Futures: Miami RB Duke Johnson

Danny Kelly has always been a Jamal Charles fan (who hasn't? Raiders fans, I imagine). Photo by Phillip Macgruder.
Can Duke Johnson follow in Jamaal Charles’ footsteps? Photo by Phillip Macgruder.

Is Johnson capable of NFL brilliance? Burst will ultimately tell the tale.

by Matt Waldman

The 2015 running back draft class is a potential embarrassment of riches. It may test the collective sentiment of recent claims from football media that running back is no longer an early-round position.

To give full disclosure, I’ve often tried to justify these claims so I could wrap my head around the two-year drought of first-round picks at the position. I made the rationalization that the pool of available backs is so densely talented that the drop in demand for a feature back has created a parallel to NFL runners and NBA-caliber shooting guards: you can find one off the street and at least get reasonable short-term production.

We’ll ultimately see how the NFL regards this crop of runners, but at this stage of the process I think it could rival the 2008 class, which had 14 runners who at least flashed contributor-level talent.

    Best Season
Player Round Seasons Touches Total Yds Total Tds
Chris Johnson 1 7 408 2509 16
Jonathan Stewart 1 7 239 1272 11
Rashard Mendenhall 1 6 348 1440 13
Darren McFadden 1 7 270 1664 10
Felix Jones 1 6 233 1250 2
Matt Forte 2 7 363 1933 12
Ray Rice 2 6 343 2068 15
Jamaal Charles 3 7 329 1980 19
Kevin Smith 3 5 277 1262 8
Steve Slaton 3 4 318 1659 10
Tashard Choice 4 6 112 657 2
Tim Hightower 5 4 206 1026 8
Justin Forsett 7 7 155 969 5
Peyton Hillis 7 7 331 1654 13

The second- and third-round picks have been at least as productive as those from the opening round, and 80 percent of those first-round options had at least one quality season as a starter. Note that I didn’t use the phrases “first-round or second-round talent” to describe these players. Scheme fit, personality, and off-field behavior all factor into the draft.

Read the rest at Football Outsiders.

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