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Reminder why you can never recruit enough running backs


Adam Schefter tweeted something on Tuesday that sent a shooting streak of pain through the hearts of Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders and their contemporaries.

 There's a reason, of course, that running backs are now less valuable than those damned specialists.

That graph charts all running backs since 2001 with at least four years experience that tote the rock at least 75 times in a season versus wide receivers with at least 50 catches per season. 

Running backs are now viewed as a depreciating asset, and the market has responded. Not a single running back was taken in the first round of last year's NFL Draft, ESPN notes, and the highest projected pick in the upcoming Draft is Ohio State's Carlos Hyde... in the middle of the second round. 

The college game has already seen its evolution away from the workhorse era. For every Andre Williams racking up 355 carries, there were three or four schools like Baylor, who rotated among a menu of ball carriers throughout the season. It was that deep stable allowed Bears running backs coach Jeff Lebby to take home our 2013 Running Backs Coach of the Year award, similar to previous winners Frank Wilson (LSU, 2011) and Jim Mastro (Nevada, 2010). 

Nick Saban deserves some credit here, too. He signs a handful of elite running backs seemingly annually, and he pitches to each one of them the prospect of playing time with the promise that they won't be overworked. Obviously, that arrangement has worked well for the Crimson Tide.

Glen Coffee - 223 carries, 1,383 yards (5.9 avg), 10 TDs
Mark Ingram - 143 carries, 728 yards (5.1 avg), 12 TDs

Mark Ingram- 271 carries, 1,658 yards (6.1 avg), 17 TDs
Trent Richardson - 145 carries, 751 yards (5.2 avg), 8 TDs

Mark Ingram - 158 carries, 875 yards (5.5 avg), 13 TDs
Trent Richardson - 112 carries, 700 yards (6.3 avg), 6 TDs

Trent Richardson - 283 carries, 1,679 yards (5.9 avg), 21 TDs
Eddie Lacy - 95 carries, 674 yards (7.1 avg), 7 TDs

Eddie Lacy - 204 carries, 1,322 yards (6.5 avg), 17 TDs
T.J. Yeldon - 175 carries, 1,108 yards (6.3 avg), 12 TDs

T.J. Yeldon - 207 carries, 1,235 yards (6.0 avg), 14 TDs
Kenyan Drake - 92 carries, 694 yards (7.5 avg), 8 TDs

Through the Tide's run of absolute excellence over the past half-dozen years, he's had a defined system where a true freshman serves a year (or two, in Richardson's case) as an apprentice, and then takes the lead while another freshman takes his place. The starter averages 224 carries, with a high of 283 in 2011, while his backup racks up 127 carries per season, never less than Drake's 92 attempts last season. 

What's the lesson in this? First, like relief pitching in baseball and outside shooting in basketball, you can never have enough running backs. If your staff plans on taking only one runner in the 2015 class, you may want to rethink that plan. And if you currently play running back... you may want to buy a tee and practice place kicking, just in case.