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Running backs likely to fall out of first round

By Ray Fittipaldo McClatchy Tribune News

INDIANAPOLIS - There was plenty of buzz at the NFL Scouting Combine about franchise quarterbacks, the franchise left tackles that will protect them and the deepest and most talented pool of receivers in years that will catch their passes and make the highlight reels.

Do you know what three words you didn't hear at the combine this year?

Franchise running backs.

Once the premier position on a football team, running backs are feeling like dinosaurs. They ruled the NFL landscape for a long time, but now they're slowly disappearing from the game.

Or at the very least the first round of the NFL draft.

In today's NFL, running backs are becoming afterthoughts in the draft process. In 2013, for the first time in 50 years, a running back was not drafted in the first round. Don't expect it to happen this year, either.

One of the newest NFL trends is waiting on a running back until later in the draft, and all 32 NFL teams could pass on a running back again this season in Round 1.

It's more than a passing trend. In the past five years, only 10 running backs have been taken in the first round.

It's enough to make one of the top running back prospects at the combine reconsider his choice to play the position.

"Nowadays, they're like, 'You've got to go second, third round,'" said Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, who entered the combine as the No. 1 running back according to nfldraftscout.com. "I'm like, 'Why in the hell didn't you tell me this a couple of years ago, that running backs are going extinct?' I definitely would have gone to corner or something."

There was a time NFL teams valued running backs more than any other position. In 1971, 1982 and 1987, seven running backs were drafted in the first round. In 1990, six running backs were selected in the first round. And as recently as 2008 five running backs were first-round picks.

The NFL has become more of a passing league in recent years, but Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the proliferation of spread offenses in college football has played a part in the trend as well. Colleges are not producing a high number of quality running backs because the emphasis has been on quarterbacks running and throwing out of the spread at many schools.

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