Expect a long time to elapse before an NFL team hands out a nine-digit contract to a running back. Like H3 Hummers and Sega Dreamcasts, the Adrian Petersons and Chris Johnsons of the league are expensive luxury items, soon to be a thing of the past. Blame the abundance of quality quarterbacks in the NFL, blame the spread offense, blame the physical toll that comes with being a featured back. Whatever the cause, common logic says investing large amounts of money or a high draft pick in a running back will set a team back. And Thursday night, Alabama running back Trent Richardson will be drafted with a top pick.
Obsessed with raw combine numbers and gaudy workout videos, half of the general managers in the league are already salivating about the idea of building an offense around Richardson, despite obvious trends. With the draft’s two biggest stars guaranteed to be gone after the second pick, a smart general manager will find ways to complement his own passing game picking up a tackle or a receiver or stifle the opponent’s by selecting a cornerback.
But, as fans of any one of the NFL’s perpetually shitty teams will tell you, there are plenty of dumb GMs out there. One will swim against logic and make Richardson a top five pick. Initially at least, this will be easy to sell to the press. Jerseys will be sold and pundits will marvel over Richardson’s arm size and 40-yard dash time. Optimism will soar as Richardson happily wears the ‘Peterson 2.0’ label. What they’ll be brushing aside is the fact a Super Bowl winner hasn’t featured a 1,000 yard rusher since the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers.
The draft day high will officially come crashing down the moment Richardson leads his offense against Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, though. By the end of next season, the team that drafts Richardson will find themselves in a very familiar situation – picking in the top 10 again. This isn’t a league built around running the rock, and the Draft – primarily when drafting in the top 10 – always rewards the safe pick over the reach. A general manager is going to miss that memo Thursday night, dooming his team – and its fanbase – to another season of mediocre football.