At this upcoming draft, it is doubtful that a running back will be chosen in the first round. That is a far cry from past drafts when running backs were all the rage. In 2008, for example, FIVE were chosen in the first round, TWO in the second, and one in the third. That class included Chris Johnson, Jonathan Stewart, Felix Jones, Darren McFadden, Rashard Mendenhall, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles and the Bears’ own, Matt Forte.
That 2008 class was considered one of the best drafts for running backs. There have been some very good franchise players. Johnson eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark in a season. Mendenhall and Rice helped their teams win Super Bowls. Charles and Forte are yard gobblers.
In their Instant Debate section on NFL.com, several writers chimed in about the running back class of 2008. The question posed was “Which back drafted in 2008 will have enjoyed the best overall NFL career?”
Of the four writers in the debate, three of them chose Johnson, one chose Forte.
It seems that the 2,000 yard season really impressed the writers. The fact that he has rushed for at least 1,000 yards every year also weighed heavily.
The one writer who chose Forte, Adam Schein, took the question at its face and factored in the future, not just the past. He took Marc Trestman into account.
With Trestman as his coach, Forte’s numbers will rise. Trestman uses the running back a great deal, not just running, but also catching. In his first season under Trestman’s offense, and finally being able to run behind a good offensive line, Forte had 1,933 total yards from scrimmage. He had career highs in rushing yards(1,339), receptions(74), and receiving yards(594). He also tied his career high in touchdowns (12).
After feeling more comfortable with the offense, Forte’s numbers should continue to be solid. Of course, there’s that little thing called the running back’s cliff that he has to deal with. A running back can have one great year, then completely fall off the map. See Rashard Mendenhall, who retired this season after being the anchor of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ running game. See also Ray Rice, who had four consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and had two seasons in which he amassed over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Last season he had a TOTAL of 981 yards (660 rushing and 321 receiving).
We are about to see if Johnson has gotten to that cliff. Last season, he had a career-low rushing average of 3.9 yards per carry. The knock on him since he signed a new contract is that you may get one long run, then a whole lot of little ones, that he is too concerned with trying to hit a home run on every run.
Forte has not appeared to hit that cliff yet. Of course it can happen suddenly, so we shall keep an eye out this season and see how he progresses. But I agree with Schein, with Trestman’s high octane offense utilizing the running back, Forte should continue to see some good years in the years to come.
Here are the top four running backs from 2008 and their career numbers: