It wasn’t that long ago that running backs had become an afterthought in the NFL draft.
In 2012 and 2013, no running backs were selected in the first round. The shelf life of a running back, after all, isn’t as long as a quarterback, offensive lineman or defensive end.
But the Dallas Cowboys bucked that trend a year ago when they used the fourth overall pick on Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott. That worked out well, as Elliott led the league in rushing as a rookie with 1,631 yards on 322 carries with 15 touchdowns.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are hoping to follow suit. They took LSU running back Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick on Thursday night, a pick that was widely praised by analysts. The Carolina Panthers snagged Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey four picks later.
And Elliott couldn’t have been happier, either, seeing a running back go in the top-five for a second straight season.
“The RB is back. CONGRATS @_fournette !,” Elliott posted on his Twitter account, @EzekielElliott.
That’s a much different vibe than even a year ago.
Hall of Famer and Cowboys great Emmitt Smith ripped teams for devaluing the position before last year’s draft.
“I’m extremely disappointed in it because they have placed the emphasis on the quarterback position and the D-ends and maybe even cornerbacks. And the guy who takes the pressure off all of that is the running back,” Smith told the Star-Telegram.