The top running back position isn’t important in today’s NFLby Jeremy Guerin July 20, 2019 0 comments
Running backs have to check their egos at the door.
Following Le’Veon Bell’s example, reports from the camps of both Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliott have leaked, saying that the star backs are considering holding out and skipping training camp until they get paid.
Clearly, they don’t see the writing on the wall.
Over the past couple of years, the position of the running back has greatly evolved. It is no longer just a ground-and-pound style; backs need to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield. Running back stables have also changed. Instead of a bell-cow back for the first two downs and the “scat” back making the occasional appearance on third down, teams like the Saints and Patriots have led the way in using multiple backs with multiple skill sets on any given down.
The running backs who are trying to extort long-term deals out of their teams are fooling themselves into thinking they are more valuable than they are. Emboldened by Bell’s statement last year, they saw how Pittsburgh struggled without him and intend on hold their teams’ feet to the fire.
But the Steelers’ struggles weren’t because they were without Bell; defensive failings and drama between Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown were what doomed the black and gold. James Conner was more than a serviceable replacement for Bell, and, if he improves catching the ball, could be a dangerous weapon for fantasy owners and the Steelers next year.
It is time for running backs to face facts; to a degree, they are expendable. Backs like Aaron Jones and Philip Lindsay are great examples of feature backs that were picked late in the draft — or in Lindsay’s case, not selected at all.
Gordon and Elliott can try to hold out, but it isn’t advisable. The Los Angeles Chargers have Austin Ekeler who can back up Gordon nicely, and while Elliott is very important to the Cowboys, if he tries to take too much of the cap, Dallas could just let him walk or trade him because they still have to worry about signing both Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper.
The running back is just expendable. Teams like the Saints and Patriots carry multiple backs, and they have been consistently at the top of the league for the last couple years. Multiple skill sets can be devastating out of the backfield, and franchise backs would do well to remember that they shouldn’t try to take too much money, or they will find themselves in a situation like Bell, who got below the offer the Steelers presented him after holding out for an entire year.