There has been a lot of recent chatter in NFL circles regarding running backs, specifically their value overall, and how they should be compensated. And the issue of “value” extends to the NFL Draft: Is it worthwhile to draft a running back in the first round?
In the 2023 NFL Draft, there were just two running backs taken in the first round – Bijan Robinson by Atlanta, with the No. 8 pick overall, and Jahmyr Gibbs by Detroit at No. 12 overall. In 2022, there were no running backs taken in the first round.
To analyze a first-round rookie running back’s immediate help to an offense, BetMichigan.com, as part of our Michigan sports betting coverage, looked at all running backs taken in the first round over the past decade and their contributions as rookies. There were just 12 running backs taken in the first round over the last 10 drafts. All data and records came from Pro-Football-Reference.com.
First-Round RBs in NFL Since 2015
Can Gibbs Produce Right Away?
The question for Detroit Lions fans, and those who use the best Michigan sportsbook promos to sign up with operators, is about the eventual return in the selection of Gibbs, especially considering the Lions are expected to be a playoff contender this season.
To get to the point, Detroit fans should be encouraged by the decade’s worth of data.
The Lions are the consensus betting favorite among Michigan sportsbook operators to win the NFC North this season. Stick with us at BetMichigan.com to keep track all season as the Detroit Lions Super Bowl odds evolve.
As far as recent history for first-round running backs, the one drafted highest was Saquon Barkley. The New York Giants selected him No. 2 overall in 2018.
As a rookie, Barkley was spectacular, gaining 1,307 yards on 261 attempts (5.0 yards a carry) for 11 touchdowns and adding 721 yards and four TDs on 91 receptions – all for a terrible team that finished 5-11. Despite suffering injuries over his five-year career, Barkley has had three seasons of 1,000-plus rushing yards and scored 37 TDs.
Will Gibbs start his career on the right foot as, just as Barkley did? If he does, that would be a boost to the Detroit Lions playoff chances, which you can check out all season with us.
Other Examples of First-Round NFL RBs
Ezekiel Elliott was Dallas’s No. 4 pick in 2016 and came storming out of the starting gate with 1,631 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns, plus 32 catches for 363 yards and another TD. The Cowboys finished 13-3 in Elliot’s rookie season but lost their opening playoff game to Green Bay.
Of the 11 first-round running backs that played (Travis Etienne missed his first season with an injury), eight of them had seasons of 800 rushing yards or more. And one who didn’t hit that mark was Carolina’s Christan McCaffrey who still had more than 1,000 total yards from scrimmage and seven TDs as a rookie. Over the course of his six-year career so far, McCaffrey had scored 60 touchdowns running and catching the ball.
Etienne, after missing the 2021 season, gained over 1,000 rushing yards in 2022, helping the Jaguars to a playoff appearance.
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