NFL Draft: The NFL is terrible at scouting RBs


Thomas Rawls of the Seattle Seahawks is just the latest example of how bad the NFL is at scouting RBs for the NFL Draft.

NFL teams are generally awful at scouting the running back position for the draft. The draft media isn’t any better. Just how bad everyone is at this can be condensed into one fact from last year’s draft.

There were 18 RBs selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. None of them were named Thomas Rawls. It was Rawls, and not any of the other rookies or veterans that led the entire NFL is yards per carry.

Of course, it is easy to see why a troubled RB with an injury history from a tiny school like Central Michigan might go overlooked. One data point doesn’t make a trend.

It is also cherry picking data points to point out that Trent Richardson, Beanie Wells, Montee Ball, Melvin Gordon, and Felix Jones are all recent 1st round picks, while Rawls, Arian Foster, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and C.J. Anderson all went undrafted.

So lets examine the first three round of the draft from recent years. Players selected in those rounds should be starters. If not on day one, they should be starting at some point early in their career. Since it is said that it takes three years to evaluate a draft, we’ll start with 2012 and work backwards.

There were seven RBs draft in the first three rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft. Only Doug Martin has proven to be worth giving significant carries to.

2011 was a much better year for RBs. There were eight selected in the top three rounds that year. Four turned out to be useful players, though only one has been has been a star.

2010 is similar. Two of five turned out to be decent players, but injuries had prevented either from ever being great. So out of three drafts, there’s 2 star players and 5 decent players. That’s it.

This is a trend that goes a long ways. Here’s how the data looks for the previous decade:

YearRB takenSuccessesSuccess %

Just over one-third of all RBs taken in the first three rounds of the draft turn out to be worthwhile players. That’s worse than wide receivers, which have a notoriously high bust-rate. That’s even worse you’ll find with QBs, who are often way over-drafted.

One thing that is interesting for RBs is that there’s always a late round or UDFA success story every year. You certainly won’t find that at QB.

Justin Forsett and Ahmed Bradshaw were seventh round picks. Rawls and Adrian Foster were undrafted. Alfred Morris went in the sixth round Dion Lewis went in the fifth.

There are more early round busts at RB than any other position. There are also more late round or UDFA stars. This leads to only one obvious conclusion:

The NFL sucks at scouting running backs.