Where To Find A RB?

You want a franchise running back? John Taylor tells you how to find one.

Given Jamal Lewis' status as an unrestricted free agent, there's a lot of talk going around Browns Nation regarding just what to do about a running back should Lewis not re-sign.

Go balls to the wall in free agency?  Take advantage of a very deep junior-laden draft class?  Both?

Well, if this season is any indication, the Cleveland Browns would be wise to look toward the Annual Player Selection Meeting in late April.

(And, yes, I'm fully aware that 1K in rushing is not as significant as it used to be.  But, it's my research, so I'll set the numbers.  Thanks for your cooperation in this matter.)

Of the 17 1,000-yard backs in 2007, a whopping 12 of those did so with their original teams.  Two of the backs were acquired via free agency (Lewis and Edgerrin James) and three were acquired via the trade route (Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee and Thomas Jones).

The 12 cracking the 1K "barrier" included six first rounders (LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Fred Taylor, Marshawn Lynch, Joseph Addai, Steven Jackson), one second-rounder (LenDale White), three third-rounders (Frank Gore, Brian Westbrook and Justin Fargas), one fourth-rounder (Brandon Jacobs) and two were undrafted (Willie Parker).

Interestingly, four of the five who were acquired either via trade were first-round draft picks, with the lone non-first rounder--Portis--was taken in the second round.

So, of the 17 backs who rushed for over 1,000 yards, 10 were acquired in the first-round of the draft.  15 of the 17 were first-day picks.

Now, is this just a one-year anomaly or is there a trend involved?  Well, I decided to look back over the five previous seasons and see what the stats tell.

From 2002 through 2006, there were a grand total of 31 different 1,000-yard rushers (note: Michael Vick rushed broke the 1K plateau as well, but because he's a QB, and a dickish felon, he was not included).

Of those 31, 27 did so with their original teams.  Those 27 include eleven first-rounders, six second-rounders, five third-rounders, three fourth-rounders,  and two were undrafted.

(Note: four players rushed for over 1,000 yards with two different teams.)

There were two backs acquired via free agency and two via trade; of those four,two were second-rounders, one was a third-rounder, and one was a sixth-rounder.

How does it all add up? Of the 48 1,000-yard rushers since 2002, 73% did so with their original team and their original team only.  46% were first-round picks, and 83% of all 1K runners were first-day picks.

A scant 8% were acquired in free agency, with 10% coming via trade. 

So, what's the bottom line?

While the sample size is certainly small, one thing seems relatively certain: If the Browns want to increase their odds of acquiring a running back of the future, they need to do so on April 26.

After re-signing Lewis to a back-loaded multi-year deal, of course.

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