The last time a running back was drafted with the NFL's first overall pick was Ki-Jana Carter out of Penn State in 1996. Prior to that, the last one to go number one overall was Bo Jackson in 1986.
Historically, teams in the National Football League tend to shy away from drafting running backs in the first round. Even if a guy is considered the consensus best player in his class, some squads would much rather wait to draft a back in the later rounds.
Last year, when the Dallas Cowboys drafted eventual league leading rusher and offensive rookie of the year Ezekiel Elliott, there were still a significant number detractors prior to the start of the season. The next running back drafted was Derrick Henry out of Alabama to the Tennessee Titans as the second pick in the second round. Indeed, collegiate success is not a predictor of professional success when it comes to the extraordinarily physical nature of the position.
What a start to Kareem Hunt's career
Prior to the St. Louis Rams drafting Todd Gurley with the 10th overall selection in 2015, the two previous drafts saw no running back taken in the first round. It was the first time no running back went in the first round since 1963.
This season saw the Jacksonville Jaguars draft power runner Leonard Fournette out of LSU, and he did not disappoint on Sunday as he recorded a grinding 100 yards on 26 carries and three receptions for 24 yards. One of the knocks against Fournette prior to the draft was pass-catching. So far, that concern is so much vapor; disappearing by the second.
JJ Watt trying to tackle Leonard Fournette https://t.co/Co2Pu64S6W
Christian McCaffrey was expected to go in the first round and was selected with the eight overall pick by the Carolina Panthers. There were many myths dispelled with McCaffrey’s Week 1 performance of 13 rushes, 47 yards and five catches for 38 yards.
Speed, elusiveness and versatility were a given. But his ability to run between the tackles and finish with power, relative to his size, opened many eyes.
Bruce Lee has taught you well @run__cmc.
Kareem Hunt, drafted out of the University of Toledo in the 3rd round by the Kansas City Chiefs, balled above all against the New England Patriots. If you were clairvoyant enough to predict he would tally an outlandish 17 carries for 148 yards and a rushing touchdown, five receptions for 98 yards and 2 TDs on Thursday, you should become a professional gambler.
However, the biggest surprise of the entire night had to be Tarik Cohen out of North Carolina A&T. The familiar are aware of how much they love their football down in Aggie country, and how many of the HBCU’s elite players will likely be overlooked by the National Football League.
Play call: go this way. Tarik Cohen: OK ... actually, nah. https://t.co/z8OFPvxJVA
But Cohen’s stellar performance for the Chicago Bears versus the 2016-17 NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons is indicative of the type of resolve and resilience that many players from small schools bring to the big leagues.