The Buccaneers are obviously happy they drafted Boise State’s Doug Martin at the end of the first round of last year’s draft, given that Martin went on to produce the third-highest yards-from-scrimmage total by a rookie in NFL history. Tampa Bay’s scouting was good and, as it turns out, its timing was even better.
If the Buccaneers were looking for a top-tier running back in this year’s draft, they might be in trouble. The Bucs are scheduled to pick 13th in the first round, and 12th in the second – remember, it took a trade up from the top of the second to the bottom of the first to land Martin – and that certainly doesn’t appear to be running back territory in 2013.
Check out the collection of six first-round mock drafts on NFL.com by a group of experts that includes Gil Brandt, Charles Davis and Albert Breer. It might not be immediately obvious as you scroll through the Star Lotuleleis and Barkevious Mingos, but there is a rather surprising lack of one position on this assemblage of lists. Were it not for the outstanding championship-game performance of Alabama’s Eddie Lacy, the running backs might be completely shut out.
Lacy appears on two of the six mock drafts, going 16th overall on Brandt’s mock and 31st overall on Breer’s list. He is the only running back to be mentioned at all, which means four of the six analysts predict an RB-free opening night to the 2013 draft.
That would be unusual. Actually, that would be almost completely unprecedented.
Only one time in league history has there been a first round of the draft that did not include a running back. And that was exactly 50 years ago, in 1963.
The NFL first drafted in 1936, with the Eagles taking University of Chicago back Jay Berwanger with the top pick. Berwanger never played in the NFL, choosing instead to try for a spot on the Olympic decathlon team, and then later turning down a contract offer from the Bears’ George Halas. Still, he played a very coveted position, especially in the NFL’s early days, when a “back” was sometimes something of a one-man offense. The first 15 or so drafts are replete with “backs” – nine of the 10 first-rounders in 1938 were listed at that position – before the “RB” position became more defined.
Either way, running backs have been highly-coveted in most NFL drafts. In some years – such as 2011, when Alabama’s Mark Ingram went 28th overall and was the only first-round back – the position has been thin. But it hasn’t been shut out in the first round in five decades, and only once in a total of 77 drafts. If this year’s first round plays out as many expect, it would be a rather surprising break from NFL history.