Good pre-draft article coming out of Boise.....
Will pass-happy NFL undervalue Doug Martin?
Boise State running back Doug Martin finished his college career with 3,431 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns. He’s projected to go in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. JOE JASZEWSKI — Idaho Statesman
Boise State’s Doug Martin is, by consensus, the second-best running back prospect in the NFL Draft. At just about any point in the last half century that would make Martin a certain first-round pick.
But Martin is entering the NFL at a time when running backs are less valued than ever before. Last year, Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram was selected in the first round, the first time since 1963 that only one running back was picked in the first round.
Alabama’s Trent Richardson, a likely top-5 pick, is the only running back assured of going in the first round in this week’s draft, leaving Martin (and the ESPN cameras that will be following him at his grandfather’s home in California) in limbo. In the last three drafts, just six running backs have been taken in the first round.
Can Martin buck that trend during Thursday evening’s first round or will he have to wait for Friday’s second round to hear his name called?
“If I did go in the first round that would be awesome,” said Martin, who finished his Boise State career with 3,431 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns. “In the end, being in the NFL and being able to play is the opportunity every athlete wants to have.”
NFL teams still need quality backs. In fact, they need more rushers than ever before as more teams turn toward committee approaches at the position. But they just aren’t as willing to spend high draft picks or big free-agent dollars on them.
They don’t have to.
The last 11 Super Bowl champions have had unheralded running backs and many have used a committee, including the New York Giants who have won titles in the last five years with Brandon Jacobs (a fourth-round pick) and Ahmad Bradshaw (undrafted free agent) in the backfield. Neither one will be heading to Canton when their careers are over.
ESPN analyst Bill Polian, a longtime NFL general manager who won the Super Bowl with Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes as the primary ballcarriers, said teams aren’t willing to pony up for veteran backs.
Matt Forte and Ray Rice, two of the most productive running backs in the league, are seeking long-term deals from Chicago and Baltimore, respectively. Those teams, however, have been reluctant to pay, aware of the quick declines by many top rushers.
“The running back position is one with a short shelf life in professional football. Those guys take a terrible pounding,” Polian said. “When is the best time to get them? When they’re rookies. If they’re courageous enough to pass block, they can play right away. The transition isn’t that great. They’re fresh. There is plenty of tread on their tires. I would argue the best time to get a back is through the draft and keep replenishing that.”
While you can survive — and thrive — with a rag-tag bunch at running back, you better have a quarterback. In the last 11 years, Super Bowls have been won by Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Brad Johnson. Only Johnson has no chance of landing in the Hall of Fame.
“It’s more of a passing league these days. They pass the ball all over the place and don’t worry too much about the run,” Martin said.
As such, running backs have to do much more than run the ball. They must be able to catch it and, importantly, to pass protect.
“They want you to be a complete back,” Martin said. “It’s very important for me to showcase that to teams. I want to perform in a way that can bring value back to the position.”
They’ve taken notice of his all-around skills — one reason his draft stock is climbing. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock ranked him as the No. 17 prospect in the draft in his final projections.
Martin had 67 catches for 715 yards and four touchdowns in his career. His physical style, as seen on special teams and his brief stint on defense, translated to pass protection. Though he missed most of the TCU game with an injury, Martin’s pass protection skills were valued enough that he was inserted into the game to pass block on the final possession.
Will it be enough to force his way into the first round, to overcome the league-wide trend away from taking running backs that high?
An anxious Martin will be watching — and waiting.
Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2012/04/25/2090850/will-pass-happy-nfl-undervalue.html#storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy