Derrius Guice Is A Popular Choice For Detroit’s First Round In Mock Drafts, But Does It Really Matter Where In The Draft A Running Back Is Taken?
The NFL Draft is right around the corner and along with it comes the infamous mock draft season. A popular trend this year is everybody and their grandma mocking LSU running back Derrius Guice to the Lions with the 20th overall pick. Guice is considered by most to be the second best back in this year’s class and with the resurgence of high pick running backs taking place over that last few seasons, the pick has become increasingly sexy for analysts and fans alike.
I’m assuming somewhere in rounds 1-3 is when the tailback position will be addressed, but it makes me wonder. What kind of value do you get when you take a running back round one, as opposed to taking one in the second or third round? To get an idea I compiled career stats into a spreadsheet for all the running backs taken in the first three rounds from 2015-17. Each back was given a score out of 12, which is made up of their career yards per carry, percentage of carries for touchdowns, yards per reception, and percentage of catches for touchdowns, with an emphasis on the rushing stats as I feel the Lions aren’t necessarily looking for a “scat” back.
The analysis gives some clarity on what the real difference is as far as production efficiency for the backs taken in the first three rounds has been over the last three seasons. The only player to earn a perfect 12 out of 12 was Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. Up there along with him are the names you might expect: Alvin Kamara (11), Kareem Hunt (9), Derrick Henry (9), Tevin Coleman (10), David Johnson (10). Todd Gurley came in with a score of (8), mostly due to his slightly below average yards per carry and average receiving skills when compared to his peers. A couple of high profile players scored rather poorly, those being Jacksonville back Leonard Fournette (5) and Chargers back Melvin Gordon (3). Fournette and Gordon are examples of backs that have sustained heavy workloads with a poor yards per carry stat and below average receiving skills.
So How Vital is a First-Round Running Back?
What does this all mean? Well, if we look at the average score for backs taken in each individual round, running backs that were drafted in the first round have shown exactly average results with a 6, while second-round backs come in with a poor average of 4.4, and the third round backs are actually the most efficient with an average of a whopping 7.8. Even though the second round comes across as a little underwhelming when looking at these numbers, this still shows that there are plenty of quality backs available in the second and even the third round.
While Guice wouldn’t be a bad pick for the Lions and could very well end up just as good, if not better than other backs that have been taken in the first round, is it really worth it for this Lions team to spend that type of draft capital on a position that offers oftentimes better production out of later round selections? The Lions have needs on the EDGE, Interior OL, and Interior DL, to go with their need for fresh legs in the backfield, so given the information and the depth at the running back position in this draft it really doesn’t seem wise to me to use a first-round pick on a running back for a team with needs at so many other positions.