Good running backs can be found after first round
Call it the Shanahan Strategy.
Mike Shanahan is best known for coaching one of football's great passers in John Elway, yet he has a remarkable ability for finding running backs who produce immediately. And he finds them just about everywhere.
Except the first round of the NFL Draft.
Shanahan has coached five running backs who gained at least 1,000 yards in their rookie seasons, including Alfred Morris, a sixth-round pick who ran for 1,613 yards for the Redskins in 2012.
Yet none of those five was drafted in the first round, part of a group of 18 running backs — including three undrafted players — who have gained at least 1,000 yards as a rookie since 1991 but weren't first-round picks.
In the upcoming NFL Draft, there is a possibility that the entire league might adopt Shanahan's drafting philosophy. Only a year after the Browns made Trent Richardson the No. 3 overall pick, there is a chance only one running back — Eddie Lacy of Alabama — will go in the first round. And he's not a certainty.
If Lacy falls below No. 25, it will be the second time in three years the first running back chosen went that late.
“I think you can get running backs in the second, third and fourth rounds,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “If you look at the last five years of the draft ... I think there were 15 running backs taken in the first round. About half of them have had major injury issues.”
Mayock added, “So the first-round running back thing is by no means a bang-the-table, starting, top-line running back.”
Mirroring the NFL Draft pool as a whole, there appears to be plenty of depth at running back but not a lot of expensive, high-end talent.
That could benefit the Steelers, who are the runaway leaders in rushing since the 1970 NFL merger — no team is close — yet ranked 26th last season. With so many needs, they are expected to wait until a lower round to seek out a running back.
The question is how low they can go.
“You could be looking at a Montee Ball from Wisconsin, who would be a good Steeler back because he's tough, runs hard inside, will block, will catch,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said.
Another possibility is Johnathan Franklin, the leading rusher in UCLA history who has visited the Steelers. He has an initial burst and open-field elusiveness.
A back who might interest the Steelers because he excels at gaining yardage after contact is Zac Stacy of Vanderbilt. He could go as low as the fourth round.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- In reworking contract, Steelers WR Brown gets hefty pay raise
- Steelers notebook: New kicker Scobee relishes opportunity
- Bryant suspension opens doors for other Steelers’ receivers
- Steelers trade 6th-round pick for Jaguars kicker Scobee
- Steelers’ Tomlin disappointed by Bryant suspension
- Steelers notebook: LB Harrison believes Goodell will prevail in Brady ruling
- RB Williams believes he’s making seamless transition to Steelers
- Steelers WR Bryant’s suspension upheld
- QB Vick hits ground running in debut
- Rossi: Beleaguered Steelers need MVP from Big Ben
- Steelers ink QB Vick, new teammates OK with signing