There was a time when 20 carries a game was expected and demanded out of an NFL starting running back, but now it is a rarity.
Most teams have abandoned the one-back workhorse philosophy in favor of creating tandem RB situations, or even stables of three or four backs.
This devaluation of NFL RBs has caused the average draft position of running backs to plummet, their career life span to drop considerably in average and their interchangeability to reach an all-time high.
Does it also discourage RBs at the prep level from wanting to stay at that position?
After all, why would prep athletes aim for a career as a running back when the value of that position is dwindling?
Players like Michael Vick, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III are demonstrating that rushing ability can be a versatile weapon in a quarterback's arsenal, and that means an even lesser need for a dominant running back.
With all the rules protecting QBs from facing the same type of devastating collisions and hits as regularly as RBs are subjected to, being a signal-caller becomes all the more enticing.
RBs take a physical beating every single play they are on the field, be it actually rushing the ball or pass-blocking a bull-rushing defensive end.
An NFL Players Association study that tracked rosters from 1987 through 1996 was showcased in Sports Illustrated magazine and found that the average career of a running back is 2.57 years, shorter than that of any other position and almost a full year shorter than the NFL average.
In a game with increasing worries about player safety and concussion problems, how are prep level athletes supposed to choose to put themselves up for the most physically taxing position with the shortest career length?
Because unlike the respective eras of guys like Earl Campbell, Gale Sayers, Jim Brown and Walter Payton, today's players are not even provided the chance to be the sole option in their respective backfield for any period of time.
It would be one thing if players were given the chance to be the focal point of an offense and shoulder a heavy workload every game. Bu, that is rarely the case anymore, and running back is quickly becoming a position by committee, where a multitude of backs rotate in at various points throughout a football game.
Feature backs like Maurice Jones-Drew, LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice are simply a dying breed. A decaying dinosaur of sorts.
In 2011 only nine running backs averaged 20 carries per game, and that number was down from 12 in 2010.
Prep players are looking at the prospect of either going for the glamor and prestige of the quarterback position, the less physically demanding, but still highly recognizable wide receiver position or the running back spot—a position with dwindling value that no longer requires one sole player to handle the task of carrying the ball over 25 times per game.
This decision would seem to be getting less difficult for players to answer.
Look for the devaluation of NFL RBs to start having a trickle-down effect at the prep level.