In one sense, running backs are the best players to have in that the good ones are dual threats. They can get you 1,000 yards rushing and maybe around 500 receiving. Those are the good ones. But when you realize that this year 22 wide receivers had 1,000-yard seasons while only seven running backs rushed for 1,000 yards, it seems like you’d be better off taking a productive receiver early.
In fact, only three running backs had over 1,100 yards rushing while 11 receivers had 1,200-yard seasons. Of the seven 1,000-yard rushers only one had over 500 yards receiving. That was Devonta Freeman. So you could have picked from four wide receivers that totaled more than 1,500 yards before you selected Freeman. And nobody was selecting Freeman that early in the beginning of the year.
Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins and Brandon Marshall all had over 1,500 yards receiving this year in addition to all scoring at least eight touchdowns. The wide receiver is very close to replacing the do-it-all running back.
It stands to reason that wide receivers will go before a lot of running backs in 2016 drafts. There’s just so much depth and a clear passing philosophy in the league these days. It’ll be interesting to see how next season’s drafts go, especially when you’re given the choice between good running backs and receivers. It might make sense to take the receiver since your most productive players are now catching passes instead of carrying the ball.