The modern NFL seems to value those involved in the pass game more than just about any other player. That's great news for quarterbacks, receivers, tackles, cornerbacks and edge rushers.
For the players more involved in the run game the modern NFL has been rough. Running backs struggle to hit the mega-bucks on second contracts that wideouts and passers routinely achieve. Interior offensive lineman rarely get paid on the same scale as tackles.
A stat from NFL Research, however, shows that early in the draft it pays to invest in the run game.
Since 2000, teams drafting RBs in Top 5 (2017 Jaguars) have improved by more wins the next season than teams to draft any other position pic.twitter.com/qpN9G4Bcpb— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) May 4, 2017
Before this analysis gets too far the obvious needs to be pointed out: Significantly less guards get drafted inside the Top 5 than tackles. Way, way less guards.
That doesn't change the results.
The Redskins went 4-12 in 2014. At the 2015 NFL Draft, the team selected Brandon Scherff with the fifth overall pick. In the 2015 season, the Redskins went 9-7 and made the playoffs.
Some fans - and maybe some coaches - would argue that the 5th overall pick is simply too high for a guard. In Washington, the selection seems to have largely paid off. The 'Skins have won 17 games since Scherff's selection, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2016, just his second season out of Iowa.
From the stat above, running back was the only draftable position with a more immediate impact on win totals. Remember, for about a decade running backs got devalued in the draft as teams expected to find starting caliber runners in the later rounds of the draft.
Ezekiel Elliott changed that last season. Even before Elliott's incredible 2016 campaign, plenty of rookie runners made an impact. LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001, or the pair of Auburn running backs Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams in 2005. Leonard Fournette will have an opportunity to do the same this fall in Jacksonville.
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Elite players can make a big impact of win differential, even as rookies, regardless of position.
Considering the stats, Redskins fans should maybe appreciate Scherff a little bit more.
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