Photo: Wikimedia Commons
As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, the importance of running backs has diminished.Almost no teams build their offence around a single back, and nearly everyone is splitting a limited number of carries between two or three running backs.
Call it progress, call it the death of the running back, whatever — the point is that running backs are quickly becomes commodities, and NFL teams are realising that spending big money on them is an bad investment.
Here’s a crystal clear illustration of that:
So far in 2012, the top-five highest paid running backs in the league — Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden, Ray Rice, and Steven Jackson — have rushed for 492 yards on 134 carries for 3.67 yards per rush.
A running back averaging 3.67 yards per attempt would have ranked 29th in the NFL last year.
In comparison, no-name running backs seem to come out of the woodwork left and right to have big games. Last night, the Giants got 113 yards on 20 carries out of Andre Brown, who had two NFL carries before this season.
That juxtaposition is all you need to know about the running back position in the NFL right now.
Let’s take a closer look at the stats that show how running backs are commodities:
- In 2011, the team ranked 5th in rushing yards per game (142.3 ypg) and 20th (110.3 ypg) were only separated by 32 ypg.
- The team ranked 5th in rushing attempts per game (30.3 apg) and 20th (26.9 apg) were separated by less than five carries per game.
In short: all NFL teams run a similar amount, to similar levels of success, regardless of the runner.
In addition, efficiency is now more important to volume of yards because teams are running less. And last year, only one running back ranked in the top five in yards per carry rushed for more than 1000 yards.
Running backs are increasingly the same, and there’s no reason to pay for one that you think will get you a bunch of yards
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