Why Do The Jets Hate Running Backs?

Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

The mysterious Jets aversion to drafting running backs.

The Rex Ryan Jets like to run the football.  That's not exactly a revelation.  Since Ryan took over the Jets in 2009 the offense has been heavily focused on the running game, with the notable exception of the 2011 Sanchez coming out party experiment gone awry.  As shown in the following chart, the Jets under Ryan have ranked in the top 20% of NFL teams in rushing attempts in four out of the five years Ryan has been head coach.

Year

Rushing Attempts NFL Rank



2013

5

2012

6

2011

16

2010

2

2009

1

Given the heavy emphasis on the running game, one might expect the Jets to spend a hefty number of their draft picks, and perhaps a good number of premium (rounds one through three) draft picks on running backs.  Somewhat surprisingly, that has not been the case.  In fact, going back past the Ryan era, all the way back to 2002, the Jets have in many ways been the NFL team least interested in drafting running backs.  What they have largely done instead has been to find veteran running backs to play a stopgap role for a couple of years, then move on to another.  Chris Johnson is just the latest iteration of this pattern.  As we can see from the following chart of the Jets leading rushers each year since 1998, in only three of the subsequent 16 seasons has the Jets leading rusher been a back originally drafted by the team.  In 2006, 4th round draft pick Leon Washington was the Jets' leading rusher.  In 2011 and 2012, Shonn Greene paced the Jets.  Neither back proved to be a carry the load, legitimate bell cow running back.  Every other year since 1998 a running back drafted or originally signed by another team was the Jets' leading rusher, and with Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory the two best backs on the 2014 Jets, that trend appears set to continue for at least another year or more.

Year

Jets Rushing Leader

.

2013

Ivory

2012

Greene

2011

Greene

2010

Tomlinson

2009

Jones

2008

Jones

2007

Jones

2006

Washington

2005

Martin

2004

Martin

2003

Martin

2002

Martin

2001

Martin

2000

Martin

1999

Martin

1998

Martin

For whatever reason, the Jets just do not seem interested in finding a long term solution at running back through the draft.  Consider the last two years.  New GM, new scouts, new philosophy, right?  Not when it comes to drafting running backs.  The Jets are one of only four teams to draft zero running backs in each of the last two drafts.

Now consider the last 13 drafts, from 2002 through 2014.  As shown in the following chart, over that time frame only two NFL teams, New Orleans and Oakland, drafted fewer running backs than the Jets.  Of course, that fact may be a bit misleading, because the Jets did draft seven running backs over those 13 years, a number that, while it places the Jets in the bottom 30% of the league, it also is within shouting distance of the 10 teams tied for the most running backs drafted with 10.

Team

Total Draft Picks

BAL

10

CAR

10

CLE

10

DEN

10

DET

10

PHI

10

SF

10

TAM

10

TEN

10

WAS

10

AZ

9

CIN

9

MIA

9

PIT

9

BUF

8

GB

8

HOU

8

IND

8

JAX

8

KC

8

NYG

8

SD

8

STL

8

ATL

7

CHI

7

DAL

7

MIN

7

NE

7

NYJ

7

SEA

7

OAK

5

NO

3

Look a little closer, however, and the picture becomes much clearer; the Jets are on the extreme bottom of the NFL, a complete outlier, in terms of draft resources expended on running backs.  While it's true that the Jets spent seven picks on running backs in the last 13 drafts, the Jets are one of only four teams that spent only one premium pick (first three rounds) on a running back since 2002.  The Jets are also the only NFL team in that time to not spend a single first or second round pick on a running back.

Team

Premium Draft Picks

Highest Pick

DEN

6

1

DET

5

1

STL

5

1

TEN

5

1

CAR

4

1

CIN

4

1

CLE

4

1

PHI

4

2

SF

4

2

AZ

3

1

BUF

3

1

CHI

3

1

DAL

3

1

KC

3

1

MIA

3

1

MIN

3

1

NE

3

1

TAM

3

1

BAL

3

2

GB

3

2

HOU

3

2

ATL

2

1

IND

2

1

NO

2

1

OAK

2

1

PIT

2

1

JAX

2

2

SEA

2

2

NYG

1

1

SD

1

1

WAS

1

2

NYJ

1

3

Taking things a step further, let's look for a moment at a rough estimate of how valuable the total draft assets were that each team spent on running backs since 2002.  To approximate that total value calculation I have used the standard draft trade value chart and added up the value of each pick spent on running backs for every NFL team since 2002.  While the trade value chart (TVC) is clearly not the last word on the relative value of picks, it does provide us with a uniform, unbiased way of evaluating the total value of draft resources spent.  It also has the virtue of using a valuation method that NFL teams more or less still use to this day when trading draft picks.  So what does this method tell us about how the Jets value running backs in the draft?  Take a look.  As you can see in the following chart, the Jets have spent less draft assets on running backs since 2002 than any other NFL team, and it isn't very close.  In fact, every team other than the Redskins has spent at least twice as much in draft assets than the Jets.  The average NFL team has spent four times as much in draft assets on running backs than the Jets, and the teams at the top of the chart have spent nearly seven times as much in draft assets on running backs than the Jets.

Team

TVC Total

BUF

3109

CAR

2982

DET

2894

CLE

2769

DEN

2694

TEN

2537

TAM

2298

CIN

2249

STL

2234

IND

2124

NO

2060

AZ

1922

MIN

1782

DAL

1752

MIA

1737

NE

1737

CHI

1705

PIT

1511

KC

1509

SF

1354

ATL

1264

SD

1212

NYG

1188

GB

1167

OAK

1150

PHI

1053

BAL

1014

HOU

965

JAX

941

SEA

909

WAS

614

NYJ

440

So we come to this little mystery.  The Jets have a head coach who believes in heavily emphasizing the running game.  They have been among the league leaders in rushing attempts four of the last five years.  The Jets have never had even an average quarterback in the Ryan era to take the pressure off the running game.  The Jets play outdoors in a cold weather city, an environment where many believe it is crucial to have a strong running game.  Yet, despite all that, the Jets hate running backs.  Or to be more accurate, the Jets hate drafting running backs.  They appear to much prefer spending money and trade resources on veteran backs with limited longevity.  This has resulted in the Jets, since Curtis Martin left in 2005, never really having a star running back.  Yes, Thomas Jones had a big year one year, but is there anyone who would call Thomas Jones one of the NFL's best running backs, even at his best?  The league's best running backs rarely are available in free agency or via trade until after they have entered their declining years.  As a result, if you want a premier back, in general you have to draft one.  And yet, the Jets seem wholly uninterested in that approach.  If the team had a Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers leading the attack that approach might be understandable.  But with a team that typically gets quarterback play ranging from bad to putrid, and a head coach who strongly believes in a run heavy attack, we have to ask, why?  Why are the Jets such outliers here?  Why are they making so little effort to find a stud back?  Why do they expend fewer draft resources on the position than any team in the NFL?  In short, why do the Jets hate running backs?

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Gang Green Nation

You must be a member of Gang Green Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Gang Green Nation. You should read them.

Join Gang Green Nation

You must be a member of Gang Green Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Gang Green Nation. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker