The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are mostly playing for draft position, which means every bit of 2018 NFL draft-related news is interesting. Good news part one: there’s four quarterbacks who are likely to go in the first round or even the top ten, which would push down other quality players to the Bucs.
Good news number two: it’s a deep draft at one of the Bucs’ main positions of need: running back. Assuming that Doug Martin isn’t back next year, which seems like a reasonable assumption given his lack of production this season. Todd McShay of ESPN explains how this draft has nine backs who should be in the first three rounds.
13. If my team needs a ______, we're in luck in this draft.
McShay: Running back. It's a very deep draft at the position. Barkley is No. 1, but LSU's Derrius Guice, Stanford's Bryce Love and the Alabama duo of Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris are really good, too. I have nine backs with grades that would put them in the first three rounds.
Aaaaand this is where I do my yearly “don’t draft running backs in the first round” bit because really: don’t draft running backs in the first round. No, that one guy you love is not “can’t miss”. There is no such thing as “can’t miss”. Trent Richardson wasn’t even can’t miss.
Running backs fail about half the time at the top of the first round, and more frequently further down. Even those that succeed don’t necessarily make a massive impact—see Reggie Bush, or Christian McCaffrey this season (though it’s still early in his career).
More importantly, running backs just do not represent good value. Not because backs aren’t important, though it’s hard to find truly impactful rather than replaceable backs, but because it is relatively easy to find quality backs later in the draft.
I say “relatively easy” because it’s never actually easy, bust rates are just too high at every position. But running back is a position where you can get decent production with little investment. The Bucs keep showing that, year after year, by grabbing someone like Peyton Barber or Jacquizz Rodgers and squeezing decent-but-not-difference-making performances out of them.
The goal, of course, is to get difference makers—but that’s almost impossible. Backs who can actually make a game-to-game on-field difference are just too few and far between to consistently find. Which is, again, why the Bucs shouldn’t be drafting one in the first round.
Instead, especially in a deep draft, they should be looking to get a quality back in the second or third round—and spend that first-round pick on a real impact position.