RB Success In Relation To Draft Capital


In this next series I'm going to examine positional player success in relation to draft capital, looking position by position over a three year sample size. Attempting to see if certain positions are able to succeed without necessarily having to be high draft picks. I will be moving onto runningbacks, a position where success rate in relation to draft capital may be least relevant than any other position. For the sake of building the graphs any player that went un-drafted was given an eighth round draft grade. 

2017 NFL Rushing Leaders

The first bar graph displays a stark contrast from the quarterback graphs, as in 2017 only 30% of the top twenty in rushing yards were first round draft picks. Second round draft picks accounted for 15%, Kareem Hunt who led the league in rushing yards was a third round pick, third rounders only accounted for 10%. Fourth and fifth rounders each had three players on the top twenty list representing 15% respectively. Only one sixth rounder made the top twenty or 5%, and no seventh round draft picks were on the list, but two UDFA's 10% managed to make the top twenty. It's encouraging to see success for players at the runningback position who weren't drafted in the first two days of the NFL draft. 

2016 NFL Rushing Leaders

What really stands out with this next graph is that only one first round draft pick made the top twenty in rushing in 2016, Ezekiel Elliot. First round draft picks as a group represented 25% of the leaders in rushing yards, the same number as second round draft picks. Third rounders accounted for 15%, fourth and fifth rounders were at 10% each, sixth round selections were again at 5%, as sixth rounders only had one player represent them in Latavius Murray, there were once again no seventh round draft picks in the top twenty. As there was in 2017 10% of the rushing leaders were not drafted at all and picked up as undrafted free agents post NFL draft.

2015 NFL Rushing Leaders

In 2015 the top twenty rushing leader board was dominated by first round draft picks, as they had the top four rushers and represented 45% of the top twenty. Second rounders accounted for 15%, while third and fourth round draft picks each had 10% of the top rushers. There were no fifth rounders on the graph in 2015, and again Latavius Murray as the only sixth rounder. Making their first appearance of the article is the seventh round draft picks with a 5% representation. For the third consecutive year there was two UDFA's in the top twenty in rush yards again making up for 10%.


Unlike the QB graphs as you can see with the runningbacks there is a considerably higher success rate for players drafted outside of the first round. It can't be ignored that first round draft picks on average account for 33.3% or exactly one third of the top twenty rushers over the past three years. Second rounders annually represent an average of 18.3% of the rushing leaders, with third round selections averaging 11.7% and fourths also at 11.7% of the annual top twenty in rushing yards. Fifth round draft picks only averaged 8.3% annually, between 2015-2017. Sixth rounders accounted for 5.0% thanks to Latavius Murray making his annual appearance. Only one seventh rounder made the top twenty over the three year sample size for a 1.7% showing. The undrafted free agents consistently had two representatives each season for a 10.0% average. Draft capital certainly has an impact on the rushing leader board annually, as you can see just not as big of impact as the quarterback position appears to.