There are many reasons running back has gone from glamour position to thankless job. We live in the passing age, while the shelf life for runners has grown shorter than Darren Sproles. Teams prefer committees to chairmen. It’s easier to find a 5-foot-10 fire hydrant to slam between the tackles than it is to find a 6-foot-4 goliath who can separate downfield.
But this is still the league of Eric Dickerson, Walter Payton and Adrian Peterson. It may not be surprising that Thursday marked the second straight year that zero backs were selected on Day 1, but it’s still jarring. Friday brought with it another dismal record, as Washington’s Bishop Sankey became the first back off the board at No. 54. As you can probably guess, that’s the farthest the draft’s first back has ever fallen. Running backs used to carry the mail. Now they bring up the rear.
Most Obvious Pick
When Matt Schaub and Matt McGloin are your quarterbacks, you don’t have a quarterback. That’s why Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie made the chalk pick at No. 35, selecting two-time Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year Derek Carr. Unfairly haunted by the failure of his brother David, Carr fell to Day 2 in part because of questions about his mechanics and ability to function in a muddy pocket. But he’s got a live arm and plus athleticism. McKenzie has proven clueless as a quarterback evaluator — he waived 2013 fourth-rounder Tyler Wilson after only four months on the roster — but has given himself a legit back-up plan for if/when Schaub starts tossing weekly pick sixes.
In the context of this week, it’s not terribly surprising that USC WR Marqise Lee fell to the Jaguars at No. 39. In the context of the past two years, however, it completes a dramatic dive for a wideout who was once considered a future top-10 pick. One of the most electrifying players in all of college football in 2012, Lee dominated to the tune of 118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. 2013 was a different story, as poor quarterback play and injuries conspired to limit Lee to 57/791/4 for a team that was in chaos. Standing in at an unimposing 6-foot-0, 192 pounds, Lee’s 4.52 40-yard dash sealed his fate as a player who was no longer a surefire first-rounder.
No one wants running backs — except for the teams that already have running backs. The Bucs added Charles Sims to their stable of Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey and Mike James, while the 49ers supplemented their collection of Frank Gore, Marcus Lattimore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James with Carlos Hyde. Although both moves were head scratchers on the surface, they make more sense the deeper you dig. For the 49ers, Gore is in the twilight of his career, while Lattimore has admitted he’s not the same player he was before injuring both knees. James is on the way out of town. For the Bucs, they’re getting a bruising back in Sims who does the little things well. Rainey had the looks of a competent No. 2 in 2013, but is already 26. A second-year sixth rounder, James is returning from a broken ankle. Neither team had to make the picks they made, but when you run as much as the 49ers and Lovie Smith do, you can never have too many backs.
That’s So Jerry
The Cowboys had to come away from Day 2 with a defensive lineman after spending their first-rounder on G/T Zack Martin. What they didn’t need to do was surrender two picks to get one. Alas, that’s what owner Jerry Jones did, shipping the No. 47 and 78 selections to the Redskins for the right to select Boise State DE Demarcus Lawrence. The good news is, Lawrence is a first-round talent who could make an instant impact as a rookie. The bad news is, a Cowboys defense that has more holes than a 64-pack of Swiss Cheese was addressed with only one body instead of two as the draft begins to thin out.
The Patriots have drafted six quarterbacks since making Tom Brady the No. 199 overall pick of the 2000 draft. Ryan Mallett (No. 74 in 2011), Zac Robinson (No. 250 in 2010), Kevin O’Connell (No. 94 in 2008), Matt Cassel (No. 230 in 2005), Kliff Kingsbury (No. 201 in 2003) and Rohan Davey (No. 117 in 2002). On Friday they took a seventh, Jimmy Garoppolo. The No. 62 pick, Garoppolo was taken higher than every future Brady before him, and might actually be the future Brady, as Tom Terrific turns 37 in August. That’s a heavy crown to wear, but the 2013 FCS Player of the Year will get fitted for it as he apprentices under one of the greatest signal callers the league has ever known.
Stuck In The Waiting Room
As quarterbacks of perennial SEC powers, A.J. McCarron, Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray racked up a lot of wins and even more face time. As NFL prospects, they’re racking up idle time, sitting and watching pots that won’t boil. Mettenberger has a huge arm, while Murray has big-time intangibles. McCarron has a little bit of everything, but not enough of some important things (namely, arm strength). All three should come off the board on Saturday, but whereas they were the big men on campus in 2013, they’ll be the low men on the totem pole in 2014.
As a tight end, Crockett Gillmore has the looks of a future blocking specialist. As a human being with a name, he has a moniker as timeless as apple pie.