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Rebirth of the Running Back

RB is on the rise in the NFL sort of...By Stephen Serda

Stephen Serda
March 16, 2017 - 2:01 pm

It's been a hot topic in the NFL over the last several years about the decline of the running back specifically their importance in the pass heavy modern day NFL.  That topic can officially be put to bed in my opinion...well in a way.  This years NFL draft is loaded with talent at the position unlike any draft I've ever seen. With teams like the Cowboys and the Steelers leading the way running backs are making a comeback and making a comeback unlike anything we've really ever seen. But as we are seeing with the current crop of veteran free agent running backs the modern day NFL understands now more than ever the shelf life of these guys is short and the top teams refuse to offer big money for running backs past the age of 30. Adrian Peterson probably the best running back of my generation isn't going to get a significant contract from anyone and I would be surprised to see Jamaal Charles get anything more than a 1 year deal. 

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These young running backs of the future have to look at a guy like AP and ask why he isn't getting the type of attention he deserves considering there are plenty of running back needy teams. The Colts and Giants have struggled for years to find a reasonable half back to carry the load out of the backfield. AP has been lucky in the fact he got his monster contract something a guy like Jamaal Charles was never really able to achieve and clearly never will at this point of his career coming off of two major knee surgeries. AP has made over $94 million in his career compared to Jamaal coming in at just over $39 million. That seems like a lot of money for a guy like Jamaal but Peterson has more than doubled that. These young guys needs to look at their potential and ask if it is realistic to think they can ever make the type of money Peterson has or if they are going to put their bodies through hell to be Jamaal. There are several running backs in this years class with 1st round grades at a position that has been deemed by most as not being important enough to use a top pick on. 

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We are venturing into an era where teams are going to copy the model of the Cowboys and the Steelers in which their running game opens up the field for the big pass plays. It's easy say this has always been the case but we saw how an "explosive" offense like Pittsburgh's is virtually nulified when they don't have the dynamic running ability of Le'veon Bell to compliment that passing game. The Cowboys offense was a ball control offense that relied heavily on the play of Ezekiel Elliott and relied very little on the big pass plays down the field although that changed as rookie quarterback Dak Prescott became more comfortable in the NFL system. 

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This wave of young runnig backs entering the NFL and the ones currently in the league will decide the future of the position. Specifically the financial future of the situation. Le'veon Bell is as dynamic as they come and the Steelers franchised him but are reported to be working on a long term deal. Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Jay Ajayi and David Johnson will all have a lot to say about the position and it's financial future but young guys like Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, and even Joe Mixon could have a big say. It is going to take several of the guys making a stand and holding out for the type of money they deserve. Early retirement is becoming a trend in the NFL and it's important for these young guys at the sports most devastating position to make sure they get paid while they can. Adrian Peterson is the outlier not the trend and these guys will have a lot to say about trying to change that trend. Leonard Fournette is a generational talent at the position but we are entering an age where guys like him, Todd Gurley, and Ezekiel Elliott are becoming the new trend and it's up to them to save the running back. You can call me an athlete apologist for being concerned about how much money these guys are making but it doesn't change the fact they play the most grueling game in the world at the most unapologetic position and they deserve more than what these teams are offering them. 

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