The Myth About Not Drafting Running Backs Early

Quite a few of the experts (and non-experts) have the Jets using the #23 or #34 pick on either Travis Etienne or Najee Harris to improve our RB room. To this, many GGN readers have commented that "you don't draft a running back early" and "you can get equivalent value in later rounds", so I have decided to test this theory out.

Using the last 5 NFL drafts as a benchmark, I have come up with the following evidence that refutes this argument. Exactly 1/2 of the starting RBs in the NFL today were drafted in the 1st 2 rounds of the last 5 NFL drafts. That means 16 out of the 21 RBs selected have "hit" as starters. Of the 5 that are not currently starters, 1 (Ronald Jones II) will be a starter soon, and another (AJ Dillon) could be depending on salary cap maneuverings. That leaves Derrius Guice, Rashaad Penny, and Kerryon Johnson as the only "unsuccessful" RBs selected high in the draft over the past 5 years.

Drawing this out some more and looking at all of the current starting RBs in the NFL, 26 out of 32 were drafted in the first 3 rounds of the NFL draft. So teams are finding their starters at the top of the draft and not very many are coming in during the later rounds.


Here is the raw data over the past 5 years drafts: + indicates starter, * indicates Pro Bowl player, and (#) indicates those that finished in the top 15 rushers this past season.


1-4 Ezekial Elliott *+ (11)

2-45 Derrick Henry *+ (1)


1-4 Leonard Fournette +

1-8 Christian McCaffrey *+

2-41 Dalvin Cook *+ (2)

2-48 Joe Mixon +


1-2 Saquon Barkley *+

1-27 Rashaad Penny

1-31 Sony Michel +

2-35 Nick Chubb *+ (7)

2-38 Ronald Jones II (12)

2-43 Kerryon Johnson

2-59 Derrius Guice


1-24 Josh Jacobs *+ (8)

2-53 Miles Sanders *+ (15)


1-32 Clyde Edwards-Helaire +

2-35 Deandre Swift +

2-41 Jonathan Taylor + (3)

2-52 Cam Akers +

2-55 JK Dobbins +

2-62 AJ Dillon

And the raw data on current starters and round drafted:

1st - 8

2nd - 10

3rd - 8

4th - 0

5th - 1

6th - 0

7th - 2

UDFA - 3

This is a FanPost written by a registered member of this site. The views expressed here are those of the author alone and not those of anybody affiliated with Gang Green Nation or SB Nation.