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The NFL Running Back Reality: Devaluation and Its Origins

The NFL Running Back Reality: A long time ago, running backs once reigned supreme as the most valuable position in the NFL. However, the landscape has evolved over the years, and the once-prized position has experienced a significant shift in perception and value. In this blog post, we will delve into the historical significance of running backs, explore the reasons behind their devaluation, and highlight their adaptability and resilience in the face of change. The NFL betting odds play a major role for running backs, especially when it comes to prop bets. The latest predictions and picks are expected to be out soon for bettors to place the best bets.

The Glory Days of Running Backs

Long ago, in 1989, a blockbuster trade involving Herschel Walker showcased the immense value that running backs once held. The Dallas Cowboys received a treasure trove of nine picks, including three first-round selections, and five players from the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for Walker. Fast forward to 2022, and the trade for Christian McCaffrey seems like a mere pittance compared to the behemoth deal for Walker. The running back position was once considered worth its weight in gold, and players like Barry Sanders held the title of the highest-paid player in the NFL, surpassing even quarterbacks like Troy Aikman.

The NFL Running Back Reality: The Decline of Running Backs’ Value

The tides began to turn in the late 20th century as the NFL transitioned into a passing-oriented league. With rule changes favoring aerial attacks and quarterbacks taking center stage, the focus shifted away from traditional ground-and-pound offenses. As a result, the value of running backs diminished, and their role in the game transformed.

Expendability in a Passing League

The devaluation of running backs can be attributed to their perceived expendability in a pass-heavy league. Teams began to prioritize positions that directly impacted the passing game, such as quarterbacks, wide receivers, and offensive tackles to protect the passer. Running backs, though still exciting and dynamic players, found themselves less central to teams’ offensive strategies.

Shorter Career Spans

Another factor contributing to the devaluation of running backs is their relatively short career spans. Due to the physical demands of the position and the increased risk of injury, running backs tend to have shorter careers compared to other positions. This limited longevity reduces their overall value to teams, as investing heavily in a player with a potentially short shelf life becomes riskier.

The Changing Role of Running Backs

Despite the decline in value, running backs have shown remarkable adaptability and resilience. They have found new ways to contribute to their teams beyond traditional rushing roles, reinventing themselves as multi-dimensional players.

Versatility in the Passing Game

Running backs have become integral to the passing game, excelling as receiving options for quarterbacks. Their ability to catch screen passes, run wheel routes, and create mismatches against slower linebackers has added a new dimension to their play. This versatility makes them valuable assets, not just in running situations but also as valuable contributors to aerial attacks.

Key Players in Pass Protection

In addition to their role as receivers, running backs have taken on crucial responsibilities in pass protection. Their ability to pick up blitzes and protect the quarterback has become invaluable to teams. A reliable pass-blocking running back can be the difference between a successful play and a quarterback sack, making them a vital part of offensive game plans.

The Rise of Committee Approaches

To adapt to the changing landscape, teams have adopted committee approaches in their backfields. Instead of relying solely on one workhorse running back, teams utilize multiple players with different skill sets. This strategy not only preserves the health and longevity of individual players but also provides coaches with a broader range of offensive options. By using a committee of running backs, teams can keep their ground game fresh and unpredictable.

Running Backs in Transition: Frustration and Uncertainty

Despite their adaptability, running backs face unique challenges in the modern NFL, leading to frustration and uncertainty about their value and future.

The Impact of New Quarterback Contracts

Some running backs argue that the massive new quarterback contracts have contributed to their devaluation. As quarterback salaries have skyrocketed, the salary cap resources available for other positions have decreased. The franchise tag value for running backs, for instance, has decreased compared to previous years, while other positions have seen significant increases.

Contract Negotiations and Lack of Long-Term Deals

Many running backs have faced challenges in securing long-term deals from their teams. Some prominent players have been franchise tagged without receiving long-term extensions. Joe Mixon and Aaron Jones even took pay cuts during contract negotiations, highlighting the tough negotiations for running backs in the current NFL climate.

The Uncertain Future

The uncertainty of the running back position has led to a sense of unease among players and teams. Prominent running backs like Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliott, and Leonard Fournette were released in the offseason and remain unsigned, adding to the instability felt by players.


The NFL’s running backs have navigated a challenging journey through shifting tides, adapting to the changing landscape, and proving their resilience. While their value may have diminished in recent years, running backs continue to be essential contributors to their teams’ success. Their versatility and adaptability make them dynamic players, able to impact both the running and passing games. Despite facing frustrations and uncertainty, running backs will remain a vital part of the NFL for years to come. As the game continues to evolve, these players will undoubtedly continue to find innovative ways to make their mark on the gridiron, embracing the challenges and triumphs that come with being a running back in today’s NFL. The best NFL betting odds are expected to be out as the preseason takes place next week.