Mid-Round Rookie Running Backs Set to Make an Impact in 2013
There's something to be said about taking an opportunity and running with it.
Sometimes it can be as simple as being in the right situation at exactly the right time, while other times it involves more knowledge and overall skill.
Nevertheless—no matter which way you spin it—success nearly always starts and can be defined by this one simple saying from Seneca:
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
Corny, yes, but there is also a lot of truth and meaning to take away from this quote as well.
After all, each year we see player's who shock everybody, turning out much better than anyone could have ever expected.
For instance, running backs like Daryl Richardson, Bryce Brown and Alfred Morris, who, just last year, turned out to make substantial impacts despite facing some rather improbable odds.
It's an anomaly of sorts, but the crazy thing is it happens each and every year, and this year appears to be no different.
So, who exactly are the running backs going into the most ideal situations in this, their rookie seasons?
Ahead, I try to pinpoint these players—discussing exactly what makes them special and how they will make their presences felt sooner rather than later.
1. Johnathan Franklin, Green Bay Packers
Per NFL.com, it has been 43 straight games since the Green Bay Packer's last had a 100-yard rusher.
Who was the last running back to accomplish this feat for the Green and Gold you ask?
None other than Brandon Jackson, way back in 2010.
Startling yes, but it is this little nugget below, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info, that should really boggle your mind:
"Only three teams have won a Super Bowl without having an individual run for at least 100 yards in at least one game during the regular season. The San Francisco 49ers were the last to do it in 1981."
Considering all this, it's no wonder why Ted Thompson used two of his team's draft picks to select a pair of running backs in Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin.
After all, between the two of them, both Lacy and Franklin combined to account for 14 total 100-yard games in 2012. However, well over half of those came from one runner in particular—Franklin.
With seven 100-yard rushing games and two 200-yard rushing efforts in 2012, it was Franklin who outperformed the more highly touted Lacy just this past season.
Does this necessarily mean he will make the bigger impact for the Packers in 2013? Not necessarily.
However, considering how well Franklin's skills as a runner and pass-catcher jell with Green Bay's high-powered offense, it should come as no surprise if he's the one earning more carries and getting more opportunities as the season wears on.
After all, his explosive qualities add another element to what is already a very potent NFL offense—something the Packers' offensive backfield has been missing for far too long.
2. Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys
Much like the two other running backs who find themselves on this list, it isn’t just the talent the player possesses that will allow him to make an early impact, but the situation he now finds himself in.
Joseph Randle is one of these players.
Drafted in the fifth round by the Dallas Cowboys, Randle now enters a running back situation that is more open than one might otherwise presume.
DeMarco Murray is the Cowboys' incumbent starter; however, he has struggled with injuries for much of the past two seasons.
To this point in his short career, Murray has missed nine career games, and, according to NBC Sports, sat out of Monday's OTAs due to what the team is calling a "tweaked hamstring."
Hardly the type of news any Cowboys fan wants to hear, Murray has continued to get nicked up often—much like he did back in college while at Oklahoma.
Because of this, Randle is a dark-horse rookie running back who will earn significant playing time early on in his career, while giving Dallas a nice insurance policy should Murray go down once again.
Yes, he will have to beat out others such as Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar, but what Randle offers is one of the most balanced, well-rounded games of any back in this past year's draft.
As a player who can pass protect and catch balls out of the backfield, Randle presents a player you can count on early and often. Sure, his acceleration and straight-line speed numbers aren't anything to write home about; however, that certainly shouldn't have allowed him to slip so far in the draft.
With 38 rushing touchdowns in the past two years, it's no wonder Randle's new running backs coach, Gary Brown, told The Dallas Morning News that he was surprised to see him available in the fifth round of last month's draft.
Player's with his type of talent and production typically don't last that long, and certainly Randle deserved to go much higher.
Don't be surprised to see him earning significant playing time as early as next season, while making everyone regret passing on what could very well be this year's version of the Ravens' Bernard Pierce.
3. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
If there were a model for NFL consistency, former St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson would have to be at the top of the list.
With eight straight 1,000-yard seasons, Jackson was about as consistent as they come; however, like most things in life, "all good things eventually do come to an end."
Now, having moved on from their longtime starter, not only do the Rams need to replace Jackson's overall consistency, but also his 257 carries from the 2012 season.
An opportunity that would seem to be very much up for grabs, considering both Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson both received fewer than 100 carries just last season.
Richardson has to be the odds-on favorite to win the starting job; however, saying that this is set in stone would be jumping the gun—especially considering the level of talent and amount of value the Rams got by moving up to draft Zac Stacy in the fifth round.
Characterized as "an outstanding young man" and a "complete back" by head coach Jeff Fisher, via The Tennessean, Stacy is exactly the type of mid-round back who can pay immediate dividends.
After all, It's not often a team sacrifices multiple picks to move up and take one player who it says it "really wanted," without giving him the proper opportunities to become an immediate contributor.
Certainly we can expect Stacy to receive plenty of those, judging by the advantageous situation he now finds himself going into.
Perhaps giving him the best "inside track" to land a starting gig of all the talented mid-round backs on this list.