos or threes, go four, five six."

That is good news for the Ravens, who are looking to add players to their backfield.

Improving the running game is a top offseason priority after finishing last season ranked 30th overall with 83 rushing yards per game. Having the ability to run the ball has always been important to the Ravens, especially in the smashmouth AFC North where the weather is unpredictable late in the season.

Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz stressed that running back is still critical despite an apparent diminished value in the position.

"To me it's a position that has really been marginalized, until you get into the playoffs and you really need to get that first down," Hortiz said. "Then you're not throwing it to the wideout, you're handing it off to the running back."

Trends from recent Super Bowl winners support Hortiz' argument. Teams can get away with a lackluster running game during the regular season, but they need to move the ball on the ground to bring home the Lombardi Trophy.

Here's a look at the rushing numbers for the last three Super Bowl winners, comparing stats from the regular season and the playoffs:


Reg. Season Carries, Yards Per Game

Playoff Carries, Yards Per Game


31 carries, 136.7 yards

31 carries, 141.3 yards


25 carries, 118.8 yards

35 carries, 134.8 yards


25 carries, 89 yards

28 carries, 116.5 yards

The Ravens' run to Super Bowl XLVII demonstrated the importance of a strong running game, as the offense relied on Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce throughout.

"It was really important for the Ravens last year in the playoffs," Hortiz said. "We stayed with it. We needed to do it and needed to sustain drives. Then we got Torrey [Smith] deep off play-action passes."

The Ravens place a high priority on running the ball – especially with new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak – and they could bolster their rushing attack by adding a back in the later rounds of the draft.

"I think it's still a very important position, but throughout history you can get guys later," Hortiz said. "You can get Ray Rice in the bottom of the second round. You can get Terrell Davis in the sixth round. You can get good running backs throughout the draft. It's harder to find an elite left tackle, corner, receiver, or defensive tackle, so teams are going to be more inclined to take those early."

Recent history shows that most of the league's elite running backs have been taken in the middle rounds. The Vikings' Adrian Peterson is the only running back drafted in the first round to make the All-Pro teams in the last four years, while players like Rice, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster, Alfred Morris and Eddie Lacy have all been taken in the second round or later.

This could be another year where an elite running back isn't drafted in the first round, and the Ravens could capitalize on the trend.

"Just because they're not going in the first round doesn't mean that it's any less important," Hortiz said. "I think teams that need running backs will go into this draft will say, 'Hey, we rate this guy here,' and they're going to target those guys in the second round, third round."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content