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ChiefsTake: Having a good RB doesn’t lead to success

I have been seeing a lot of mock drafts saying the Kansas City Chiefs will select a running back with their first round pick. It boggles my mind that people still think spending a first round pick on a running back is a good idea.

I used to say RBs don’t mean anything, but that’s not true. Teams need to have a running back so they have meaning. In some teams, the running backs have a greater role than others so the value of the position differs. The style of running back needed also differs from team to team.

What doesn’t differ from team to team is how much financial value a running back should have. It is the most replaceable position on the offensive side of the football. In other words, the gap between the elite and the average player is smaller at running back than any other position on offense. Thus, it makes no sense for running back to ever be a position of need or the best available in the early rounds of a draft.

Of the last 20 Super Bowl teams, five of the team-leading running backs in the game were first round picks and seven were undrafted free agents. Two leading rushers were a wide-receiver and quarterback. The running backs who led each team in rushing during these games had an average draft position of the fifth round. Only six of the 18 backs represented were drafted in the first two rounds.

I don’t know about you, but my goal as a Chiefs fan is to see Kansas City win the Super Bowl. Clearly, drafting a running back high in the draft means nothing when it comes making it to the big game. Yet, this does not mean that having a high draft pick prevents you from the Super Bowl.  What it does mean is RBs can be found in any round of the draft (even those who go undrafted) that can put up Super Bowl-level production. An early round draft pick is also a player you’d hope to have for a second contract. The running back position is not one that often warrants a second contract.

Eight of the top ten highest paid RBs in 2019 missed the playoffs. The two that made the playoffs (Lamar Miller and Jerick McKinnon) suffered season ending injuries before the season and didn’t play a single snap. McKinnon hasn’t taken a snap since 2017 thanks to injuries. While six of the next 10 highest paid running backs did make the playoffs, a closer look reveals very little production.

Dion Lewis for the Titans (11th highest paid) only had 373 total yards on the season. Tevin Coleman (16th highest paid) only had 720 total yards and only had 34 total touches in the 49ers three playoff games. Mark Ingram (17th highest paid) got hurt at the end of the regular season and was a non-factor in the Baltimore Ravens playoff choke job. Rex Burkhead (19th highest paid) had just over 500 yards of total offense for the Patriots. And LeSean McCoy (20th highest paid) didn’t play a snap in the playoffs.

If you are a smart franchise, you are not going to give a high priced second contract to a running back. Really you shouldn’t give even a good second contract to a running back. A smart franchise uses a running back for four seasons and then moves on. It’s been proven you can find high producing running back in the UDFA ranks every season, let alone third or fourth round.

Every position on the football field is more difficult to find a replacement for than a RB, except for a punter and long snapper. If they drafted a punter in the first, no matter how good he is, would you be happy? If they drafted a long snapper in the second, would you be happy? Even if they are the greatest punter and long snapper of all time? No! You’d say you can find good enough players at those positions anywhere. And there isn’t that much of difference between a great punter or long snapper or an average punter or long snapper.

Well, the same goes for a RB. You can find players good enough to be productive and win anywhere. And while a great one looks shiny and cool, are they that much more productive? Stop trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist in the NFL. A running back will never be the reason the Chiefs win or lose a Super Bowl. A 20 year-old bottle of scotch is a smooth great tasting drink. But if you just care about getting drunk, a case of Busch Light will get the same job done for a lot less. Drink and draft responsibly, Chiefs fans.

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