It's clear that the Cincinnati Bengals are going to rebuild their rushing offense this offseason, ranging from an infusion of talent with the offensive line (hopefully) to finding new running backs, replacing feature back Cedric Benson. Though Marvin Lewis and Jay Gruden are trying to explore other builds for more explosive plays, Alabama Trent Richardson could be on the table when Cincinnati selects 17th overall during the 2012 NFL Draft. However for those that question the idea of selecting a running back high in the draft, Vince Herhei with Football Outsiders is speaking directly to you.
In today's NFL, running backs just aren't important enough to warrant an early first-round selection.
Consider this: Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings leads all players over the past five seasons with 6,752 rushing yards, followed by Maurice Jones-Drew, Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson and Michael Turner. These men have dominated the NFL's rushing statistics since 2007, but in that five-year span, they've won a total of two playoff games as starting running backs. (Turner won two more as LaDainian Tomlinson's backup with the 2007 Chargers.) As great as Peterson and his peers have been, they have failed to carry teams far into the playoffs.
Herdei goes on to remind readers that of the four teams in the Conference Championship games, Ray Rice was the highest selection by his respective team (Ricky Williams, a former first rounder, was a free agent acquisition). Yet Rice was the only second-rounder of the four teams stable of running backs. Additionally he points out that great running backs are rarely are championship teams.
O.J. Simpson played in one playoff game in his 11-year career. Walter Payton's Chicago Bears teams made the playoffs just twice in his first nine seasons before Buddy Ryan and the defense helped make the postseason an annual event. Eric Dickerson and Barry Sanders each retired as the second-leading rusher in NFL history, but between them they won only three playoff games.
Cincinnati has two first round selection in 2012, the 17th selection from a trade with the Oakland Raiders in exchange for quarterback Carson Palmer.