New York Jets – No Running Back With 6th Overall Pick

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A popular mock draft selection for the New York Jets is either LSU running back Leonard Fournette or FSU running back Dalvin Cook. Either selection would be a mistake for the Jets with the 6th overall pick as the team cannot afford to invest in a luxury position with their most valuable piece of capital to improve their roster this offseason.

You should not take a running back in the top ten or arguably even the first round unless he is a generational talent, who is good enough to supersede any surrounding issues on the offense. Both Fournette and Cook are quality prospects but neither fall into that category.

Todd Gurley is a comparable prospect, if not one who was more highly touted, who has not been able to supersede a less than optimal situation with the Rams. This past season he had a pedestrian 885 yards at 3.2 yards per carry. Yes, he would be more productive with a better quarterback and offensive line but so would a middle round pick, like David Johnson who is a third rounder that has consistently outperformed Gurley over the past two years. If they swap teams do their numbers swap? If they do, why are you using a first rounder on production you could have had in the third round?

This may seem like weird timing to make this argument after Ezekiel Elliot tore the league up as a top five pick last year and led the NFL in rushing. Elliot just may be a generational talent but we are yet to see him away from the league’s best offensive line, a Hall of Fame tight end, an All-Pro receiver and a very good quarterback. Elliot was first in the NFL in rushing, Jordan Howard a 5th round rookie, was second. If you flip their teams how much production are you losing? It is doubtful that it is enough to compensate for the gap between a first and fifth round pick. You are likely getting very similar numbers, while being able to use your first round pick elsewhere.

Elliot was the only first round pick to be in the top ten of the league’s rushing leaders. Out of the league’s top 30 leading rushers, only four were first round picks (Elliot, Mark Ingram, Melvin Gordon and Gurley). In 2015, only seven of the league’s top 30 leading rushers were first round picks and two of them got hurt the following year (Adrian Peterson and Darren McFadden). In 2014, the number was four.

From a team perspective, here is the starting running back for each playoff team and when they were selected:

  • New England: LaGarrette Blount – UDFA
  • Pittsburgh: Le’Veon Bell – 2nd round
  • Kansas City: Spencer Ware – 3rd round
  • Houston: Lamar Miller – 4th round
  • Miami: Jay Ajayi – 5th round
  • Oakland: Latavius Murray – 6th round
  • Dallas: Ezekiel Elliot – 1st round
  • Green Bay: Ty Montgomery – 3rd round
  • Atlanta: DaVonta Freeman – 3rd round
  • Seattle: Thomas Rawls – UDFA
  • Detroit: Zach Zenner – UDFA
  • Giants: Rashad Jennings – 7th round

In the last ten Super Bowls, only one winner had a first round running back on their roster and he wasn’t drafted by that team (Marshawn Lynch on the Seahawks).

The Rams and Chargers both used first round picks on running backs in 2015. Neither team has made the playoffs since. Elliot’s Cowboys were one and done in this year’s playoffs. Prior to that in 2012, the Browns used a first round pick on Trent Richardson (we know how that turned out), the Bucs used one on Doug Martin and the Giants used one on David Wilson. The Giants never made the playoffs with Wilson. The Bucs are yet to make it with Martin.

Running backs are a dime a dozen, similar to wide receivers. It is not a premium position. First round and particularly top ten capital should be concentrated to positions like pass rusher, quarterback, offensive tackle, corner or a safety with range to cover and play in the box (hi, Malik Hooker). This is a deep class at running back, the Jets can find production in the middle rounds to pair with Bilal Powell (another productive middle round running back!) for the foreseeable future.

Fournette and Cook are flashy names and some will say the Jets need “weapons” but ironically skill position weapons is not one of their weaker spots right now. They need a line, a pass rush, a quarterback and cover guys more than playmakers with Powell, Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, Eric Decker and as of now Brandon Marshall already in place.

Photo Credit: LSU.com 

  • Cil Tony

    Just take OL and get on to 2018 after Bowles is gone after the 2017 season. He will find it difficult to FU ad OL

  • GT

    To me, Fournette or Cook are better off with a team like Carolina. Either player could have a similar impact to Elliott’s in Dallas. The Panthers were a Super Bowl team a year ago. Fournette or Cook could help them get back.
    Fournette is not a good fit for the Jets. The Jets are 2-3 years away from contention ( if they ever get there ). By that time, who knows if Fournette won’t be a spent force? The guy runs into defenders like Earl Campbell. Campbell had 4-5 seasons of astonishing production, then he couldn’t play anymore.
    The Jets would be better off trying to solve QB, improve the O Line, and rebuild the secondary.

  • BIG ED

    Saints have won 2 playoff games with Ingram on roster.

  • phshaw

    Joe…you make very pursuasive argument for your position. After watching Fournette, my fundamental disagreement is the ‘generational talent’ assessment. I think he is one. Better than Gurley and better than Elliot. Potentially on the level of Peterson. My biggest risk is the Jets O-line and the injury propensity of RBs. By the way it is lazy analysis to see his size and assume an automatic bulldozer. This guy has the feet, agility and speed of a 190 lb RB. You watch him play (when healthy – see 2015) and simply say ‘wow’. I’d roll the dice. BTW my top 5 draft preferences in order are: 1. Fournette 2. Ramzyck 3. Foster 4. Adams 5. Tribursky

  • Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Not only are RBs a dime a dozen, but the Jets already have two good ones. Such a weird mock draft choice IMO.

  • Between your comments on ESPN.com and every single Disqus comment, I must say you seem OBSESSED with your hatred of Bowles, hahaha.

  • Cil Tony

    Seen all of them and he and is up there with one of the worst. I am not alone in my assessment of this pathetic excuse for a coach. Listen to Joe B and you will here the same. Just go back to the KC game last year and watch the end of the first half and you will see how clueless of a coach No balls is. 2017 is a wasted year except it may land us the QB in the 2018 draft

  • Andrew

    Joe, I feel like you are over generalizing. I don’t disagree with your points I just think that NFL team building is the ultimate strategy game and with any strategy game( where there are several ways to win) you get yourself into trouble by boxing yourself into one specific strategy. Based on your comments I suspect we disagree on how good Fournette is. I believe that his talent is really at the crux of this argument and you brush it aside with a one-liner before diving into your general theory on positional value which is not the right way to approach this issue IMO. Anyway, I believe that Fournette is a beast and that should not be lost in your many takes regarding positional value and draft capital . Do you really think that Jordan Howard= Zeke Elliot because their rookie numbers are similar or because if you place Howard on the Cowboys you think that he will also run for a lot of yards? RBs can win games. They are integral to how offensives attack a defense and how defenses try to slow down offenses. Hyper talented RB’s like Zeke or Fournette are valuable to a team in ways that Jordan Howard can never be. RB’s like Fournette are huge assets in the NFL where teams are so equal and games are so close, you can not underestimate the real life game winning strategic value in being able to get the ball into the hands of the best athlete on the field down the stretch and watch him make big plays for your team. You say why draft Fournette when DBs are a bigger need? I will tell you why, its because Fournette could be the most talented and safest prospect in this draft. He will be regarded as one of the most talented RBs in the NFL. The Jets currently have a handful of really talented players and because of this lack of talent they must do everything possible to make sure #6 overall is a star. The Jets are not winning the super bowl next year, or the year after that and as fans I think we should all be understanding of this. I mean, the NFL is a hard league to win, right? I see nothing wrong from a team building strategic perspective of drafting Fournette at #6 and trying to improve other positions rounds 2-7 or thru free agency OR in next years draft, or the year after that, or the year after that, or the year after that.

  • ikemauiman

    When I see the so-called experts mel the snook say we should do this I KNOW RIGHT THEN ITS A MISTAKE the people who follow the Jets know the position that we need the most QB in my mind if Watson is there I take him he is the only one that I would with our pick if he isn’t there then I take the best O-Lineman that’s there we have to re-build the line to protect who ever our QB is and to open some holes for the running game oh and for mel’s info we have a pretty good back in Bilial all he did was average 5.5 yds per carry and HE CATCHES THE HELL OUT OF THE BALL! oh yea and he blocks pretty darn well sounds like a complete back doesn’t he