It’s funny to look back and see how drastically the NFL has evolved. The 1983 draft is remarkably bizarre when you look at it through the lens of how the game is played today, specifically in regard to the running back position.
Everyone knows at this point that ball carriers have been devalued over the course of the last decade. Taking a running back in the first round is largely seen as taboo and the free agent market at the position has gone dry for the most part. Only the elite of the elite (aka Christian McCaffrey) still have the chance of getting paid megadeals.
Of course, things weren’t always that way. Just ask Seahawks legendary runner Curt Warner, the latest guest on the Talkin’ Seahawks Podcast.
Warner was the third-overall pick in that year’s draft, behind John Elway and Eric Dickerson. Two running backs in the top three picks! That would be blasphemous today. And not only did the Seahawks take Warner with the third pick, but they traded their first- second- and third-round picks in order to move up in the order and get him. There would be WTO-level riots in the streets of Seattle if John Schneider made a similar move.
And it gets better. The Eagles selected running back Michael Haddix with the ninth pick and the Lions drafted fullback James Jones with the 13th pick. The 14th pick that year? Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. The 27th pick that year? Dan Marino.
There’s really no point here other than a fun (potentially funny?) look at how drastically things have changed.
Fortunately for Seattle, Warner ended up being an absolute stud and is in the franchise’s Ring of Honor. His 6,705 rushing yards and 55 rushing touchdowns are both third-most in team history. Warner shared that former Seahawks head coach Chuck Knox’s nickname was “Ground Chuck,” which tells you just how much he loved to run the football.
“He’d tell us, ‘the football ain’t heavy,’ which meant we were going to get a lot of carries,” Warner reminisced.
Warner said he understands why running backs have been devalued over the years. He gets that offenses are now mostly focused on the quarterback, protecting the quarterback and pushing the ball down the field in the passing game.
“The quarterback plays such an instrumental role in the offense and needless to say, they’re getting paid that way. You want to feature these guys more than everyone else. It’s how the game is played today.”
Could things change back to the smash-mouth days of old? Maybe. But Warner is aware such a pivot won’t be coming in the near future.
“It’s a copycat league,” Warner said. “So if somebody wants to go old school and line up with the fullback in there and go back to the I-formation and start pounding on some people and they win and they’re winning Super Bowls, then it will change. But I don’t see it happening right now.”
You can listen to the full interview with Warner here.