Teams have devalued the running back position in the opening round of the NFL draft lately. Only 11 backs have been drafted in the first round over the last 10 years, down 62 percent from the prior 10 drafts where 29 were selected within the first 32 picks.

There are plenty of reasons why that's happened.

For one, running backs have relatively short careers. The average NFL player's career is 3.3 years, but for running backs that number shrinks to 2.57. Quarterbacks have nearly double the NFL lifespan at 4.4 years. Offensive linemen are considerably more durable than backs, too, averaging 3.63 years of NFL service.

Another reason the league has shifted away from drafting running backs in the first round is the second contract they can command. Saquon Barkley — the last back taken with a top 10 pick — serves as a cautionary tale here. The New York Giants drafted him No. 2 overall in 2018. Now, Barkley, who already has a substantial track record of injuries, wants a long-term deal reportedly north of $12 million per year. The Giants, of course, don't want to make that kind of commitment to a player who's 26 years old and already has five NFL seasons of wear and tear on his body. So they franchise-tagged him for the 2023 season. Now Barkley is threatening to sit out until or unless the Giants meet his contract demands.

Another reason NFL teams aren't prioritizing backs in the first round anymore — the receipts. Last season, half of the league's top 10 rushing-yardage leaders were drafted in the second round or later.

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That's an overwhelmingly convincing set of data as to why no NFL team should use its precious first-round draft capital on a running back. And if we in the media are aware of these stats and trends, you can bet your ass the front offices of all 32 NFL franchises are aware, too.

Those numbers should be more than enough to dissuade the Detroit Lions from using their No. 18 pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft on Texas running back Bijan Robinson, as they are reportedly considering. But just in case the ghosts of virtually every other front office in the team's history are attempting to possess Brad Holmes and Co. on Thursday night, here's one more stat that should serve as a final nail in the coffin.

Translation — A first-round back just barely outperforms the league average at his position, and by a measly 0.06 yards (or, in more relatable terms, 2 ¹/⁶ inch) per carry. That's a negligible, practically nonexistent difference. It certainly doesn't validate a first-round selection. Hell, it may not even validate a third-round selection — especially when you add the context of last year's Super Bowl-winning running back, Isiah Pacheco, who was drafted by the Chiefs in the seventh round!

This isn't a needs-based assessment, either. The case against the Lions drafting Robinson, or any other back, in the first round is an obvious, data-backed conclusion even without considering Detroit's relative needs.

In fact, the numbers here suggest that no NFL team should draft a back in the first round. Period.

The game has changed. The days of a Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, Barry Sanders, or even an Adrian Peterson leading your offense as a bell-cow back are simply over. That's not an opinion — it's an observable, demonstrable fact.

Just like it's an observable, demonstrable fact that the Lions taking Robinson at 18 overall would be an irresponsible, reckless waste of a first-round pick.

NFL Franchises Who Have Drafted The Most Michigan State Players, Ranked Least To Most

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We've ranked all the NFL franchises based on the number of Michigan State players they've drafted throughout the history of the league.

Teams are grouped by franchise. For example, the Arizona, Chicago, Phoenix, and St. Louis Cardinals all count as the Cardinals. Only one now-defunct franchise is on the list.

Last: Baltimore Ravens, 0 Spartans Drafted

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The Baltimore Ravens have never drafted a Michigan State player in their 27 years of existence.

28th-Tied: Texans, 2 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Keshawn MartinWR2012426121
Keith MumpheryWR2015539175

28th-Tied: Saints, 2 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Tanya WebbDE19801013262
Morten AndersonK19824386

28th-Tied: Panthers, 2 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Muhsin MuhammadWR199621343
Scott GreeneRB1996626193

28th-Tied: Jaguars, 2 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Brian DeMarcoDT19952840
Josiah ScottDB2020431137

28th-Tied: Chiefs, 2 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Scott AuerT198495229
Percy SnowLB199011313

26th-Tied: Boston Yanks, 3 Spartans Drafted

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The Boston Yanks are a defunct NFL franchise. They were founded in 1944 and folded in 1952.

Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Jack BreslinB19464227
Jim ZitoT1948234209
Jesse ThomasB1951109119

26th-Tied: Atlanta Falcons, 3 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Mitch LyonsTE1993611151
TJ DuckettRB200211818
DeAndra' CobbRB2005627201

25th: Bills, 4 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Joe DeLamielleureG197376162
Brian McconnellLB197376162
Mark BrammerTE198031167
Butch RolleTE1986714180

22nd-Tied: Patriots, 5 Spartans Drafted

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This includes players drafted when the franchise was known as the Boston Patriots (1960 to 1970).

Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Charlie ThornhillDB1967921232
Smiley CreswellDE198356118
Ventson DonelsonDB1990125309
Greg RandallT2000433127
TJ TurnerLB2001739239

22nd-Tied: Jets, 5 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Jeff RichardsonDE1967613146
James EarleyRB197874170
Tupe PekoT2001717217
Chris BakerTE200232388
Eric SmithDB200633397

22nd-Tied: Buccaneers, 5 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Tom MorrisDB1982718185
Hyland HicksonRB19911015265
Courtney HawkinsWR199221644
Nigea CarterWR1997634197
William GholstonDE2013429126

20th-Tied: Raiders, 6 Spartans Drafted

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This includes players drafted when the franchise was known as the Oakland Raiders (1960-1981, 1995-2019) and the Los Angeles Raiders (1982-1994).

Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Don HighsmithRB19701324336
Rob FredricksonLB199412222
Chris MorrisC200676214
Jeremy WareDB201078215
Shilique CalhounDE201631275
Connor CookQB201642100

20th-Tied: Bengals, 6 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Jess PhillipsDB19684184
Mike CobbTE197712222
Steve MaidlowLB1983425109
Matthias AskewDT2004418114
Domata PekoDT2006426123
Darqueze DennardDB201412424

19th: Broncos, 7 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
James SummersDB196796217
Drake GarrettDB1968419102
Harold PhillipsDB197169139
Tom BeardC197185187
James SzymanskiDE19901011259
Jim JohnsonT1992713181
Herb HaygoodWR200259144

17th-Tied: Seahawks, 8 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Jim HineslyG19791118293
Daryl TurnerWR198422149
Mark NapolitanC1985511123
Bob KulaT1990710175
John MacNeillDE19921212320
Craig JarrettP2002622194
Malik McDowellDT20172335
Kenneth Walker IIIRB20222941

17th-Tied: Chargers, 8 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Gary NowakTE19711013247
Marvin RobertsC197365135
Ralf MojsiejenkoK198541296
Terry LewisDB1985610150
Eric MotenG199122047
Duane YoungTE1991512123
Edwin BakerRB2012743250
Donavon ClarkG201673224

15th-Tied: Vikings, 9 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Clint JonesRB1967122
Gene WashingtonWR1967188
Mike HurdWR19751324336
Tom HannonDB197732783
Carlos JenkinsLB199131065
Dimitrius UnderwoodDE199912929
Trae WaynesDB201511111
Kenny WillekesDE2020711225
Jalen NailorWR2022611191

15th-Tied: Dolphins, 9 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Mel LandLB19793763
Jerome StantonDB19791010258
Eugene ByrdWR1980620158
Soctt ShawG1998520143
Kevin VickersonDT200572216
Brandon FieldsP2007715225
BJ CunninghamWR2012613183
Dion SimmsTE201349106
Tony LippettWR2015520156

14th: 49ers, 10 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Bill CareyE1952189214
Earl MorrallQB1956122
Hal DukesE19581310155
Dwight LeeRB1968514125
Bryan ClarkQB1982928251
Cliff ConferDE19911226332
Julian PetersonLB200011616
Josh ShawDT2002537172
Trenton RobinsonDB2012610180
Aaron BurbridgeWR2016638213

12th-Tied: Titans, 11 Spartans Drafted

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This includes players drafted when the franchise was known as the Houston Oilers (1960-1996) and the Tennessee Oilers (1997-1998).

Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
George WebsterLB1967155
Ron SaulG197056110
Calvin FoxLB1971175421
Angelo FieldsT198021938
Lorenzo WhiteRB198812222
Greg MontgomeryP198831772
Derrick MasonWR19974298
Aric MorrisDB200056135
Robaire SmithDE2000631197
Javon RingerRB2009537173
Jack ConklinT2016188

12th-Tied: Cowboys, 11 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Larry HudasE1962114144
Billy Joe DuPreeTE197312020
Dan WernerQB1973822204
Raymond NesterLB1974720176
Mike HoltDB1974823205
Greg SchaumDT197674186
Larry BetheaDE197812828
Larry SavageLB1980823216
Dixon EdwardsLB199121037
Shane HannahG199523163
Flozell AdamsT19982838

11th: Cardinals, 13 Spartans Drafted

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This includes players drafted when the franchise was known as the Chicago Cardinals (1920-1943, 1945-1959), St. Louis Cardinals (1960-1987), and Phoenix Cardinals (1988-1993).

Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Ed BagdonG19507887
Don ColemanG19528388
Don DohoneyE19545150
Norm MastersT19562518
Fred ArbanasE19612822
Harold LucasT19662723
Greg BrewtonDT19761322369
Kirk GibsonWR197978173
Lonnie YoungDB19851217325
Anthony BellLB1986155
Tim MooreLB1988813206
Travis DavisDT19904485
Renaldo HillDB200172202

9th-Tied: Packers, 15 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Gordon DahlgrenG19379989
Ken BalgeE1948186161
Frank WatersB1950253316
Jack MorganT1952142159
Frank KaptralG1952233268
Evan SlonacB1954282327
Hank BulloughG19555453
Dan CurrieC1958133
Herb AdderleyDB196111212
Bob ApisaRB1968926245
Frank ForemanWR19701215301
Ray StachowiczPosition19813662
Tony MandarichT1989122
Will WhitickerG2005732246
Jerel WorthyDT201221951

9th-Tied: Eagles, 15 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Warren HueyE19496758
Vic PostulaB1955249286
Clarence PeaksB1957177
Tom SaidockT19577174
Walkt KLowalczykB1958166
Wayne FontesRB1961914126
Ed BuddeT1963144
Dick KenneyK19671417358
Joe PrzbyckiG1968713178
Gary Van ElstDT1973113263
Steve BogdalekG19861111288
Bobby MorseRB1987129316
Chuck BulloughLB1992818214
Ike ReeseLB1998519142
Gari ScottWR20004599

7th-Tied: Washington, 17 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Stan McRaeE19411710160
Frank BroggerE194519794
Al DorowQB19523631
Orlando MazzaE1952116127
Paul DekkerE19533227
Ed TimmermanB1953143160
Billy WellsB19545756
Gary LoweB195651059
Jerry PlanutisB1956128141
Buck NystromG1956308357
Ron HatcherRB19628199
Carl CharonB1962181239
Lonnie SandersDB19632822
Bobby WilsonDT199111717
Devin ThomasWR20082334
Kirk CousinsQB201247102
Montae NicholsonDB2017416123

7th-Tied: Bears, 17 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Bob AllmanE19364532
Russ ReaderB19472110195
Vic ZuccoB195751160
Bob JewettE19585453
Les RutledgeT1958204233
Ed RyanB196185104
Jason HarnessE1961105132
Dave BehrmanC196311111
Dick GordonRB19657488
Lou BobichK1965194256
Cliff HardyDB19711110270
Jim MorrisseyLB19851122302
Brent WhiteDE1990118284
Paul EdingerK200068174
Kellen DavisTE2008523158
ERvin BaldwinDE200871208
Jeremy LangfordRB201547106

5th-Tied: Lions, 19 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Sid WagnerG1936188
John PingelB1939177
Tony ArenaC1942135115
Jack FentonB194310181
Walt VezmarG1947131106
Bob McCurryC1948302277
Gene GlickB1950254317
Dorne DibbleE19513733
Jim NeaqlC195421225
Bert ZagersB195571184
Dean LookQB1960203231
Ernie ClarkLB19631312180
Matt SnortonE19642620
Jerry RushT196521125
Tom KutchinskiDB19711621411
Ty HallockLB199376174
Sedrick IrvinRB199948103
Charles RogersWR2003122
Drew StantonQB200721143

5th-Tied: Colts, 19 Spartans Drafted

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This includes players drafted when the franchise was known as the Baltimore Colts (1953-1983).

Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
John LewisE195696103
Archie MatsosG1958168189
Palmer PyleT195961272
Ike GrimsleyRB19617791
Ed LothamerT19645864
Roger LopesRB1964168218
Bubba SmithDT1967111
Gordon BowdellWR1971726182
Bill TriplettWR19711226312
Mike HoganLB19711526390
Eric AllenWR1972426104
Herb WashingtonWR19721322334
Jim BurroughsDB19823257
Andre RisonWR198912222
Kurt LarsonLB1989817212
James BradleyWR1991714181
Dave RaynerK2005628202
Chris RuckerDB2011623188
Khari WillisDB201947109

3rd-Tied: Giants, 20 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Howard BeyerC1944245246
Vincent MrozE19452410251
Don McAuliffeB1950286358
Sonny GrandeliusB195131137
Dick KuhG19512411290
Jim CreamerC19522110251
Rex CorlessB1954213244
Dennis MendykB195731035
Pat BurkeG19571112133
Ellison KellyG195951159
Bob BercichB19591511179
Dave HermanG1963812110
Al BrennerDB1969714170
Brad Van PeltLB197321440
Terry McClowryLB1975101235
Jeff WiskaG1982719186
Carl BanksLB1984133
Mark Ingram Sr.WR198712828
David HouleG198868145
Greg JonesLB2011620185

3rd-Tied: Browns, 20 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Bill HughesC195221124
Dick TamburoC195341047
Jim EllisB19552510299
Leroy BoldenB195561273
John MatsockB19562412289
Bill QuinlanE195731237
Dave KaiserE1958156175
Jim NinowskiQB195841249
Jim WulffB196861172
Bill BoykinT19582811336
Fran O'BrienT196931135
Jim KanickiT19632923
Jim BobbitG1963109135
Sherman LewisRB19641812250
Craig WycinskyG1970721177
Robert McClowryC19731721437
Al PittsC1978611149
Howard McAdooLB19831126305
Harlon BarnettDB1990420101
Bill JohnsonDT19923965

1st-Tied: Steelers, 22 Spartans Drafted

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Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Ole NelsonE19398161
Hugh DavisB1944179173
Paul CarterT1944239239
Lynn ChandnoisB1950188
Hank MinarikE19518692
Marv McFaddenT1952125138
Tom YewcicQB1954276319
Ellis DuckettB1955155174
Jim HinesleyE1957254293
Gary BallmanB196286104
Ron CurlT19721212298
Gail ClarkLB1973424102
Tom GravesLB1979828220
Mark NicholsDT1988816209
Alan HallerDB1992511123
Myron BellDB199459140
Jim MillerQB1994617178
Brice AbramsRB1994715209
Paxico BurressWR2000188
Le'Veon BellRB201321648
Justin LayneDB201931983
Connor HeywardFB2019629208

1st-Tied: Rams, 22 Spartans Drafted

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This includes players drafted when the franchise was known as the Cleveland Rams (1936-1942, 1944-1945), Los Angeles Rams (1946-1994, 2016-present), and St. Louis Rams (1995-2015).

Player NamePositionYearRoundPickOverall
Dean ThomasT1951239276
Bob CareyE195211313
Sam WilliamsDE19562411288
Tony KolodziejE1958137152
Larry HardingE1958246283
Blanche MartinB19594743
Larry CundiffT195998104
George SaimesDB19636171
Bill ZornT19637185
Herman JohnsonB19646777
Jimmy Raye IIQB19681623431
Rich SaulLB1970822204
Jim NicholsonT1973911219
Bill SimpsonDB197422450
Otis GrantWR1983522134
Kevin RobbinsT198931975
Tony BanksQB199621242
Jeff SmokerQB2004636201
Clifton RyanDT2006517154
Brian AllenC2018411111
AJ ArcuriOT2022740261

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