Every year we hear the same cliche come draft time. Invariably someone will comment, "You should always wait on a RB you can get one in the later rounds." It is evident from simply observing the best backs in the NFL that it does require a high pick to get a truly special back.
Here is a look at the top 10 backs in terms of rushing yards last year:
1. Chris Johnson—24th overall
2. Steven Jackson—24th overall
3. Thomas Jones—7th overall
4. Maurice Jones-Drew—60th overall (2nd)
5. Adrian Peterson—7th overall
6. Ray Rice—55th overall (2nd)
7. Ryan Grant—UDFA
8. Cedric Benson—4th overall
9. Jonathan Stewart—13th overall
10. Ricky Williams—5th overall
There was just one player, Green Bay's Ryan Grant, that was selected outside of the first two rounds who made the top 10 in 2010. Of the 10, seven were taken in the first round with four in the top 10 picks.
There are many factors that go into rushing yards however, including offensive line play, QB play, and the quality of rushing partner that an argument could be made that these statistics should not be used.
If we accept, therefore, that these are the top eight backs in the NFL in no particular order:
MJD—60th overall (2nd)
Ray Rice—55th overall (2nd)
Deangelo Williams—27th overall
Michael Turner—154th overall (5th)
Frank Gore—65th overall (3rd)
We again find that 4/8 are first round picks, and 7/8 were taken in the top three rounds. Only Michael Turner of Atlanta, taken in the fifth round, was not a high round pick.
Personally, I would still be against making a move like the Bills did to get CJ Spiller rather than an offensive linemen or QB and here's why:
1. TEN—8 wins
2. STL—1 win
3. NYJ—9 wins
4. JAC—7 wins
5. MIN—12 wins
6. BAL—9 wins
7. GB—11 wins
8. CIN—10 wins
9. CAR—8 wins
10. MIA—7 wins
So we can see that having your back have a great year leads only to an average of eight wins a year and no playoffs. Clearly if we compared to top QBs the same cannot be said.
RB's can get you to the playoffs and may win you a game or two when you're team is there, but in the end it takes a QB to win the Superbowl. The '06 Steelers were probably the last running team to win the SB, but they had a solid combo of the "Bus" and "Fast Willie Parker" rather than one standout guy.
The modern NFL is a passing league and having (and protecting) your signal caller is increasingly becoming the most important factor in having a successful team. CJ Spiller might turn out to be a Hall of Famer, but without a franchise QB I doubt the Bills will win a Superbowl.