Hensley: "Franchise Back?" Think Again

Greg shows the changing face of the NFL, and how first-round backs are no longer the rule...

Free agency has changed the face of football but no position has been more effected than that of the running back. At one time, the rule was "you don't win without the franchise back", but now more than ever, it is running back by committee for most teams. The feature back is only featured for a short time and then he either leaves via free agency or trade.

There are only 11 running backs drafted in the first round since 1997 that are still considered feature type backs remaining with the team that drafted them. Of those 11 two are recovering from major injury and 9 of that elite 11 were drafted in just the last three years.

* Designates a team utilizing a first-round "franchise back".

AFC East
NEW YORK JETS: Added the back that carried the Bears to the Super Bowl and all it took was a swap of position in the second round.

*? NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Have a question at running back with the health of former first round draft choice Laurence Maroney.

* MIAMI DOLPHINS: Used a first to land Ronnie Brown.

? BUFFALO BILLS: Will look to draft a back.

AFC North

BALTIMORE RAVENS: Replaced their franchise back with the Bill's franchise back for a grand total of two third round picks.

CLEVELAND BROWNS: Replaced their first 1000 yard rusher in two decades with the Raven's franchise back that has owned the Browns.

CINCINNATI BENGALS: Found their franchise back in the 4th round with Rudi Johnson.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Stud back Willie Parker went undrafted.

AFC South

HOUSTON TEXANS: They may have passed on Reggie Bush last year, but they added the Packer's franchise running back this off season.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Just ask this years Super Bowl champ, how easy it is to replace a franchise back. Edgerrin James seemed irreplaceable until he bolted to the Cardinals and the Colts bolted to the Super Bowl. This signing cost the Cardinals nothing.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Found their future back in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft in Maurice Jones-Drew.

TENNESSEE TITANS: Landed USC back LenDale White in the 2nd round and are currently looking to trade for Chargers back Michael Turner.

AFC West

OAKLAND RAIDERS: Acquired Lamont Jordan via a trade with the Jets. Signed Dominic Rhodes this year as a free agent.

DENVER BRONCOS: Could turn Romeo Crennel into a 1000 yard back.

* SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Set with Ladainian Tomlinson, a first round pick.

* KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Set with Larry Johnson, also drafted in the first round.

NFC East

WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Acquired Clinton Portis via a trade with the Broncos.

NEW YORK GIANTS: The Giants backfield will now consist of former Brown Reuben Droughns and 4th round back Brandon Jacobs.

PHILADELPHIA EAGELES: Their star back was a third round pickup.

DALLAS COWBOYS: Have fourth and second-round picks invested in Barber and Jones.

NFC North

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Found Chester Taylor on the free agent market.

? GREEN BAY PACKERS: Will look to draft a back.

?* DETROIT LIONS: Traded for a Denver back but they have first round draft choice Kevin Jones recovering from injury.

* CHICAGO BEARS: The NFC champs have now made a commitment to former first round pick Cedric Benson.

NFC South

ATLANTA FALCONS: Signed Warrick Dunn as an unrestricted free agent.

*** CAROLINA PANTHERS, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: All feature their own first-round draft choice.

NFC West

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: The 49ers may have the best young back in football in Frank Gore - what a find in the 3rd round!

ARIZONA CARDINALS: Picked up Edge via free agency.

** SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, ST. LOUIS RAMS: Both teams invested a first in their stud backs.

There are only 10 teams in the NFL featuring a running back that they acquired with a first round draft choice. That's less than a third of NFL franchises.

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