Tag Archives: draft

Drafting the QB of your dreams

Once again the NFL Draft World is abuzz about two quarterbacks. Who’s better, Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota? More importantly, who’s going to have the better career? The Bucs, for one, are convinced the fate of the franchise hinges on it. (Until the next time they have the first pick, that is.)

Jameis Winston: Great . . . or something else?

Jameis Winston: A future NFL great . . . or something else?

But there’s another question that’s worth asking here: Does it really matter as much as everybody seems to think it does? By that I mean: If there’s a Hall of Fame quarterback in this draft, what are the odds Tampa Bay — or any other team in the market for a QB — knows for sure who the Future Legend is? You’d be surprised at the league’s sorry track record in this area.

By my count, there have been 24 Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have been available in the draft. This doesn’t include Steve Young, who originally cast his lot with USFL (and came to the NFL via a supplemental draft), or George Blanda (who made the Hall as much for his kicking as his throwing). Our QBs date all the way back to 1937, the second of the league’s 79 drafts, when the Redskins took Sammy Baugh sixth overall.

Want to guess how many of these Quarterbacks For The Ages were the first QB selected in their draft? Answer: four. One out of every six. Heck, Warren Moon didn’t even get drafted in 1978 — and there were 12 rounds that year. And again, we’re talking about Canton-quality players, not Pro Bowlers (whatever that means anymore) or long-term starters. Seems like those types — Hall types — should be more obvious.

When I started researching this the other day, I never imagined the number — four out of 24 — would be so low. It’s not like the inexact science of evaluating talent is getting any more exact, either. In my mind, there are seven active or recently active quarterbacks who are likely headed to the Hall: Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. Only one of them was the first QB picked in his draft (Manning, who went first overall). One in seven. That’s worse than one in six.

Consider: In 1944 there were two Hall of Fame quarterbacks up for grabs — Otto Graham and Bob Waterfield. Neither was the first QB selected. (That distinction went to Heisman Trophy winner Angelo Bertelli.) It was the same story in ’57, the draft that gave us Len Dawson and Sonny Jurgensen. The first passer off the board? John Brodie.

In ’83, meanwhile, John Elway was the No. 1 pick (and went on to Canton), but two other Hall-bound quarterbacks in that draft, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, were the third and sixth QBs chosen.

Even if a quarterback has Hall of Fame ability, in other words, it may not be easily identifiable in his early 20s. So why, given this history, are teams always falling over one another to move up in the first round and draft a QB, often at inflated prices? A better strategy might be to stay put and take whichever one falls to you. Granted, it doesn’t look as good public-relations-wise; you’re not being “aggressive” and “proactive,” merely patient and calculating. But if you end up with a better QB than the one you might have gotten (and as an added bonus, didn’t trade a truckload of picks for him), who cares?

Here are the details on the 24 Hall of Fame quarterbacks in the Draft Era (1936 to present):

● 1937 — Sammy Baugh, Redskins (6th pick) and Ace Parker, Dodgers (13th). Two QBs/tailbacks (the single wing was still in vogue, remember) were taken ahead of Baugh : Ed Goddard (Dodgers, 2nd) and Ray Buivid (Bears, 3rd). Three QBs/TBs, including Sammy, were taken ahead of Parker. (FYI: Goddard lasted exactly four games with Brooklyn. When he didn’t play heroically enough to justify his high salary, coach Potsy Clark released him in the middle of the season. So it went in those days.)

● 1939 — Sid Luckman, Bears (2nd). The first QB/TB picked.

● 1944 — Otto Graham, Lions (4th) and Bob Waterfield, Rams (42nd). One QB/TB was selected before Graham: Heisman Trophy winner Angelo Bertelli (Boston Yanks, 1st). Otto wound up signing with the Browns of the rival All-America Conference. Three QBs/TBs, including Otto, were selected before Waterfield, TB Dick Evans (Bears, 9th) being the other.

● 1948 — Bobby Layne, Bears (3rd) and Y.A. Tittle, Lions (6th). One QB went before Layne: Harry Gilmer (Redskins, 1st). Two, including Bobby, went before Tittle. Just think: Detroit drafted two Hall of Fame passers in five years (Graham and Y.A., who opted for the AAC’s Baltimore Colts) and lost both to The Other League.

● 1949 — Norm Van Brocklin, Rams (37th). Six QBs/TBs came off the board before him: John Rauch (Lions 2nd), Stan Heath (Packers, 5th), Bobby Thomason (Rams, 7th), Frank Tripucka (Eagles, 9th), Bob DeMoss (New York Bulldogs, 13th) and Joe Geri (Steelers, 36th). That’s right, Van Brocklin, who won two NFL championships, wasn’t even the first QB drafted by his own team in ’49. (Geri, by the way, was a tailback. Pittsburgh was the last club to run the single wing, stubbornly sticking with it until the ’50s.)

● 1955 — Johnny Unitas, Steelers (102nd). Three QBs were taken ahead of him: George Shaw (Colts, 1st), Ralph Guglielmi (Redskins, 4th) and Dave Leggett (Cardinals, 74th).

Bart Starr: The 200th player picked in 1956.

Bart Starr: The 200th player picked in 1956.

● 1956 — Bart Starr, Packers (200th). Eight QBs were selected before him, a mostly motley crew featuring Earl Morrall (49ers, 2nd), John Roach (Cardinals, 31st) and Fred Wyant (Redskins, 36th).

● 1957 — Len Dawson, Steelers (5th) and Sonny Jurgensen, Eagles (43rd). One QB went before Dawson: John Brodie (49ers, third). Five went before Jurgensen, the others being Milt Plum (Browns, 17th), Ronnie Knox (Bears, 37th) and Bobby Cox (Rams, 38th). Knox chose the CFL over the NFL.

● 1961 — Fran Tarkenton, Vikings (29th). Two QBs came off the board before him: Norm Snead (Redskins, 2nd) and Billy Kilmer (49ers, 11th).

● 1964 — Roger Staubach, Cowboys (129th). Eight QBs were taken ahead of him, Pete Beathard (Lions, 5th), Bill Munson (Rams, 7th), George Mira (49ers, 15th) and Jack Concannon (Eagles, 16th), most notably. Of course, Staubach would have gone higher if he hadn’t had to serve a 4-year military commitment after graduating from the Naval Academy.

● 1965 — Joe Namath, Cardinals (12th). Namath was the top pick in the AFL draft but only the second QB selected by the NFL. Craig Morton (Cowboys, 5th) was the first.

● 1967 — Bob Griese, Dolphins (4th). One QB went before him: Heisman winner Steve Spurrier (49ers, 3rd).

● 1970 — Terry Bradshaw, Steelers (1st). Obviously, he was the first QB picked.

● 1973 — Dan Fouts, Chargers (64th). Five QBs came off the board before him: Bert Jones (Colts, 2nd), Gary Huff (Bears, 33rd), Ron Jaworski (Rams, 37th), Gary Keithley (Cardinals, 45th) and Joe Ferguson (57th).

Warren Moon: Not even Mr. Irrelevant-worthy.

Warren Moon: Not even Mr. Irrelevant-worthy.

● 1978 — Warren Moon was passed over on Draft Day despite quarterbacking Washington to the Rose Bowl (and winning game MVP honors). So he starred in Canada for six years before the Houston Oilers threw a big contract at him. Fourteen quarterbacks were taken in the ’78 draft, but only one in the first round: Doug Williams (Bucs, 17th).

● 1979 — Joe Montana, 49ers (82nd). Three QBs were selected before him: Jack Thompson (Bengals, 3rd), Phil Simms (Giants, 7th) and Steve Fuller (Chiefs, 23rd).

● 1983 — John Elway (Broncos, 1st), Jim Kelly (Bills, 14th) and Dan Marino (Dolphins, 27th). Elway was the first QB off the board, Kelly the third and Marino the sixth. The others who went in the first round: Todd Blackledge (Chiefs, 7th), Tony Eason (Patriots, 15th) and Ken O’Brien (Jets, 24th).

1989 — Troy Aikman (Cowboys, 1st). The first QB picked. But . . . if the University of Miami’s Steve Walsh had been available in the regular draft, would Dallas’ Jimmy Johnson have chosen him over Aikman? Johnson liked him enough to grab him in the first round of the supplemental draft (and let the two young passers compete for the starting job).

Now for the seven quarterbacks who are locks – or semi-locks – for the Hall of Fame:

● 1991 — Brett Favre (Falcons, 33rd). Two QBs were taken ahead of him: Dan McGwire (Seahawks, 15th) and Todd Marinovich (Raiders, 24th).

● 1994 — Kurt Warner (Packers, undrafted free agent). Nine QBs were selected that year — the regrettable Heath Shuler (Redskins, 3rd) for starters — but Warner, who played in obscurity at Northern Iowa, wasn’t among them. After stints in the Arena League and NFL Europe, he improbably led the Rams and Cardinals to a total of three Super Bowls.

● 1998 — Peyton Manning (Colts, 1st). Numero uno.

● 2000 — Tom Brady (Patriots, 199th). Six QBs went before him, a pedestrian group consisting of Chad Pennington (Jets, 18th), Giovanni Carmozzi (49ers, 68th), Chris Redman (Ravens, 75th), Tee Martin (Steelers, 163rd), Marc Bulger (Rams, 168th) and Spurgon Wynn (Browns 183rd).

● 2001 — Drew Brees (Chargers, 32nd). The second QB off the board, 31 picks after Michael Vick (Falcons, 1st).

● 2004 — Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers, 11th). Two QBs were taken ahead of him: Eli Manning (Chargers, 1st) and Philip Rivers (Giants, 4th). Manning and Rivers, who were swapped on Draft Day when Eli balked at signing with San Diego, have had good-to-very good careers, but Big Ben is the only one in the bunch who has been to three Super Bowls (winning two).

● 2005 — Aaron Rodgers (Packers, 24th). The second QB selected, several long hours (in Green Room Time) after Alex Smith (49ers, 1st) led off the draft.

You also could break it down like this:

● 4 were the first QB taken: Luckman, Bradshaw, Elway, Aikman

● 5 were the second QB taken: Graham, Layne, Dawson, Namath, Griese

● 4 were the third QB taken: Baugh, Tittle, Tarkenton, Kelly

● 4 were the fourth QB taken: Parker, Waterfield, Unitas, Montana

● 4 were the sixth QB taken: Van Brocklin, Jurgensen, Fouts, Marino

● 2 were the ninth QB taken: Starr, Staubach

● 1 wasn’t taken at all: Moon (and Warner would make it two)

Maybe you’ll draw other conclusions after digesting all this. At the very least, it makes moving up to draft a quarterback seem a lot less “bold” and a lot more second-guessable. After all, many times, the great QB is the guy who goes 42nd, 37th, 102nd, 200th, 43rd, 129th, 64th, 82nd, 33rd or 199th – or is being overlooked entirely.

Source: pro-football-reference.com

The draft and the Canton Factor

It’s great to have the first pick in the NFL draft — as the Bucs have on five occasions, including this year. But it’s almost as great to have the sixth pick, believe it or not. And you’d be amazed at how much mileage teams have gotten out of the 34th pick.

Walter Jones, the last of the 11 No. 6 picks voted to the Hall.

Walter Jones, the last of the 11 No. 6 picks voted to the Hall.

Let me explain myself. I’m talking about the number of Hall of Famers each pick has yielded — its Canton Factor, if you will. That’s what everybody is trying to do at the top of the draft, right? Hit a home run. Find a player for the ages. And there’s no pick like the first pick for that. An even dozen players taken No. 1 are in the Hall, 12 in 79 drafts (with more, such as Peyton Manning, to come).

This, of course, is hardly surprising. Drafting may be an inexact science, but general managers and scouts aren’t complete dullards. Give them first crack at the available college talent, and they can usually find a guy who can walk and chew gum, sometimes all the way to Canton.

What is surprising is some of the other stuff my research turned up. For instance, the second-best pick for Hall of Famers is the sixth (11). The 34th pick (4), meanwhile, has produced more HOFers than the seventh (1!) and ninth (3)* picks and as many as the 10th. Here are the selections with the highest Canton Factor:

PICKS THAT HAVE YIELDED THE MOST HALL OF FAMERS

● 1st (12) — QB Troy Aikman (Cowboys, 1989), DE Bruce Smith (Bills, ’85), QB John Elway (Broncos, ’83), RB Earl Campbell (Houston Oilers, ’78), DE Lee Roy Selmon (Bucs, ’76), QB Terry Bradshaw (Steelers, ’70), RB O.J. Simpson (Bills, ’69), OT Ron Yary (Vikings, ’68), RB Paul Hornung (Packers, ’57), C-LB Chuck Bednarik (Eagles, ’49), RB Charley Trippi (Cardinals, ’45), RB Bill Dudley (Steelers, ’42).

● 6th (11) — OT Walter Jones (Seahawks, ’97), WR Tim Brown (Raiders, ’88), WR James Lofton (Packers, ’78), RB John Riggins (Jets, ’71), DE Carl Eller (Vikings, ’64), CB Jimmy Johnson (49ers, ’61), RB Jim Brown (Browns, ’57), QB Y.A. Tittle (Lions, ’48), C-LB Alex Wojciechowicz (Lions, ’38), QB Sammy Baugh (Redskins, ’37), T Joe Stydahar (Bears, ’36).

● 2nd (10) — RB Marshall Faulk (Colts, ’94), RB Eric Dickerson (Rams, ’83), LB Lawrence Taylor (Giants, ’81), RB Tony Dorsett (Cowboys, ’77), DT Randy White (Cowboys, ’75), OG Tom Mack (Rams, ’66), OT Bob Brown (Eagles, ’64), LB Les Richter (Dallas Texans, ’52), RB George McAfee (Eagles, ’40), QB Sid Luckman (Bears, ’39).

● 3rd (10) — DT Cortez Kennedy (Seahawks, ’90), RB Barry Sanders (Lions, ’89), OT Anthony Munoz (Bengals, ’80), LB Dick Butkus (Bears, ’65), WR Charley Taylor (Redskins, ’64), DT Merlin Olsen (Rams, ’62), RB Ollie Matson (Cardinals, ’52), RB Doak Walker (N.Y. Bulldogs, ’49), QB Bobby Layne (Bears, ’48), DE Claude Humphrey (Falcons, ’68).

● 4th (9) — OT Jonathan Ogden (Ravens, ’96), LB Derrick Thomas (Chiefs, ’89), DE Chris Doleman (Vikings, ’85), DE Dan Hampton (Bears, ’79), RB Walter Payton (Bears, ’75), OG John Hannah (Patriots ’73), DT Joe Greene (Steelers, ’69), RB Gale Sayers (Bears, ’65), QB Otto Graham (Lions, ’44).

● 5th (8) — LB Junior Seau (Chargers, ’90), CB Deion Sanders (Falcons, ’89), CB Mike Haynes (Patriots, ’76), TE Mike Ditka (Bears, ’61), QB Len Dawson (Steelers, ’57), T George Connor (Giants, ’46), WR Elroy Hirsch (Rams, ’45), RB Steve Van Buren (Eagles, ’44).

● 8th (6) — OT Willie Roaf (Saints, ’93), OG Mike Munchak (Oilers, ’82), DB Ronnie Lott (49ers, ’81), RB Larry Csonka (Dolphins, ’68), WR Lance Alworth (49ers, ’62), OL Jim Parker (Colts, ’57).

● 11th (5) — WR Michael Irvin (Cowboys, ’88), WR Paul Warfield (Browns, ’64), DE Doug Atkins (Browns, ’53), RB Frank Gifford (Giants, ’52), DT Leo Nomellini (49ers, ’50).

● 18th (5) — WR Art Monk (Redskins, ’80), FS Paul Krause (Redskins, ’64), RB John Henry Johnson (Steelers, ’53), T Bruiser Kinard (Brooklyn Dodgers, ’38), RB Tuffy Leemans (Giants, ’36).

● 10th (4) — DB Rod Woodson (Steelers, ’87), RB Marcus Allen (Raiders, ’82), OT Ron Mix (Colts, ’60), RB Jerome Bettis (Rams, ’93).

Jack Ham: One of four 34th picks who are in Canton.

Jack Ham: One of four 34th picks who are in Canton.

● 34th (4) — LB Jack Ham (Steelers, ’71), CB Lem Barney (Lions, ’67), DB Yale Lary (Lions, ’52), OT Mike McCormack (New York Yanks, ’51).

*The only Hall of Famer drafted seventh is C Bulldog Turner (Bears, ’40). The only HOFers who went ninth are OG Bruce Matthews (Oilers, ’83), RB Lenny Moore (Colts, ’56) and RB Hugh McElhenny (49ers, ’52).

Some other discoveries:

● The 24th and 25th picks haven’t given us any Canton-quality players — yet. In the case of the 24th, that figures to change whenever Ed Reed (Ravens, 2002) and Aaron Rodgers (Packers, 2005) come up for consideration, but nobody taken at 25 seems very Hall-worthy . . . or is even likely to get endorsed by the Veterans Committee. In fact, 25 has been a virtual black hole. The best selections at that spot: NT Ted Washington (49ers, ’91) and WRs Stanley Morgan (Patriots, ’76) and Boyd Dowler (Packers, ’59).

● Second-round picks might be good values salary-cap-wise, but they don’t produce nearly as many Hall of Famers as first-round picks. The breakdown:

HOFers drafted from 1 through 32: 121

HOFers drafted from 33 through 64: 32

● That said, the 48th pick yielded a Hall of Famer two years in a row in the 1980s: C Dwight Stephenson (Dolphins, ’80) and DE Howie Long (Raiders, ’81). The second round of that ’81 draft, by the way, had three players who wound up in Canton: LB Mike Singletary (38th, Bears), Long and LB Rickey Jackson (51st, Saints). By that measure, it’s the best second round ever.

● I love this: The third pick in the ’48 draft was QB Bobby Layne (by the Bears). The third pick in ’49 was RB Doak Walker (by the New York Bulldogs, though he ended up with the Lions). Both are in Canton, but even better, they were high school teammates at Highland Park in Dallas. (Another high selection who played at Highland Park: Lions QB Matt Stafford, who went No. 1 in 2009.)

FYI: The Jets are sitting with the sixth pick (good karma), the Bears with the seventh (bad karma, though they did get Turner there), the Panthers with the 25th (really bad karma) and the Bucs with the 34th (really good karma, especially since it’s a second-rounder).

Yup, Tampa Bay has the first selection and the 34th. Pretty sweet.

Now we just have to wait for Roger Goodell to say, “Gentlemen, start your draft boards.”

Buried in the Champ Bailey file

Champ Bailey, who retired earlier this week, will be remembered for a lot of things. For his 12 Pro Bowls with the Redskins and Broncos. For his 52 interceptions (one less than Deion Sanders). For making us wonder: What would have happened if he’d become a full-time receiver, like Roy Green, instead of remaining at cornerback?

But I’ll remember him for something else, too: for being part of the wheeling and dealing by Redskins general manager Charley Casserly in the late ’90s that turned one first-round pick into three. Actually, it was even better than that. Casserly and successor Vinny Cerrato turned the sixth pick in 1996 into the seventh pick in ’99 (Bailey) and the second and third picks in 2000 (linebacker LaVar Arrington and offensive tackle Chris Samuels).

Casserly’s maneuvering tends to be forgotten today because the Redskins never won anything — except a division title when Champ was a rookie. But it could have been franchise-changing if Sean Gilbert football cardother personnel moves had worked out as well (and, of course, if Dan Snyder hadn’t bought the club and started treating it as his personal toy).

Here’s how it unfolded:

● April 4, 1996 — The Redskins, coming off a 6-10 season, send their first-rounder (sixth overall) to the Rams for DT Sean Gilbert, who’d gone to the Pro Bowl in 1993. The Rams selected RB Lawrence Phillips, who was a total disaster.

● Feb. 12, 1997 – The Redskins franchise Gilbert, who proceeds to sit out the season in a contract dispute.

● Feb. 11, 1998 – The Redskins franchise Gilbert again.

● March 24, 1998 – The Panthers sign Gilbert to a 7-year, $46.5 million offer sheet. The Redskins decide not to match it and receive two No. 1s as compensation. Carolina opts to delay payment for a year, pushing the picks into 1999 and 2000.

● April 17, 1999 – After a 4-12 season, the Panthers’ first-rounder turns out to be the fifth overall pick. The Redskins trade it to the Saints in the infamous Ricky Williams deal. What they get in return:

1999 No. 1 (12th overall) — Traded to Bears (see below).

1999 No. 3 (71st) — Traded to Bears (ditto).

1999 No. 4 (107th) — LB Nate Stinson.

1999 No. 5 (144th) — Traded to Bears in move-up to take OT Jon Jansen in Round 2.

1999 No. 6 (179th) — Traded to Broncos in move-up to take OT Derek Smith in Round 5.

1999 No. 7 (218th) — Traded to Broncos in Smith deal.

2000 No. 1 (2nd) — Arrington.

2000 No. 3 (64th) — DB Lloyd Harrison.

Later in the draft, the Redskins flip picks with the Bears, move up to 7 and select Bailey. This costs them:

The Saints’ ’99 No. 1 (12th) — QB Cade McNown.

The Saints’ ’99 No. 3 (71st) — WR D’Wayne Bates.

Their own No. 4 (106th) — LB Warrick Holdman.

Their own No. 5 (143rd) — OT Jerry Wisne.

Their own 2000 No. 3 (87th) — TE Dustin Lyman.

● April 15, 2000 – The Redskins hit the jackpot. The Saints go 3-13 in ’99, the last of Mike Ditka’s three seasons, so the No. 1 they owe Washington is second overall. The Panthers finish 8-8, so the first-rounder they have to hand over is 12th. By this time, Cerrato has replaced Casserly as the Redskins’ GM. He swaps Carolina’s pick, along with his own No. 1 (24th), for the 49ers’ No. 1, third overall. Then, amid much fanfare, he takes Arrington at 2 and Samuels at 3.

(FYI: The Jets wind up with the 12th pick after a trade with San Francisco and select DE Shaun Ellis. The Niners keep the 24th and use it on CB Ahmed Plummer.)

And there you have it, folks. The Redskins started out with the 6th pick in ’96, and with a little imagination — and more than a little luck — ended up with three selections in the top seven. Those three selections, moreover, went to a combined 21 Pro Bowls (Bailey 12, Samuels 6, Arrington 3).

But again, nobody remembers because it didn’t lead to anything great (or even very good). The Redskins won only one division title in the next decade (1999) and made just three playoff appearances (2004 and ’07 being the others). In 2003, when Joe Gibbs returned as coach, they dealt Bailey to the Broncos for running back Clinton Portis, who had some fine years in Washington but ran into injury problems and was done at 29. Arrington also battled injuries — and left in free agency in 2006. He was done at 28. Samuels lasted a few seasons longer, until he was 32, but his career also was cut short by injury.

Bailey, on the other hand, survived 15 seasons and was voted to his last Pro Bowl at 34. With his lengthy list of accomplishments, he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame. As for the Redskins, well, some things look better on paper than they do in real life.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Chris Samuels and LaVar Arrington on Draft Day 2000.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Chris Samuels and LaVar Arrington on Draft Day 2000.

Sources: pro-football-reference.com, prosportstransactions.com, various Sporting News Football Guides and Registers.

The latest Running Back from Nowhere

Once again Sunday, NFL fans watched slack-jawed as another Mystery Running Back darted and dashed all over the field. This time it was Branden Oliver, the Chargers’ undrafted rookie, who amazed the masses, racking up 114 yards rushing, 68 receiving and one touchdown — in just his third game as a pro — as San Diego routed the Jets 31-0.

This is becoming almost an annual event now, pro football’s version of Punxsutawney Phil emerging from his hole to forecast the weather. Oliver’s emergence, of course, just reminds everybody that scouting is a woefully inexact science, especially when it comes to running backs.

We know this because good ones go unclaimed in the draft all the time. Indeed, there have been 17 1,000-yard rushing seasons in the 2000s by backs who weren’t selected. Practically every year, it seems, an overlooked runner makes personnel departments cringe by leading the NFL in rushing, yards from scrimmage, touchdowns or otherwise distinguishing himself. Check out this list:

THE 9 UNDRAFTED BACKS IN THE 2000S WHO HAVE BEEN 1,000-YARD RUSHERS

Running back, Team Best Year Att Yds Avg TD
Arian Foster, Texans 2010 327 1,616 4.9 16
Priest Holmes, Chiefs 2002 313 1,615 5.2 21
Willie Parker, Steelers 2006 337 1,494 4.3 13
Ryan Grant, Packers 2009 282 1,253 4.4 11
James Allen, Bears 2000 290 1,120 3.9 2
Dominic Rhodes, Colts 2001 233 1,104 4.7 9
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals 2012 278 1,094 3.9 6
Fred Jackson, Bills 2009 237 1,062 4.5 2
LeGarrette Blount, Bucs 2010 201 1,007 5.0 6

Note: League leaders in bold face. Foster (2,220) and Holmes (2,287) also led the league in yards from scrimmage.

It’s not just these guys, either. It’s all the other guys, the ones who were drafted as afterthoughts in the late rounds. There are plenty of those, too. Such as:

TOP LATE-ROUND RUNNING BACKS IN THE 2000S

Running back\ Team Round Best Year Att Yds Avg TD
Michael Turner, Falcons 5th 2008 376 1,699 4.5 17
Alfred Morris, Redskins 6th 2012 335 1,613 4.8 13
Mike Anderson, Broncos 6th 2000 297 1,487 5.0 15
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants 7th 2010 276 1,235 4.5 8
Chester Taylor, Vikings 6th 2006 303 1,216 4.0 6

Oliver, built along the lines of the Eagles’ Darren Sproles at 5-foot-7, 201 pounds, came out of the same University of Buffalo program that produced James Starks. Starks, you may recall, was one of the nicer stories of 2010. After being drafted in the sixth round by the Packers and spending most of the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, he pulled a Punxsutawney Phil in the playoffs and rushed for 315 yards to help Green Bay win the Super Bowl. It’s the third-highest rushing total by a rookie in the postseason since 1960.

There’s no telling what lies ahead for Oliver. Sunday could be the highlight of his career or it could lead to even better things. With Donald Brown now questionable with a concussion, Ryan Matthews (knee) still out and Danny Woodhead (broken fibula) on injured reserve, there’s plenty of opportunity for the rookie.

But if it is his one, brief, shining moment, it was an awfully good one. His 182 yards from scrimmage are the third most by a running back this season (and include a 50-yard reception).

But getting back to our previous subject — why are so many good backs drafted so low (or not at all)? — it’s interesting to compare the Top 5 rushers this season with the Top 5 passers in terms of what round they went in.

CURRENT TOP 5 RUSHERS

Yds Running Back, Team Round (Pick)
670 DeMarco Murray, Cowboys 3rd (71)
460 Le’Veon Bell, Steelers 2nd (48)
404 Arian Foster, Texans UFA
396 Rashad Jennings, Giants 7th (250)
365 Frank Gore, 49ers 3rd (65)

CURRENT TOP 5 IN PASSER RATING

Rating Quarterback, Team Round (Pick)
116.3 Philip Rivers, Chargers 1st (4)
114.8 Aaron Rodgers, Packers 1st (24)
112.9 Russell Wilson, Seahawks 3rd (75)
109.0 Peyton Manning, Broncos 1st (1)
100.3 Andy Dalton, Bengals 2nd (35)

Huge contrast, no? On the quarterback side, you’ve got three No. 1s (two of them very high), a near No. 1 and a No. 3. And on the running back side, you’ve got a second-rounder, two third-rounders, a seventh-rounder and an undrafted free agent.

You hear all the time that the hardest position evaluate is quarterback. Well, on the basis of this, running backs may be even harder to get a read on.

Source: pro-football-reference.com