Like a new car, the NFL running back depreciates in value as soon as the quarterback hands them the ball.
Even running back Adrian Peterson, one of the best in the game, jokingly told CBS Sports:
"My son is going to play quarterback. No, really, he can play whatever position he wants, but I will push him to play quarterback or some other position. We do a lot with our bodies. I've had seven surgeries. On the outside looking at kids, it's smart to say you want to be back there like Peyton Manning where guys don't hit you like they hit us."
These days, with a renewed focus on the passing game, running backs aren’t as popular as they used to be. The days of a running back being taken as one of the first players taken in the draft are gone. In the 2013 and 2014 NFL Drafts, the prototypical, bell cow running backs weren’t even taken in the first round. Yes, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon were taken in the first round of this past year’s draft but this doesn’t mean that teams have started to value the position as they used to.
And to witness great backs regress quickly, especially those who were stars in college, is a painful thing.
Former Alabama standout Trent Richardson is the classic example of “They ain't what they used to be.”
Playing on the same team as Glen Coffee and current New Orleans Saint Mark Ingram, Richardson finally got his chance as a full time starter in his junior year and he did not disappoint, rushing for almost 1,700 yards and 21 TDs; the former breaking Ingram's single season rushing record and the latter setting an SEC record. He was then selected by the Cleveland Browns with the third pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He rushed for almost 1,000 yards in his rookie season, but that was the highlight of his career. He went on to play for the Colts and the Raiders, who cut him last week after a poor showing in the pre-season.
Things got so bad that other players started to go in on him, including former player, and current ESPN analyst, Ryan Clark:
"I have no reaction, 'cause this should have happened a long time ago.Trent Richardson is the worst running back of all-time. Of all time.There's a freshman that goes to University High in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, named Michael Hollins that I would take on my team right now in the NFL before I got Trent Richardson.I can't believe they gave him $600,000 guaranteed. And they gave it to him to go away. Can you imagine that? If somebody said, 'I'm going to give you all this money just so you never run the ball for us ever again.”
Yeah, that’s a pretty damning assessment. But the long time safety for the Steelers wasn't alone in his criticism:
Trent took the yellow path pic.twitter.com/Mhga6uHXBs— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) December 3, 2013
Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon and RG III were all Top 5 picks in 2012 NFL Draft. Bust city.— Scott Turken (@Turk0219) September 1, 2015
Trent Richardson's career postseason stats:
4 carries, 1 yard, 1 lost fumble.
The most Trent Richardson stat line ever.
— Bryn Swartz (@eaglescentral) August 26, 2015
Richardson is the worst to ever carry a football? I’m from Chicago and I saw the Bears go from Walter Payton to Curtis Enis and Rashaan Salaam. Even though Matt Forte is one of the best in the game, his window of time gets smaller each season. But think about his college years on top what he’s done for the Bears? That’s a lot mileage and wear and tear on the tires.
Maybe Richardson was a product of a system that churns out star running backs who stumble and fall at the pro level or maybe he’s just damaged goods; running the ball for Saban does take a toll. Or maybe he just couldn’t cut it?
No matter what you want to surmise, being a bust at an undervalued position is a bad as it can get. The Saints are hoping that Ingram can finally play to the level that was promised and the Packers are hoping that Lacy can stay healthy for a full season, especially with the loss of Jordy Nelson.
Richardson makes you wonder how talent can regress that quickly. While he was busy missing gaping running lanes last week, Tide alum and Jacksonville Jaguars rookie T.J. Yeldon scored a touchdown, staking his claim as the starting running back for the team.
I'm sure the Jags are hoping that Yeldon can turn the Tide.