2010 NFL Draft: Is Ryan Mathews the Best Cure for Seattle's Running Game?

Reid BrooksAnalyst IApril 19, 2010

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Ryan Matthews #21 of the Frenso State Bulldogs jumps over Courtney Viney #7 of the UCLA Bruins en route to a touchdown in the third quarter of the game on September 27, 2008 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Despite the overwhelming depth of this year's draft in almost every position, it seems like one type of player is slowly disappearing from incoming NFL classes.

This year, most people have C.J. Spiller as the highest projected back in the draft.

The problem is that any team wanting to take him has to be willing to take his baggage. In my opinion, they'll get ten games a year out of him if they're lucky.

And as you go deeper into the class, it seems like more and more of the guys have serious problems.

Jahvid Best had the most hype before his last college season, but the concern with him seems to ring true across the board: these backs are small and fast, but they lack durability.

Jonathan Dwyer looked great on paper until he showed up at the combine and ran an ungodly-slow 4.66 second 40-yard dash. Size is nice, but there are quarterbacks who can run faster than that.

In the middle rounds there are a couple of guys who can have legitimate careers as power backs, like Toby Gerhart and LeGarrette Blount, but neither is going to be an every down player.

And Joe McKnight?

USC's latest prospect has fumble-machine written all over him and to boot, he never performed up to the standards of his "Reggie Bush II" tag.

The best chance Seattle has at filling its need for an every-down back might be a pair of relatively unknown backs from the SEC. Montario Hardesty, from Tennessee, could likely work into a team's number one slot, but I don't expect him to be anything special.

Likewise, Ben Tate out of Auburn has some skill, but he seems to lack the necessary vision to be successful as an NFL back.

Out of the whole class I can only give a vote of semi-confidence to Ryan Mathews. He has the durability, size and speed to be an every down back.

It just doesn't look like he has that really special element you'd like to see from a big time NFL back. If he did, he probably wouldn't be coming out of Fresno State.

Guys like Adrian Peterson may have been the last of an NFL era. The days of the franchise running back are slowly dwindling.

It is a position that has one of the shortest shelf-lives of any in the NFL. Guys can be league MVP one year and unemployed the next (e.g. see Shaun Alexander).

And it really seems like teams are wising up to this trend when drafting backs.

By taking a couple of less durable guys and splitting the work up between them, teams are able to avoid spending big money on first round picks who often crumple after just a few years.

That's why this year the most successful running backs likely won't even be drafted in the first round.

The trend we're seeing on draft boards marks smarter front offices, smaller running backs and less spending on the position that dominated the old NFL.

In the coming years, franchise backs will be harder and harder to find and teams will be less and less willing to spend high draft picks on them. That just seems to be the way the game is going.

So for Seattle, the question Pete Carroll is going to have to ask himself is will a guy like C.J. Spiller be worth a top-15 pick?

As fans, do you want to see that early a pick spent on such a volatile position?

Take into consideration that he will definitely need a partner in crime, so you'll likely have to spend another, later pick on a different back.

The Seahawks are one of many teams that could benefit from trading down to grab some extra material and potentially turning C.J. Spiller into Ryan Mathews and a later pick of Toby Gerhart/LeGarrette Blount.

In a new age for the running game, that's the type of foresight that will turn a franchise around.

It does, however, remain to be seen how much savvy Carroll gained during his decade-long NFL hiatus.

Feel confident, Seattle?


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