When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Najee Harris with their first-round pick, there were two distinctive reactions. One was of sheer bliss while the other was a sentiment of ‘you should never take a running back in the first round’. The latter’s reaction is warranted as running backs typically have the shortest career spans, and fall off quickly (see Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, David Johnson, etc). But for those that hated the pick because of the nature of the move, there are still some positives with taking a running back in the first round. Here are three such examples:
The Fifth Year Option
While some question drafting a running back in the first round, almost everybody agrees you don't give a running back a second contract (at least not anymore). The extra year on the rookie deal has become a massive one. If Najee Harris proves to be everything he is expected to become, the Steelers can simply slap the fifth-year option on him. If his production still doesn't fall they can give him a franchise tag. That’s six years of contract control with the latter two years basically becoming team options. This means the Steelers can avoid the drama they once had with Le’Veon Bell and the financial mess the Los Angeles Rams put themselves in paying Todd Gurley.
Get the Players Best Years
The past 15 years of football has shown us the overwhelming majority of running backs best years are within their first three years in the league. The position caps off its growth basically between rookie and sophomore seasons. Plus, running back is also the most pro ready position at the time of the draft. This isn't a spot you want to find a player through free agency, as any big-money deal has blown up in team’s faces like clockwork. With a first-round pick you get the player and you get the most out of him.
Getting the most talented Runner in the Draft
Between Le’Veon Bell and Najee Harris the Pittsburgh Steelers tried to fill the running back spot with day three draft picks. While this philosophy has worked for many teams in the past, it’s still a significantly harder option of finding a starting-caliber player. A first round pick like Najee Harris is coming into the league without any holes in his game, and is a well-rounded runner. He is basically as sure a thing as you can get in the NFL Draft. Aside from Trent Richardson, basically every number one rated running back in the draft carves out at least a nice couple of years for themselves in the league.
But what do you think? Do you care if a team drafts a running back in the first round? Tell us why or why not down in the comments below.