With the 2014 NFL Draft now in the rearview mirror, it’s time to take a look at some trends from this year. The biggest one has to be the fall of running backs in the draft. Coming into the 2014 draft, the lowest first time that a running back was selected was 37th when Giovani Bernard got taken by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013. The 2014 draft broke that mold in a big way as Bishop Sankey became the first running back off the board with the 54th overall pick to the Tennessee Titans and while two more running backs were picked shortly after that, there is a definite shift in the thought processes of NFL teams these days.
It is very obvious that everything is about the pass nowadays. There were players like Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde, who was expected to go much higher than No. 57 overall. Two of the best college running backs from this season in Andre Williams and Ka’Deem Carey went in the fourth round. It boils down to the simple fact that many teams are more interested in the short pass game as opposed to trying to pound out three yards and a cloud of dust.
Of the running backs taken, Sankey is likely the only one to start from day one in 2014. Jeremy Hill, who was taken with the next pick after Sankey to the Cincinnati Bengals, is stuck behind Bernard while Hyde is stuck behind Frank Gore with the San Francisco 49ers. It doesn’t mean that Hill or Hyde won’t make it on the field this coming season but it isn’t going to happen from day one.
There are running backs like Terrance West, who was taken by the Cleveland Browns with the No. 94 overall pick, who have a better chance to play this coming season. There is a chance that Williams finds his way onto the field with the New York Giants as well. The question is whether or not NFL teams are discounting the running back position entirely. It has been a shift to smaller running backs like Darren Sproles coming out of the backfield in the short passing game as opposed to trying to go between the tackles. The days of running backs like Earl Campbell are long gone.
The way the NFL is going, teams are going to be passing on every down sooner than later which turns pro football into the Arena League. That probably isn’t something that the league wants. Who knows where the first running back will be selected in the 2015 NFL Draft but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if it doesn’t happen in the first two rounds the way things are going right now.