Whenever football is played again, the Miami Dolphins will likely be short two running backs, a massive void they’ll have to fill either through the draft or free agency. That much is clear.
What isn’t clear is if the gap-filler goes by the name of Mark Ingram.
In a draft with little consensus to be found anywhere in the first round, the Dolphins bringing Ingram’s talents to South Beach seems to be one of the few certainties. The math is easy: Miami is losing both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to free agency, and Ingram is the only first-round worthy player at the position. With such an obvious, glaring need, a dozen magic eight balls would arrive at the same conclusion that the Dolphins will draft a running back in the first round, and it will be Ingram.
But with most Pro Days over, we’re now venturing deep into the dark murky corners of the beast that is the draft, a creature that laughs at predictability. As Rob Rang of CBSSports notes, any pick that’s a consensus in mock drafts is often dead wrong.
Rang still believes Ingram is a first round pick, something both GLS bloggers can agree with, along with every grandmother who has watched two football games this year and has Internet access. But he’s also spoken to multiple sources who indicate that a lower value on running backs in recent years may cause Miami to shy away from Ingram. And if that happens, there’s a strong possibility that Ingram will fall out of the first round given the lack of running back needy teams picking behind Miami.
Though sources throughout the league certainly recognize the Dolphins’ need at running back, they’d be surprised if Miami took Ingram.
One source simply didn’t feel that Ingram was worth a first round pick — something I argued vehemently .
Others thought Ingram was a “legitimate first round player,” but cited the decreasing value of running backs in today’s NFL as reason enough why Ingram would not only slip past Miami, but perhaps out of the first round, entirely.
“I agree with you. He’s a helluva player, but history has proven that you can find running backs later in the draft,” one high-ranking team source said.
Much like pressure, history is a wicked drug come draft time. A team like Miami that’s desperate to plug a hole at running back still has to balance their needs with the sheer value of the player at that position in the draft.
Ingram is just one year removed from winning the Heisman, and by all accounts looks to be the kind of strong downfield runner who will quickly have success in the NFL. But taking a running back in the early and middle sections of the opening round has become a statement in recent years, one that says the player is destined to be of a certain elite calibre.
Out of the top 15 rushers in 2010, six were selected in the first round. Of that group, only three players (Adrian Peterson, Darren McFadden, and Cedric Benson) were drafted higher than the 20th overall pick.
Whittling it down further, only one of those players–Peterson–had an immediate impact at an offensive position highly regarded as a place where rookies can thrive right away. McFadden struggled with injuries while failing to establish himself and separate from a platoon in Oakland before finally breaking out this season. Benson is easily the largest disappointment of the group after being selected fourth overall in 2005. Having achieved the bust label in Chicago, Benson was shipped to Cincinnati and didn’t rush for 1,000 yards until resurrecting his career in his fifth season.
Meanwhile, last year’s top 15 has four RBs selected in the second round (Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, LeSean McCoy, and Matt Forte), and two were still on the board in the seventh round (Ahmad Bradshaw and Peyton Hillis). Combine Hillis’ breakout with an undrafted Arian Foster leading the league in rushing, an undrafted LeGarrette Blount finishing just outside of the top 15, and sixth rounder James Starks emerging for the Super Bowl champions, and it’s easy to see why there’s better value in waiting to call a running back’s name.