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NFL Draft and the Rookie RB Impact

Filed under: Pro Football — David Hunter @ 11:06 AM
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Everybody watches the NFL Draft for that primetime running back who comes in with a staggering amount of highlights and will obviously make an immediate impact for his new team. All the success he had in college will instantly translate to the NFL and that RB will be able to duplicate his 6.3 yard per carry or score 9 touchdowns receiving like he did as a Senior (or Junior). How true is that, though and are the expectations unfair?

2005 NFL Draft
1.02 Ronnie Brown: Combined for 1,139 yards on 239 touches and scored 5 TD total.
1.04 Cedric Benson: Combined for 275 yards on 68 touches and scored 0 TD total.
1.05 Cadillac Williams: Combined for 1,259 yards on 310 touches and scored 6 TD total.
2.44 J.J. Arrington: Combined for 509 yards on 137 touches and scored 2 TD total.
2.54 Eric Shelton: Combined for 0 yards on 0 touches and scored 0 TD total.

2006 NFL Draft
1.02 Reggie Bush: Combined for 1,307 yards on 243 touches and scored 8 TD total.
1.21 Laurence Maroney: Combined for 939 yards on 197 touches and scored 7 TD total.
1.27 DeAngelo Williams: Combined for 814 yards on 154 touches and scored 2 TD total.
1.30 Joseph Addai: Combined for 1,406 yards on 266 touches and scored 8 TD total.
2.45 LenDale White: Combined for 304 yards on 75 touches and scored 0 TD total.
2.60 Maurice Jones-Drew: Combined for 1,377 yards on 212 touches and scored 15 TD total.

2007 NFL Draft
1.07 Adrian Peterson: Combined for 1,609 yards on 257 touches and scored 13 TD total.
1.12 Marshawn Lynch: Combined for 1,299 yards on 298 touches and scored 7 TD total.
2.49 Kenny Irons: Combined for 0 yards on 0 touches and scored 0 TD total.
2.50 Chris Henry: Combined for 172 yards on 37 touches and scored 2 TD total.
2.52 Brian Leonard: Combined for 486 yards on 116 touches and scored 0 TD total.
2.63 Brandon Jackson: Combined for 397 yards on 91 touches and scored 1 TD total.

2008 NFL Draft
1.04 Darren McFadden: Combined for 784 yards on 142 touches and scored 4 TD total.
1.13 Jonathan Stewart: Combined for 883 yards on 192 touches and scored 10 TD total.
1.22 Felix Jones: Combined for 276 yards on 32 touches and scored 3 TD total.
1.23 Rashard Mendenhall: Combined for 75 yards on 21 touches and scored 0 TD total.
1.24 Chris Johnson: Combined for 1,688 yards on 294 touches and scored 10 TD total.
2.44 Matt Forte: Combined for 1,715 yards on 379 touches and scored 12 TD total.
2.55 Ray Rice: Combined for 727 yards on 140 touches and scored 0 TD total.

2009 NFL Draft
1.12 Knowshon Moreno: Combined for 1,160 yards on 275 touches and scored 9 TD total.
1.27 Donald Brown: Combined for 450 yards on 89 touches and scored 3 TD total.
1.31 Chris Wells: Combined for 936 yards on 188 touches and scored 7 TD total.
2.53 LeSean McCoy: Combined for 945 yards on 195 touches and scored 4 TD total.

It becomes obvious that a true judgement of the impact of a rookie RB should not be focused on rushing but rather the combined rushing and receiving. Also most rookie RBs rarely touch the ball enough to “make” an impact running the ball alone (e.g. running for 1,000 yards). For the most part, rookie RBs can give solid production but scoring double digit touchdowns is more of a rarity.

Out of 28 RBs selected in the 1st/2nd Round in the past 5 drafts: Only 5 scored more than 10 touchdowns rushing and receiving. Only 10 broke 1,000 yards when combining rushing and receiving yards. 7 of those players were drafted in the 1st round.



Winning and the Importance of Offensive Line in the NFL Draft

Everybody knows the recent struggles of the Oakland Raiders from the 2003 season through the 2009 season but let’s examine their drafts and see if there are any trends. Oakland has gone 29-83 (25.9%) over that stretch.

Out of those 55 picks the offensive line made up only 14% of those drafts.

Let’s compare them to another team that has been struggling year in and year out. The Detroit Lions have gone 28-84 (25.0%) during the stretch from 2003 – 2009 including an 0-16 season in 2008.

Detroit finished those drafts with a total of 57 picks and like the Oakland Raiders, seemed to avoid offensive linemen as if they were the plague especially in the early and mid rounds.

Offensive Linemen Drafted: 7 for about 12% of their picks in total.

The San Francisco 49ers haven’t been much better from 2003-2009 with a record of 40-72 (35.7%) but let’s take a look at their drafts and see if they were running into the same problems as the Raiders and Lions.

So the 49ers had 59 picks and only spent 7 picks on offensive linemen for a percent of about 12% of their 7 drafts. While they did draft them high, they also didn’t draft much in the way of depth at all.

Given those three teams and their relative struggles from 2003-2009, let’s take a look at three very successful teams. We’ll start off with the New England Patriots who are posterboys for stocking up on offensive linemen like they’re going out of style. Note that New England has gone 87-25 (77.7%) including a 16-0 season.

The Patriots finished with 63 total picks. Of those picks, they selected an offensive lineman 12 times for a percent of 19%. The Patriots aren’t afraid to select 2 or more linemen in a draft despite having what many would deem considerable depth already.

The Indianapolis Colts have also seen great success from 2003-2009 with a record of 89-23 (79.5%) so let’s examine their drafts. The Colts would have 60 draft picks and select 12 offensive linemen for a percentage of 20%. That also included drafting 3 centers in the 2008 Draft and at least 1 offensive lineman taken in every draft.

Worth noting is the Philadelphia Eagles from 2000-2004 who went 59-21 (73.8%) and were extremely successful. They had 37 draft selections over that period of time and selected 8 offensive linemen for a percentage of 21.6%. Their 2004 draft they selected an OT, two OG, and an OC with their last pick.

Winning organizations of the past including the Dallas Cowboys from 1991-1995 (12 offensive linemen), the San Francisco 49ers from 1987-1992 (9 offensive linemen), and the New York Giants from 1985-1990 (14 offensive linemen) all drafted well known stars but also were smart enough to know that you build your teams up front and offensively that starts with the big behemoths blocking.

So when you’re watching the 2010 NFL Draft, make a small note of those organizations that target 2 or 3 offensive linemen. Maybe jot a note down if they did this in the 2009 NFL Draft too and cross your fingers that team is the one you’re a fan of.

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